Powering Specialized Products & Services

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A number of social enterprises use renewable energy sources to power products or services that require an otherwise-unavailable power source to operate. In these cases the purpose is not providing the customers with power, but delivering a specific service or accomplishing a specific goal that benefits underserved populations. These enterprises fall into two main categories:

  1. Enterprises which themselves provide services, such as education, to off-grid areas and use renewable technologies to do so.
  2. Enterprises which have developed products that enable certain tasks or service providers to function off-grid. Examples are energy-efficient milk chillers, solar lights for health clinics, or human-powered water pumps for local retailers.

Case Studies

We Care Solar

WE CARE Solar was created in response to the problem of maternal mortality in the developing world.

WE CARE Solar distributes a ‘Solar Suitcase’ that includes centralized LED medical lighting, and 12V DC power to charge LED headlamps, mobile phones, and small medical devices to improve surgical/obstetric lighting, telecommunication, and the capacity of rural clinics to provide obstetric care. This improves childbirth safety, reduces delays in providing care, and increases the ability of off-grid health workers to handle complicated births. The ‘Suitcase’ product addresses a specific need and was designed by health professionals to increase the capacity of rural clinics to deliver maternal care.

Shidhulai Affordable Technologies

Shidhulai Affordable Technologies has developed solar powered boat-based schools which enable it to deliver education to off-grid communities in rural Bangladesh.

Bangladesh’s Challanbeel region experiences high flooding every year, cutting students off from schools, which close for weeks at a time. In addition, only 30% of rural Bangladesh is grid-connected, making access to computers and lighting for students a major challenge. Shidhulai is a non-profit focused primarily on providing educational resources to these communities.  In order to increase their capacity, Shidhulai has designed boats with 1200W solar panels which power computers, libraries and community resources to deliver free schooling, libraries, health care, training, and cellular internet access to communities too isolated to access them otherwise.

What These Products Replace

The social enterprises in this section target many different needs, from under-resourced health care facilities to dairy farmers trying to keep their milk cool.  What they have in common is that before they entered their markets, these challenges appeared impossible to address because the target customers were too poor, too sparsely populated, and too far from infrastructure.

  • Before Vidagas set up an LPG supply chain, hospitals in Northern Mozambique were unable to easily boil water to sterilize instruments.
  • Without WE CARE Solar’s hospital lighting system, doctors in off-grid hospitals are unable to operate at night, unnecessarily costing the lives of many women.
  • Thermogenn and Promethean Power customers had to throw away or reduce the value of over half their milk because there was no other way to preserve it.

Enterprise List