Lighting Up the Night: Empowered by Light Brings Renewable Energy to Zambian Schoolsby Jessica Appelgren on June 24, 2012
In 2010, when the founders of Empowered by Light were confronted with the fact that in rural Zambia only 2% of people have grid power, they decided to connect the worlds of cleantech and renewable energy products with the users who could most benefit from their energy output: Zambian schools. From this, Empowered by Light was born to support the use of renewal technologies in that country. Since founding the nonprofit, the three co-founders (Marco Krapels, Moira Hanes, and Gianluca Signorelli) have joined forces with actor and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo to help build an energy infrastructure in Zambia in a sustainable manner — from the ground up.
The result is Solar: ZAMBIA — a project to deliver 5,000 solar-powered LED light/cell phone charge kits to rural Zambian schools. With the kits, children can study at night and their families can charge their cell phones to market their crops.
Last week, I was honored to contribute to the cause by connecting Marco Krapels and Mark Ruffalo to reporters interested in hearing how the solar LED lamps are being distributed in Zambia by Empowered by Light. As we build out our external communications work at Saatchi S, we will continue to make these valuable connections and facilitate discussion with reporters who are invested in sustainability issues.
The event, Light Up The Night, was a sold-out fundraiser at Roe in San Francisco, where the team unveiled its next project: helping Sioma High School in rural Zambia become 99% renewable with a solar array and on-site power storage system from PowerHive Energy. The project will displace the 14,500 liters of diesel per year the school currently uses, which is responsible for 86,000 pounds of C02. The power generated from the system will also eliminate the need for 1,600 cubic feet of wood used per week to run the school’s ovens, resulting in more than 50 square miles of deforestation per year.
Beyond being an oscar-award nominated actor and the star of movies like The Hulk and The Avengers, Mark Ruffalo assumed the role of environmental activist when the region where he lives in upstate New York became a hot bed of hydraulic fracking activity. In interviews, Ruffalo discussed the connection he sees between a mass transition to solar and other renewables. He calls this transition “the sunshine revolution” — the answer to the country’s growing dependence on natural gas fracking, and a way to protect the water supply for all U.S. communities. Mark, Marco and others also spent time last week in Silicon Valley with tech leaders discussing how to best mobilize around a sunshine revolution.
The Empowered by Light’s Sioma High School project is a phenomenal next step. When a small solar powered lamp can help raise test scores by 236%, as Empowered By Light saw at Zambia’s Kalongola Basic School, it’s awesome to imagine what an entire school powered by renewables will accomplish.