Banish darkness, light a lamp in Nepal

by VillageTech Solutions (VTS)
Sun Light 3 watt system
Sun Light 3 watt system

GlobalGiving's donors achieved two big goals in 'banishing darkness' in Nepal.

Donor contributions funded scores of 'Sun Lights' from Village Solutions in both the refugee camps of Palpa and the isolated fisherman's village of Puchuhar in Kavre Districts. These are rugged, simple solar systems that power several lamps which are located in key places in each home--the cooking area, children's study corner...

Village Solutions is a Nepali-owned startup formed by the former employees of EcoSystems, the predecessor of VillageTech Solutions. The employees were trained by EcoSystems in electronics design and assembly.

By funding a part of the initial production from Village Solutions, donors supported the launch of this local startup which now is actively making and selling lighting systems in Nepal. Through its own R&D, Village Solutions is introducing new products--such as a solar-powered street lamp.

As these lighting systems are affordable by a large part of the rural population, we feel it is no longer necessary or desirable to subsidize the selling price, and are closing this project. All donated funds have been applied to the Palpa and Puchuhar projects.

We thank our donors for their help in making this lighting initiative a success!

Sun Light 10 watt system
Sun Light 10 watt system


Sixty five families -- all of the homes in a small fishers' village in Nepal, will soon have LED lamps thanks to you,  GlobalGiving's donors. Designed, built and installed by VillageSolutions (our Nepalese partner), these systems include three lamps, each with its own switch, which are installed in the homes, much as our own home wiring systems. A 3 watt solar panel provides energy, under the supervision of an electronic "charge controller", in a manner designed to maximize the useful life of the battery. During the installation, VillageSolutions will find and train a local person to provide future maintenance.

Please look at the first attachment for a closer view of this village and its people.


1 watt SunLight
1 watt SunLight

Nepal's people consume less that 1% of the energy per capita used in the United States. And nearly all of their electric power comes from 'renewable' hydroelectric sources.

But there the 'good news' ends. In the winter, today, the rivers have so little water that electricity is rationed--those lucky enough to be on the grid get only about 8 hours per day. Those beyond the grid cannot work, read, or study after dark unless they burn expensive kerosene, invest in some solar device, or rely on hearthlight--from the vanishing forests.

There's no Nepalese 'Consumer Reports'  comparing the value of various lighting products. Most products are simple, cheap, and lack critical components--especially what is called a 'charge controller'-- built-in electronics that protect the storage battery from damage.

The SunLight systems have a robust charge controller. And there's another advantage. Each system comes with wires, switches and lamps so that the homeowner can install permanent lighting in at least four locations. Light in each location can be controlled independently.

As the rivers shrink and the darkness expands, the SunLights are coming on!

Our partner VillageSolutions is now producing two versions--the most affordable is 1 watt, the other is 10 watt. The boxes holding the charge controller and battery are shown below.

10 watt SunLight
10 watt SunLight
VS team and supplies arrive in Archale village
VS team and supplies arrive in Archale village

Scores of households became part of a power & light network in two villages of Palpa District in October. This welcome change was made possible by VTS' many donors and volunteers, and by the good will and determination of the VillageSolutions (VS) team in Nepal.

To bring light into some of Nepal's dark villages, we first aimed to build a simple pedal generator that would serve as a central power source for a village, plus a system using small 6 volt batteries to shuttle energy to individual homes. This was intended to help those villages which lacked renewable hydro or wind resources, and where it is impractical and prohibitively expensive to distribute small amounts of power by wires.

A key part of the development was to design a very effective "charge controller", which is the electronics system that protects and thus prolongs the life of the battery. Many lighting products do not protect the battery, and thus lead to premature system failure and the cost of replacing the battery.

Pedaling proved unacceptable for social reasons, so a "large" (100 watt) solar panel in each village became the power source. Having a communally shared system which supplies individual home lighting, especially with this shuttle arrangement, is unusual. As with 'municipal' systems elsewhere, it can be sustained only by a high degree of public cooperation. We will continue to monitor the progress of these installations to understand whether and how this form of community infrastructure can be scaled.

Each home can operate four LED lamps every night/morning from the battery for a number of days before needing a recharged battery.

Further R&D has now produced two new products for individual homes: a 1 watt system, and a 10 watt system, both with their own small solar panels. As shown in the photos below, the storage battery is attached to a wall, and wires run to the locations where the family want their lamps.

VTS now plans to develop a 200 watt system that can provide enough reliable power for example to a small school, or for a home with a laptop computer.

Solar panel installed on rooftop
Solar panel installed on rooftop
"User Box" installed in a home
"User Box" installed in a home
Another "User Box" wired into a home
Another "User Box" wired into a home
Villager displays LED lights (photos with flash)
Villager displays LED lights (photos with flash)
Batteries labeled with each household
Batteries labeled with each household's name
Wiring being installed from box to lamp
Wiring being installed from box to lamp
Three 'charging boxes' refill the 6 volt batteries


VillageTech Solutions (VTS) transferred responsibility for manufacturing and marketing its power and lighting products to a new Nepalese company, VillageSolutions (VS) in January, 2009. VillageSolutions was created by the former EcoSystems employees.

A skilled Nepalese electrical engineer and Dr. John Mahan of VTS have coached VS in expanding the range of their product line of SunLights. They now offer five choices. Several photos of the systems are shown below.

VS' manager, Nanda Lal Bhandari visited manufacturers in Delhi recently to arrange for more durable, lightweight and less expensive housings for the battery and electronics. These will enable VS to provide the lighting systems at lower cost.


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Organization Information

VillageTech Solutions (VTS)

Location: Menlo Park, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
David Sowerwine
Managing Director
Menlo Park, California United States

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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