Lighting up a million homes through solar power

Friday, 15 April 2011

Dear readers,
Let’s talk about something light and constructive, shall we? It is the love month after all and we are reminded to share it unconditionally. I already actually published this post a couple of days ago but I still needed more info on the project.

The Solar Bottle Bulb Project has an ambitious goal – to light up 1 million homes by 2012. According to statistics from the National Electrification Commission in 2009, 3 million households still remain powerless outside Metro Manila. The team started installing the solar bulbs in a couple of homes in Pasay City with a liter-sized soda bottle. I was trying to work out in my mind how a solar bulb would work without using some complicated technology.

My Shelter Foundation, spearheaded by Illac Diaz, is in the process of unfolding another groundbreaking campaign to bring at least 55watts of light to thousands of households in the shanty areas across the country. Imagine – just using a 1.5 soda bottle, some chlorine and a rubber sealant.

Okay, this is how it works. The solar bottle bulb was designed and developed by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); a device based on the principles of Appropriate Technologies – a concept that provides simple and easily replicable technologies that address basic needs in developing communities. The water and other chemicals allows full spectrum of light to come into the house. We’re not the first one to try this. Brazil and Mexico are using the same technology as well.

We went to homes in Pasay last week during lunch time where the solar bottle bulbs were first installed. Instead of using electricity during the day, the residents now have an option to use the solar bulbs and lessen their electric bills. It’s amazing how this simple of a technology can harness the power of the sun in the most efficient way to light up hundreds of homes.

This doesn’t just save electricity, it also prevents fire as well, especially in shanties that use candles even in the daytime. The scenario – families desperately try to source electricity through illegal or unsafe means – usually resulting into disaster. According to the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), accidents which result into fires often involve faulty electrical connections. Not just that, it also lessens garbage as well!

I cannot begin to imagine how the residents would live in their houses without the solar bulbs they’re using now. The absence of light, really, is daunting.

Right now, My Shelter Foundation just has one prototype. They’re continually experimenting with different materials to spread the technology. I think the not-so-poor households can benefit from another prototype, but, of course, installing these solar bulbs in communities that need it is the first order of business. Seriously, this can change the face of urban living.

Right now, the foundation is exploring partnerships with both private and public entities to implement this project nationwide. As an individual, you can start helping by donating your PET bottles. PET Bottle bins can be deposited at the back of the Insular Life buildings in both Makati and Alabang.

“Light is an important part of our daily life, and access to light is a right of everyone here in the country,” says Diaz. “Through this project, we aim to provide the whole country with sustainable light energy – and bridge the gap between social classes. With the Solar Bottle Bulb project, a brighter Philippines is going to become a reality,” ends Diaz.
Illac Diaz is also working on Design Against the Elements (DATE) and the Bottle School Run.

Read more about the project at or add them on twitter: aliteroflight. Please support this cause by either reposting this article and spreading the word. I’ll post another update once I get word from the organizers.
Let’s make a brighter Philippines!