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Start with a solar LED flashlight/reading light.  Make sure the solar light doubles as a battery charger that uses standard size batteries.   Add a bit of muscle power, a solar swadeshi, and you have enough power for a cell phone and radio as well as a light, maybe even a computer.  That's battery electric power day or night as long as the solar chip generates current, the batteries hold a charge, and there's strength enough to turn a dynamo.

Today, for the solar, I'd go with a Bogolight.  $25 buys a solar LED light that charges AA batteries and sends a second solar light to someone in the developing world.    I recently sent two to a friend serving in Iraq.

The dynamo could be hand cranked or pedal powered, attached to a bike, or a windmill.  The $100 Laptop has an interesting string-pull dynamo that should be on the market (for less than $100?) in the first six months of 2008.  There's a hand-held windmill available for about $50 and many bicycle generators that are both affordable and effective.

Now, think of such solar LED lights and battery chargers distributed to an Afghanistan village, building on the work of Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and builder of schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan since the 1990s, Sarah Chayes, former NPR reporter now working with a local cooperative there, and Badshah Khan, the Pashtun and Islamic compatriot of Gandhi.  After that,  let's try it in Iraq and see if it works after the next natural disaster and extreme weather event.

Solar IS Civil Defense and a Solar Insurgency can be an effective tactic in building resilience if not stability into many situations.

The military already understands this, to a point.  Before the most recent invasion of Afghanistan, NATO forces distributed solar/dynamo AM/FM/SW radios there.  Some of them had built-in lights, too.  Unfortunately, these solar/dynamos did not charge standard size batteries, only the internal, hard-wired batteries for the radios.  With enough batteries and a compatible solar/dynamo system, you have portable power in a box.

Small scale solar is already affordable, available, and effective.  We just haven't noticed - yet.

Solar IS Civil Defense

PS:  A box of 50 Bogolights costs $600.  I wonder if there's a school in Afghanistan that has 50 pupils who need lights to read after dark.

Originally posted to gmoke on Sun Dec 02, 2007 at 07:56 PM PST.

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Solar for emergencies at home and abroad?

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