Buffalo Grid recharges off-grid phones using solar power, bikes and text messages

Buffalo Grid recharges off-grid phones using solar power, bikes and text messages
With 500 million to 650 million cellphones off the power grid , Buffalo Grid offers a way for some of these handset owners to recharge their devices using solar power. The company has a 60 watt solar panel that recharges a battery that is brought into areas where cellphones need charging, like Uganda, by workers carrying it on a bicycle. Juliet Nandutu is one such worker. Offering the service to her village in Uganda, she says that she charges 18 to 20 phones a day depending on the local electricity supply. When there is power available, she is not needed as much. And even if power is available, it requires a long walk to a charging station.

Buffalo Grid's recharging technology is also a cheaper option. In Uganda, it costs 20 cents to fully recharge a phone. But the average worker in the area takes home under $1 a day. The interesting thing is how the power is released. A text message, which in Uganda costs 110 shillings, is sent to the device. Once the LED light glows above a socket, it means that it is ready to recharge a phone. Each text message allows the phone to be charged for 1.5 hours. Each battery has ten charging points and can charge 30 to 50 phones in a day.

Buffalo Grid sees room to bring the price down more if it can get the carriers in the area to pay for some of the power. For the mobile operators, it could be a positive move. "When you bring power to phones that don't have any, people will use them more," says Buffalo Grid's Daniel Becerra. "Instead of paying for the charge, people will spend more on airtime."

The bottom line is that Buffalo Grid not only brings cheap power for cellphone owners in regions where power is expensive or non-existent, it also brings jobs to an area where they are badly needed.

source: BuffaloGrid, NewScience via Textually.org

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