|Home Power Station comes home|
|Sunday, 24 June 2012 20:24|
Until now Econet Solar, the company set up to promote the invention, has been running field trials in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal province, but now the team has begun to work on commercial field trials.
Econet Solar chief executive Mr Luc Tanoh said that the Zimbabwean commercial field trials are the next big step before full commercial service.
“We are now ready for commercial field trials with selected customers in Zimbabwe, which is our first commercial site,” he said.
Mr Tanoh said the solar-powered Home Power Station is a “truly remarkable product, and will change the lives of millions of people who have no access to the electricity grid”.
Econet Solar plans to roll out the service in every African country and intends to license other cellphone companies to use its technology.
According to Forbes.com, the device will allow individuals and families across Africa to light up their homes, charge their mobile phones and generally utilise energy at a relatively inexpensive cost compared to solar energy devices currently available in Africa.
In a Press statement, founder and executive chairman of Econet Wireless Strive Masiyiwa said that the Home Power Station will allow individuals to pay for their energy on a pre-paid basis, in much the same way airtime is purchased for mobile phones in much of Africa.
While the retail price of the Home Power Station has not yet been revealed, officials of Econet Solar have promised that the device will be sold at a “small cost” to allow accessibility to low-income earners across Africa. Customers will only be charged for electricity in proportion to how they use it.
Masiyiwa said: “Whilst there are already well-intentioned solar-powered lighting systems on the market, the reality is that they are just too expensive for people to afford.
“We are launching the Home Power Station to change all that,” he said.
The device will contain a typical Econet mobile SIM card that will enable the device to link up with the cellular network, thereby making it possible for the customer to pre-pay for energy usage, in the same way mobile phone users currently pay for airtime on their cellphone.
“It has been designed to supply, on a pre-paid basis, affordable lighting for small homes and cellphone charging,” Masiyiwa said, while expressing his optimism that the product will help light up the “70 percent of Africa that does not already have access to electricity”.
If Econet Solar team play their cards right, the Home Power Station device could easily and quickly become immensely popular in various parts of the African continent, considering that several African countries have to contend with severe electricity outages every day.
The Home Power Station consists of a solar panel, a battery pack, an energy management module, LED (light emitting diode) lights and a cell phone charger.
A range of solar power products are already on the market but often the upfront cost of purchasing the equipment is too high for those who would like and would benefit from the product. Econet Solar is taking an innovative approach which will allow its customers to take the Home Power Station at a small upfront cost and pay for electricity as they use it.
The Home Power System is designed to replace existing candle and paraffin lighting options which are dangerous, non-environmentally-friendly and expensive. The Home Power Station customer pays for the service via their pre-paid cellphone.
As standard, the Econet Solar Home Power Station includes four LED lights, the Home Power Station controller, a battery, a solar panel, cabling and a mobile phone charger.
It has been designed to light up to four rooms of three by three metres each for a period of up to five hours a day. The system is easy to install and comes with a comprehensive instruction manual, as well as a helpful “frequently asked questions” booklet.
Econet Solar has designed the Home Power Station to be robust and reliable so that each part of the system requires minimal maintenance following installation; the battery is intended to last for over five years.
The control box is deliberately lightweight and compact so that it can be placed in a secure and discreet location in the customer’s home. The photovoltaic solar panel replenishes one day’s usage in half a day’s sunshine.