This post was written by Keith Dawson for UBM Tech’s community Web site All LED Lighting, sponsored by Philips Lumileds. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the All LED Lighting site may go dark at any time. This material is Copyright 2013-2015 by UBM Americas.


Fishing With Light on African Lakes

Artisanal fishers in Africa, who fish by night using mostly light from kerosene lamps, could benefit immediately and long-term by the use of LEDs.

Last July we discussed a well-developed and -backed program, the Azuri Technologies Indigo village light, to get solar-powered LED lighting into the homes of rural and off-the-grid Africans, who otherwise have to pay around $2 per week for kerosene to light their homes.

Now researchers based in Kenya, South Africa, and Australia have figured out a way to apply this model to another class of people -- those who fish by night in the lakes of sub-Saharan Africa. Here is the abstract of the article, which was published in the journal Renewable Energy.

The parameters of the problems and the proposed solutions are similar for the two situations. In both cases the incumbent lighting is powered by (expensive) kerosene, and the improved situation involves LEDs powered by solar-charged batteries.

The people who fish the large African lakes, such as Victoria and Tanganyika, contribute to the food supply for millions, as many as 40 million in the Lake Victoria Basin alone. While they cope with problems of grave consequence -- armed conflict and the changing ecology of the lakes among them -- the cost of kerosene to fuel the lights used in night fishing is indeed a pressing issue. Fishers can pay up to half their income for the kerosene they need, even with subsidies.

The existing alternative to the pressurized kerosene-fueled lights, which float on the water, is a compact fluorescent light powered by photo-voltaic batteries. The CFL units cost about half what the kerosene one does, but have drawbacks.

The researchers constructed prototype submersible, 1,000-lumen lights based on LEDs that can run for 8 hours powered by PV-fed batteries. They tested the lights in the field on Kenya lakes. They then calculated the net present cost of such lights (if available commercially) over 5 years, and compared it to that of the CFL and kerosene solutions. The LEDs came in at $280; the CFLs were five times as expensive, and the kerosene lights were twice again as much: 10 times more than the LEDs.

Nonetheless, the higher upfront cost of the LED solution puts it out of reach for the target population of fishers without some funding mechanism such as microloans or payment over time out of current receipts. These are the same solutions already in place for the Indigo village light (the latter being implemented by a series of scratch cards).

The researchers point out other advantages of an LED-based solution: it could be manufactured or assembled locally, providing jobs and indirectly subsidizing the development of lighting for other industries. It is submersible, so it is more effective in the murky lake waters. And the LED light is suitable for use in homes, unlike either the CFL or the kerosene alternatives.

I'm hoping the researchers find the commercial backing to make these lights a reality on Africa's lakes.

Related posts:

— Keith Dawson Circle me on Google+ Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn page, Editor-in-Chief, All LED Lighting