HiLight Solar Light & Charging
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More than a billion people lack reliable access to electricity. This leads to a variety of daily dilemmas, from getting stuck on the roadside with a dead mobile phone and no way to make an important call; to lacking a battery-powered flashlight during unexpected power cuts; to relying on expensive and dirty-burning kerosene for reading lights at night.
As the population grows faster than the extension of the world’s electrical grids, lack of secure access to electricity is not a problem easily fixed. In addition, the current use of kerosene for lighting is inefficient as well as damaging to air quality. Studies estimate that 77 billion liters of fuel are used annually for lighting, contributing to premature deaths from indoor air pollution.
HiNation’s HiLight is a 100 percent solar-powered charger and lantern that provides access to electricity anywhere, anytime. The high-efficiency HiLight translates ten hours of sunlight into 20 hours of lighting strong enough to illuminate a small room; using the same ten hours of sunlight, the HiLight can alternatively recharge from three to ten mobile phones or other small appliances via its USB charging stations.
While solar cells are readily available, HiNation’s innovation is to design the HiLight in a form factor that is truly useful for users living far from the electrical grid, predominantly in Africa and Asia. A pressing need for these users is access to good light for working, studying, and socializing. And, the recent success in marketing lower-cost mobile phones to rural communities only increases the need for access to reliable electricity sources.
The HiLight is easy to use and strong enough to stand up to harsh climates and rough handling conditions. HiNation bases the HiLight and its future solutions on global technical achievements in solar cells and battery technology. The company does not rely on a single innovation but hopes to bring improvements in solar and battery technology to larger markets though low-cost, rugged products designed to meet the needs of local populations.
The United Nation’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC, 2010) defined energy access for basic human needs as “access to clean, reliable and affordable energy services for cooking and heating, lighting, communications and productive uses.” An estimated 1.3 billion people living in rural areas have no access to electricity (World Energy Outlook 2011). This fact seriously limits the ability for almost a quarter of the world’s population to provide for their basic human needs as well as rise out of poverty. The fact that 500 million people living off-grid now have mobile phones offers hope for connectivity and for the future, yet makes electricity requirements more acute.
Hilight’s Solar Light & Charging unit is an example of a solution for powering both lighting and communication, and WWF estimates it could meet the needs of at least 125 million people in rural emerging markets by year 2022.
HiNation taps technological advancements in solar to develop solutions to fit the needs of a broader range of users. In future the company sees a market for larger form factors than the HiLight, in order to illuminate larger spaces and power larger appliances. Technical development is ongoing to improve product life, as well as product functionality in various climates under tough usage conditions.
HiNation plans to increase its product portfolio of high-quality, easy-to-use solutions while expanding the global market by forging strong alliances with international partners. A growing interest from international NGOs involved in emergency relief and other services is creating a need for new partners to help drive local expansion.
Barriers and Challenges
Solar cell technology has been around for decades, yet the high cost of quality products has hampered general consumer usage; instead cheap, less-efficient solutions have flooded the market, in the form of garden lights and small solar gadgets. HiNation will continue to increase the efficiency of solar products, while also rebuilding confidence in the quality of the solar market. The challenge is to prove HiNation’s quality and value in comparison to other available solutions. In addition, the need to make HiLight and future products affordable to low-income markets is a continual challenge. Payback of HiLight is very short, due to the elimination for users of small but frequent kerosene and mobile costs, but potential consumers must be educated on the utility and benefits of HiNation solutions. Increasing the demand for high-quality solar solutions is dependent on educating the market and decreasing the knowledge gap. The speed of this process could be increased by conscious government promotion of solar alternatives, both nationally and internationally.
Linda Krondahl founded HiNation in 2008. Krondahl has an M.Sc degree in Chemical Engineering and Technology Management and a background in management consulting, and has worked with large international organizations in a wide range of industries. Kristina Linhardt has a M.Sc. Business degree and extensive experience in sales and in the internationalization of companies. Linhardt is member of the board on both Swedish and international companies. Together, Krondahl and Linhardt form the core team of HiNation, and have proven to be a complementary duo. This team works closely with a network of agents around the world to maintain local market insights and cultural experience. The company has also joined forces with a number of supporting organizations to provide important input to the company, for instance KTH and Stockholm Innovation & Growth (STING). HiNation has close relationships with suppliers and partners in Sweden and internationally.