Solar-Powered Charging Station Activated by Text Message
Up to 650 million cellphone users are off-grid, having to trek miles to the nearest charging station and pay a large fraction of their earnings just to charge their cellphone. To overcome this problem, London-based Buffalo Grid has developed a cheapest portable charging station, which they recently initiated in Uganda.
Did you know, charging a cellphone in Uganda using a cellphone station powered by diesel generators or solar panels can cost 500 Ugandan shillings (about $0.20). According to Buffalo Grid’s Damon Millar; “In rural economies, about 50 percent of the money spent on mobile phones is actually spent on charging them”. “That is some of the most expensive electricity in the world.”
Buffalo Grid has made a portable 60-watt solar powered panel that charges a battery which can further charge 30-50 mobile phones in one day via the 10 charging points. On one full charge Buffalo Grid can work for 3 days while charging each phone for 1.5 hours in one go. To charge the phone, user has to send a text message costing 110 shillings and the LED light above the battery lights up which is an indication of the device being ready for charge.
A fully charged unit can last for three days, has up to 10 charging points, and charges up to 50 phones a day. Each text message allows a phone to be charged for 1.5 hours. To bring the cost down further, Buffalo Grid hopes cellphone network operators would subsidize the power, or even make it free.
Cellphone use is rapidly rising in parts of Africa and Asia. For instance, farmers use cellphones to get updated pricing information to help them manage crop sales. In Kenya, people without access to banking services exchange money using their phones. Buffalo Grid plans to do trials in Sierra Leone, where coffee traders are gearing up to pay farmers using cellphones.