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Solar power

Using solar power as an alternative to non-renewable fuels protects natural resources, the environment and community health

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Tourists using the Mida Creek hanging walkway, which was built to raise funds for sending children to secondary school and to communicate a strong commitment to conservation. Photo: Colin Jackson

From: Natural resources – Footsteps 82

How to look after the precious natural resources on which we all depend

Bob Kokonya and his family in north-west Kenya used to rely completely on tin lamps for lighting their home between 6–10pm each day. The lamps used half a litre of kerosene a day, which cost Bob 60 Kenyan shillings (around US $23 each month). Also, the family’s nostrils would be blackened by the morning because of the sooty smoke produced when kerosene burns in the open air. ‘The house was very smoky and we were coughing all the time’, Bob said.

Kerosene is a non-renewable fuel. Fumes from burning kerosene pollute the air and lead to ill health. The fumes also contribute to climate change. Solar power, on the other hand, is a clean and renewable energy source. Solar-powered devices turn the energy in sunlight into electricity.

Bob purchased a solar-powered light. In his area, such lights cost between 1500 and 1800 Kenyan shillings (around US $19–23) – roughly the same cost as a month’s supply of kerosene. ‘In my daily life, I have seen a huge change’, he said. ‘When I was buying kerosene and using tin lamps, I would struggle with providing my family with basic needs. 70% of my income was spent on kerosene. Now I can afford bread daily!’ 

‘Around 50 families out of the 150 or so in my community are already using solar products. And those who don’t have them are yearning for them’.

Using solar power instead of non-renewable fuel protects natural resources and the environment, protects health and protects household income from the impact of unpredictable fuel prices. Solar products can seem expensive but over time a lot of money can be saved that would have been spent on fuel. Another important benefit is that solar power can be used to charge batteries which provide electricity when the main power supply is cut off or when there is no other access to electricity.

Anna Wells works for Solar Aid. Solar Aid trains communities to sell small-scale solar devices.

Solar Aid 
Unit 2, Third Floor, Pride Court
80–82 White Lion Street
London, N1 9PF

[email protected] Website:

Do you have experience of using solar-powered products that you can share with other readers? Please write to the Editor using the details on the Letters page.

Comparing the tin lamp and the solar light. Photo: Anna Wells/Solar Aid

Comparing the tin lamp and the solar light. Photo: Anna Wells/Solar Aid

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