Solar prices are dropping; even so, solar power still costs more than just feeding off the electrical grid in most developed countries. But thanks to the falling price and low-energy use of LED lights, solar power is beginning to take hold in developing areas, Kevin Bullis at Technology Review reports.
LED lights have been seen as a long-term investment: each light costs more up-front, but over years their energy efficiency will save bucks. But they require far less energy than incandescent bulbs: just a couple watts of energy, as opposed to 20 or 30. And this lower energy requirement can be much more easily fulfilled -- for cheaper -- than using kerosene, the standard fuel in many developing areas.
To beat the up-front costs, several companies are starting to offer long-term payment plans for solar panels and lights, such as charging monthly fees and pay-as-you-go systems.
The long-term effects of such systems could be great. On the short term, people get cheaper lighting and a few solar panels. But with enough critical mass, these cheap LED lights could push the communities over the edge towards larger scale solar power, slowly displacing kerosene and fossil fuel power over time.