Lighting up lives with LEDs all year round

By Colin Minor

Calgary’s Light Up The World Foundation is showcasing its global development initiatives this month with a speaker series, open house and solar-powered holiday light display.

University of Calgary electrical engineering professor and LUTW founder Dr. David Irvine-Halliday is speaking about sustainable lighting’s role in development on Dec. 16. Irvine-Halliday is currently in Hyderabad, India where he has been working on a social enterprise project for almost a year.

“He is basically developing a home lighting system,” said LUTW program director Christoph Schultz. “The idea is that it is something we could potentially use at one point.”

LUTW provides stand-alone solar powered LEDs for people who would otherwise burn candles or kerosene. Kerosene lamps are expensive to fuel, have negative health effects and are dangerous if dropped.

“Dave’s focus in the beginning was education,” said Schultz. “It is completely multi-dimensional what the impacts are, it’s social, it’s economic, it’s cultural and it is completely transformational.”

By installing sustainable lighting, LUTW jumps straight from combustibles to solar energy. Constantly improving LED technology allows LUTW to provide better lighting every year.

“The lights that we use now make the lights that we used two years ago look like science fair projects,” said Schultz.

Technological uncertainty is a big reason why LED lighting has not taken over a larger share of the market in developed countries. For LED lighting to be successful in Canada it must do so within existing electrical infrastructure.

“Until LEDs get closer to their theoretical maximum in terms of efficiency you won’t see them,” said Schultz. “We tell people, ‘It will get there, it is just not there yet.’ “

Through working in different countries, LUTW has learned that people have different uses for electricity. Many in developing countries are now using solar panels to satisfy evolving energy needs for cell phones and radios.

“We have heard in a few West African countries that during the rainy season, people want a light in the front door to keep the snakes away because in the rainy season snakes are looking for a dry place and will come in so that is a stress for a family,” said Schultz.

LUTW has made international partnerships and even inspired local sustainable businesses where they have worked. On a recent project in Nepal, LUTW hired a local business Irvine-Halliday helped establish years prior.

“It was neat to hire someone who, back in the beginning, Dave mentored and trained to do a very major component of the project,” said LUTW fund development director Tara Collins.

LUTW initially designed and made many of the lights they installed but have switched to allow larger partners like Phillips Electrical be in charge of manufacturing. LUTW now focuses on training and education.

“We have moved more towards skill training and capacity building,” said Collins. “Any project that we do there is always an element of training so people learn how to troubleshoot basic problems and how the connections are made.”

LUTW has illuminated more than 26,000 homes in over 50 countries worldwide. They are supported by various, individuals, businesses and organizations across the globe.

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