Solar lanterns are akkumulator lamps which can be charged by a small photovoltaic module. They provide light from fluorescent lamps, which have a 5-7 times higher efficiencey compared to light bulbs and electrical power for e.g. radios. The power management of modern solar lanterns is controlled by a microprocessor to enhance the efficiency of charging end discharging the accumulator and to enhance the life of the accumulator.
Mechanical and electrical robustness of modern solar lanterns allow to use them in harsh environments. Rural regions of many countries have not connection to an electrical grid nor enough fossile fuels to operate power generators with combustion engines. Solar lanterns allow light generation over several years without any dependency from infrastructure or fuels.
The availability of light with high reliability and good quality is essential for education - solar lanterns help to extent the time for educational activities like doing the homework, reading books or related handwork. Electricity from the accumulator can also drive a small radio which allows access to information, in the near future, small and efficient web-terminals should provide a bidirectional exchange of information, e.g. a short regional weather report or medical instructions for those who have no access to direct medical services.
A schematic drawing of a solar lantern with its typical accessories, a solar module and external device supplied by the accumulator of a solar lantern:
GLOWSTAR Solar Lantern, Intermediate Technology Consultants (ITC)