When we think about solar energy, we often think about one of two things. We think about how rooftop solar might save you a few dollars on your electricity bill, or utility scale arrays and solar farms producing thousands of kilo Watts (kW) and providing electricity to tens of thousands of homes. The Solar Buddy, is something quite a bit smaller but it's making a bigger impact than a few hundred dollars off your next bill ever could.
We are lucky to live in a country that has built the infrastructure for a constantly managed and national electrical grid, which allows us to interact with the all the appliances of modernity that we very much take for granted. In many places, access to electricity on such a scale is impossible, some places aren’t even able to provide basic lighting.
The Solar Buddy is hoping to change that. It’s a compact and very simple device that uses the sun’s light to charge its battery, which then powers LED’s at night time. Mr Doble, the man behind this humble invention, said he was inspired by the struggle of the millions of displaced people around the world, when he migrated from England to Australia and lost contact with his children in the process.
"I felt like a refugee, originally from England and now in Australia and alone...through that I exposed myself to a lot of reading about refugees”, "I wanted to bring myself out of the darkness and the hurt I was in and understand how these refugees live in the dark. I created a solution for solar lighting for refugees to use in tents." - Mr. Doble.
Many people don’t understand the impact that artificial light has on people’s lives. We often think of food and water as the necessities of life, considering electricity a privilege or at least less of a priority for those struggling to survive. Rather the opposite is true, Mr. Doble stating that, “Energy poverty kills 4.8 million people a year.”
With over 20% of the world's population living in darkness, his hope is that this simple invention will be the solution to that problem and he has proved that he will do what it takes to make that a possibility. To capture the attention of the right people, the inventor travelled to the UN headquarters in Geneva and camped out in a tent, to demonstrate the issues facing refugees living in temporary homes.
Out of sheer luck he was able to get an audience with an Ethiopian man who was there looking to find solutions to the energy crisis his country was facing. Today, he is leading the world as a renewable energy provider for aid in third world countries, and he is now looking to capture the attention of Australia’s children.
Alongside his partner Gareth Davies, Mr. Doble is developing a Buddy2Buddy program which hopes to educate Australian children about the less fortunate by allowing them to actually build the solar devices themselves. It seems that many developing countries are looking to solar as a fantastic solution to independent energy production, essentially leapfrogging the developed world. Solar may take a while to capture the attention of people who have plenty of options to choose from, but it is definitely providing a source of light and energy to those in need.