Lighting Global 2012 Outstanding Product Awards

SERC’s yearlong effort coordinating the Lighting Global 2012 Outstanding Product Awards culminated in the announcement of the award winners at the 3rd International Off-grid Lighting Conference and Trade Fair in Dakar, Senegal in November. This marks the second time SERC has led the Outstanding Product Awards effort; the first was at its inception in 2010. Lighting Global, which is closely associated with the Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia programs, is a joint initiative of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank. The Outstanding Product Awards recognize exceptional off-grid lighting products and seek to encourage the development of quality, affordable lights for the estimated 1.6 billion people in the world who lack access to electricity.  Providing access to quality lighting enables people to reduce their use of expensive fuel-based lighting, such as kerosene lamps, which in turn lowers their exposure to air pollutants, minimizes fire hazards and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions.

Lighting manufacturers entered 25 different products in this year’s competition.  Products were divided into three price-based categories: ‘Budget’ products under $30; ‘Mid-range’ products between $30-$72; and ‘Premium’ products from $72-$135.

An initial screening based on preliminary tests narrowed the candidates down to 16 finalists.  All award finalists underwent a rigorous assessment process involving detailed laboratory testing, evaluation by people living in off-grid areas of Senegal, Kenya, and India, and final judging by a panel of experts. The entire process took over seven months to complete and not only informed the judges, but also provided valuable feedback in the form of test reports and end-user evaluations to the lighting manufacturers.

Focus group participants examine the Sun King™ Pro.

Focus group participants examine the Sun King™ Pro.

SERC played a substantive role in all phases of the assessment.  SERC’s lighting test lab coordinated with the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (FISE) to test the technical performance of the finalist lamps according to the Lighting Global Quality Test Methods.

Concurrently, SERC team members and SERC alum Jennifer Tracy coordinated the field evaluations in which 18 focus groups of 10-12 people in India, Kenya, and Senegal provided end-user perspectives about the products. Each focus group member was able to try out one of the candidate lamps in their home for 1-2 weeks. Following the in-home trials, each group met for a feedback session in which participants reported on and demonstrated their lamps as part of a group discussion. This field feedback was a key part of the judging process.

Finally, SERC served as part of the expert judging panel, which also included experts from the UN Foundation, the German development agency GIZ, the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA), and the World Bank Group’s Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia programs. In making their final selections, the judges considered overall design, technical performance, environmental impacts, truth in advertising, ease of use, special features such as mobile phone charging, end-user perspectives and price.

Several members of SERC’s lighting lab team attended the awards ceremony in Senegal and were thrilled to congratulate the winning manufacturers. All the winning lamps (see photo, below), aside from the winner in the budget category, offer the ability to charge a cell phone in addition to providing high-quality lighting service. The awards ceremony and gala dinner were sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy under the Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership (Global LEAP). Visit the conference website for a list of product award winners and to view photos from the event.

Graduate Student Research Assistant Patricia Lai looks over this year’s winning products: (from left to right) Marathoner Beacon MB2 380/SooLED B3, Marathoner Beacon MB2 090/SooLED B1, Trony Sundial TSL01, Greenlight Planet’s Sun King™ Pro and Barefoot Power Firefly 2.5. Photo credit Kellie Jo Brown.

Graduate Student Research Assistant Patricia Lai looks over this year’s winning products: (from left to right) Marathoner Beacon MB2 380/SooLED B3, Marathoner Beacon MB2 090/SooLED B1, Trony Sundial TSL01, Greenlight Planet’s Sun King™ Pro and Barefoot Power Firefly 2.5. Photo credit Kellie Jo Brown.

Following the excitement of the Outstanding Product Awards, SERC’s off-grid lighting team continues to work with the Lighting Global program to promote clean off-grid lighting in the developing world. In the coming months, SERC and the Lighting Global team will expand their efforts beyond Africa to support quality assurance activities related to the IFC’s Lighting Asia program, which launched activities in India in May of 2012 and is planning future work in additional countries including Bangladesh.

Summer Field Season in Kenya

As the spring semester drew to a close the signs of summer crept in:  fewer cars parked on the streets of Arcata, foggy mornings, and SERC staff packing for field work on our international projects.  In early June, we embarked on a trip to Kenya to support our ongoing work with the World Bank / IFC Lighting Africa program, which supports the growing market for clean, efficient, affordable solar lighting in the developing world.

Conducting Product Awards Focus Groups

2012 marks the second time that SERC is coordinating an Outstanding Product Awards Competition for Off-grid Lighting (the first was in 2010).  The awards will be given in November in Dakar, Senegal.  Eighteen groups of 10-12 people in India, Kenya, and Senegal have been selected as field judges and their feedback is a key part of the judging process.  The field judges participate in an initial focus group, and then they try out a product in their home for about a week.  Following the in-home trial, they report back at a final focus group.  The judges in Kenya shared their enthusiasm for the project by welcoming us with songs (that we couldn’t understand well) and dance (that was universally understood) to the initial focus groups.  So far, the process has been a success.  We are coordinating the judging in Kenya along with SERC alum Jennifer Tracy, who is leading the overall field judging process.  SERC Engineer Brendon Mendonca is helping coordinate the judging in India, and Chris Carlsen (another SERC alum) is helping in Senegal.

Research assistant Daniel Koech surveys a shop in Kericho.

Surveying the Market for Off-grid Lighting

In between focus groups, we led a survey of shops that sell off-grid lighting products in three Kenyan towns: Kericho, Brooke, and Talek.  This study is an update to a survey that was completed in 2009.  The new survey shows how the market has changed, and preliminary results suggest that many more good quality, affordable lighting products are available today than were three years ago.

Participants in the “train the trainer” session held at the University of Nairobi.

Training Off-grid Lighting Technicians

As the market for good quality off-grid lighting grows, it is inevitable that some will break, but hopefully not too many.  To help ensure that people with broken lights do not slide back to dirty, expensive, unsafe kerosene lighting, it is critical that service and maintenance technicians are able to fix their lights.  Lighting Africa has begun to train technicians to do just this, and plans to hold a number of trainings over the next year in Kenya.  On June 13, we led a “train the trainer” session to build training capacity that Lighting Africa can deploy.  We prepared for the session by developing a comprehensive training package based on the initial trainings held by Lighting Africa.

A shopkeeper in Talek (100 km off the grid) displays two off-grid lighting products he offers for sale. The one on the right (Sun KingTM) has been tested and met Lighting Africa’s Quality Standards.

Looking Forward

These three activities highlight SERC’s diverse engagement in clean off-grid lighting in the developing world.  Our team’s reach goes from the test lab downstairs at SERC in Arcata all the way to the sitting rooms of off-grid homes in Kenya.  Looking forward we will continue to expand our activities with Lighting Africa, and we are in the early process of similar engagement in India.  We’ll keep you apprised of our continued off-grid lighting work in future posts.

A Message from the Director: Passing the Torch

This is my last director’s column.  After 7 years of newsletters and 23 years at the helm of the Schatz lab, I’ll be entering the faculty early retirement program in mid-August and passing the torch on to Arne Jacobson who will become the lab’s director.

We’re fortunate to have Arne stepping in.  He was one of the first grad students to work at the lab; his master’s thesis concerned work with the electrolyzer at the Schatz Solar Hydrogen Project.  He went on to earn his Ph.D. at the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley and now is my colleague in the Environmental Resources Engineering department.  Arne’s long time connection with the lab, his service as co-director for five years, and his strong leadership skills will serve us well for many years to come.  And starting next issue, you’ll get to read his thoughts in this space.

Meanwhile, I’m not going away.  Working here is way too interesting and fun to stop now.  During the five years of my early retirement program, I’ll be known as the Founding Director and share leadership duties with Arne.  I look forward to being busy and involved; maybe I’ll even have a chance to get back into the lab and turn a wrench or two.

In this issue of our newsletter, Peter Alstone and Meg Harper keep us up to date on summer activities in Kenya as part of the Lighting Africa project and Richard Engel writes a tribute to our benefactor Mr. Schatz on the 100th anniversary of his birth.  Jim Zoellick describes a project with local partners to plan for an electric vehicle infrastructure in Humboldt County, Allison Oakland describes our continuing effort to bring fuel cell topics into science education with a teacher workshop, and Greg Chapman describes progress in upgrading our hydrogen fueling station to 700 bar operation.

I’m writing this on the summer solstice as the sun shines its warmth and light on our hemisphere.  I want to thank all you faithful readers and send a fond farewell.  It’s been a joy and a privilege to communicate with you through this column; let’s all keep working to improve the health of our beautiful planet.  Goodbye, thank you, and best wishes.

Clean Water Access for the Developing World

Electrochlorinator Kiosk Kit

Electrochlorinator Kiosk Kit

Here in Arcata, as in most places across the United States, we take our utility services for granted. Our homes and businesses are served with reliable (most of the time) electricity, natural gas, and clean water, but many people in the developing world are not so fortunate. Since 2007, SERC has helped expand electricity access with our work supporting the Lighting Africa and Lumina programs, which are focused on markets for affordable off-grid lighting devices. This past summer, we worked with Cascade Designs to provide clean water access for the developing world.

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LED Lighting Africa

Student research assistant Patricia Lai demonstrates the “multiplane distribution” test method that was developed at SERC and allows low-cost measurement of luminous flux. Photo credit Kellie Jo Brown.

Student research assistant Patricia Lai demonstrates the “multiplane distribution” test method that was developed at SERC and allows low-cost measurement of luminous flux. Photo credit Kellie Jo Brown.

Here at SERC we are continuing our work supporting the Lighting Africa program, a joint IFC-World Bank initiative to catalyze markets for good quality off-grid lighting in the developing world. Over the last year, SERC has played a key role coordinating the Quality Assurance portion of the program, including generating and interpreting product test results, writing test methods, meeting with international policy-makers, and too many other tasks to list here. Some key breakthroughs and activities over the last few months have been:

  •  Developing a new method for measuring total lumen output for lighting devices that only requires $2,000 in equipment – compared to the $30,000 often required for the necessary hardware. This will allow startup manufacturers and low-budget laboratories (like the ones in some developing countries) to measure the true light output of their devices without needing to send them out for expensive testing.
  • Contributing to the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change “Small-scale methodology AMS-III.AR,” which allows off-grid lighting systems to receive credit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helps reduce the up front cost of improved lighting to end-users.
  • Traveling to Munich and Nairobi to meet with policymakers and representatives from other international programs and harmonize their activities with the Lighting Africa Quality Assurance framework, which is becoming a global model in the off-grid lighting world.

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Lighting Africa’s Product Awards

Lighting Africa Awards

Representatives of the award-winning companies after receiving the awards at the ceremony on May 18th, 2010 at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.

LED lighting products, many of which are solar charged, are streaming into the African market and displacing incandescent flashlights and fuel-based lighting. They hold the promise to improve peoples’ lives and reduce global warming emissions that are associated with fuel-based lighting. Unfortunately, the quality of the products is highly variable; many of them fail in a matter of weeks or months and threaten to spoil the market for improved lighting systems. To help differentiate between better quality products and the rest, SERC worked with the World Bank Group’s Lighting Africa Program over the last year to administer the Lighting Africa 2010 Outstanding Product Awards–the first awards program of its kind for off-grid lighting products in the African market. On May 18th, 2010, five products were given honors at the Lighting Africa 2010 Global Business Conference and Trade Fair in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Off-Grid Lighting Adventure Continues

Flashlights in Kenyan Market

Flashlights, along with other goods, available from hawkers on the street in central Kericho, Kenya. (Photo credit SERC).

This article was written by Jennifer Tracy.

Despite dust storms stirring up eye-stinging grits of dirt, downpours that filled 50 gallon barrels and donkeys that reverberated piercing 6 AM wake up calls, it was impossible for us not to smile with gratitude and joy. For the second summer running SERC personnel traveled to Kenya to continue our ongoing field research on off-grid, efficient lighting for low income rural people. With help from our Kenyan research colleague Maina Mumbi and the hospitality of his family, SERC Co-director Arne Jacobson, Research Engineer Peter Johnstone and myself, Graduate Student Research Assistant Jenny Tracy, had a successful trip that was never short of excitement–within 15 meters of two full-grown lions we got a flat tire!

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Efficient Off-Grid Lighting in Kenya

Kenyan street vendor "before"

“Before”: M.J., a vendor in the Kenyan town of Maai Mahiu, poses with his hurricane-type kerosene lamp inside his kiosk. (Photo credit SERC).

Kenyan street vendor "after"

“After”: M.J. with his LED lamp that he obtained through our research effort. (Photo credit SERC).

We continued our research on efficient lighting for sub-saharan Africa in winter 2009 as a continuing partner in the Lumina Project, a collaboration between SERC Co-director Arne Jacobson and Evan Mills of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Over a month-long trip in summer 2008, Dr. Jacobson, Kristen Radecsky, and I traveled in the Rift Valley region of Kenya doing market field testing of small, rechargeable LED lighting products. In January 2009, I returned to the field for two weeks to follow up with the study participants and wrap up the year’s data collection effort. The January tasks included a follow-up survey for night market vendors who participated in the study, surveying the demand threshold for illumination for the vendors, and gathering samples of
LED products that are available in the Kenyan marketplace.

Between July 2008 and January 2009 our research participants had 6 months to work with the LED lamps they purchased through our project, and their response to the technology has been very positive. M.J., a research participant in the town of Maai Mahiu says, “I stay open longer now than before. I’ve noticed more customers are attracted to my business in the evening compared to before, and they can see my goods more clearly. Continue reading

Off-Grid Lighting Research in Kenya

Kristen in Kenya with Hurricane Lamp

Kristen Radecsky measures a vendor’s hurricane lamp to calculate the lamp’s burn rate. (Photo credit SERC).

SERC co-director Dr. Arne Jacobson and graduate student research assistants Peter Johnstone and Kristen Radecsky traveled to Kenya this past summer to collect data for the off-grid lighting project. Lighting is often a large fraction of the operating costs for small, off-grid businesses in Kenya. Because they are not connected to the grid, they use a variety of off-grid lighting technologies to illuminate their shops– including candles, kerosene lamps, and battery powered LED lamps. Kerosene lamps are most popular, but can be expensive due to high kerosene prices. Kerosene lamps can also release tiny particulate matter that causes health problems. A number of manufacturers world-wide are designing off-grid lighting products with the goal of making them more affordable in locations like Kenya, often using LED technology.    SERC researchers will use the collected data to inform manufacturers of the costs for small businesses of using off-grid lighting products in actual field conditions and make recommendations for how lights can be better designed to make them more affordable.

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