UYELELE – The Namibian Solar Bottle Project

Thanks to an inspiring talk by Namibian entrepreneur Hendrik Ehlers at the first TEDx Windhoek event in March 2014, the students of YOUTHinkGreen decided to take the Namibian Solar Bottle Project on board as another one of their field projects.

About half the Namibian population lives in shacks, the cheapest possible housing for poor people made from various materials depending on what is available at the nearest and cheapest hardware store.

Highly flamable materials everywhere inside the shack.

A shack from the inside: highly flammable materials everywhere

All shacks have one thing in common: They catch fire easily and then burn down to the ground very fast.
According to the Namibian police there are an average of four shack fires a week. Most shockingly: the victims are mainly children. Why? During the day children are often left alone in the shack. Sometimes parents even lock them in to ensure that their belongings inside are safe. As there is no other light inside the shack, candles or paraffin lamps are lit. In summer it is brutally hot inside and candles melt. If a candle melts or falls over, first the dividing curtain and then the clothes hanging along the walls catch fire. Because the way out is locked, the horror is unstoppable.

Some worldwide facts:

  • Everyday some 2 Billion people are forced to live in the darkness.
  • Each year 2 Million people die using paraffin lanterns & candles.
  • This “dirty fuel” costs them some 25% of their income
 for just 1 hour of light per night ($1-$2).
  • This amounts to 38 Million US$ spent annually just to power these lights.
  • Every year this “dirty fuel” releases 190 million tones of CO2 pollution into the atmosphere.

In 2008 the Brazilian workshop owner Alfredo Moser got so frustrated about permanent power cuts that he trialled water filled PET bottles in the roof of his workshop. The idea was to catch sunlight during the day, so that he could continue working. The “Liter of Light” worked indeed and is now used by millions in many third world countries. You find a brief installation manual here.

Solar water bottle installed = 60W of light

Solar water bottle installed = 60W of light

But does it also work at night?

One installs a water-filled PET bottle into the roof and parks any type of a small solar kit under or next to it during the day – thus charging it safely INSIDE the locked shack. It hardly matters where to put the solar kit. One of the greatest advantages of the water-filled bottle is that the water refracts and distributes the sunlight almost evenly through the shack.

Combine both robust, simple and inexpensive technologies and we don’t have to worry about children in shack fires anymore. On top of that we’ll reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and the obsolete costs for buying fuel leaves the family better off.

Project milestones

UYELELE - our new project!

UYELELE - our new project!

  • Raise funds to secure costs for materials and rechargeable solar lights
  • Visit shack fire victims in hospital
  • Go into  informal settlements and find suitable candidates for solar water bottles
  • Manufacture pre-fabricated base plates in the school’s metal workshop
  • Go into informal settlements and install solar water bottles
  • Make a 3 min Youtube video documenting the whole project

To follow us on the current progress of the project, read on in our blog.