When we think about off-the-grid solar, we tend to picture environmentally conscious homeowners and corporations trying to make an incremental difference in greenhouse gas emissions by installing PV panels on rooftops. But for the 1.4 billion people on the globe who don’t have access to electricity, solar’s potential is less about fighting global warming than it is about accessing electricity where there isn’t even an electric grid to be “off of.”
The dream of electrifying rural areas in the developing world has long existed, but the proliferation of the mobile phone is driving many of the newer efforts to provide simple solar solutions to these parts of the world. Mobile phones, after all, are the original “off-the-grid” solution, in that their introduction has suddenly made it possible to provide phone service without installing extensive wired telephone infrastructure. But even cell phones need power.
To read the rest of my column about mobile and off-grid solar in the developing world, check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required).