UK firm expands pay-as-you-go solar

Eight19 first deployed its IndiGo units in Africa last September. Kenya was chosen as the initial trial market and since then the company has rolled out its IndiGo system to four other African countries.

The company’s pay-as-you system utilizes mobile phone infrastructure, to allow users to buy credits that then give them access to the solar electricity produced by the IndiGo kit. Eight19 says that by using this system, electricity can be provided to the 1.6 billion people worldwide who have no grid connection. It also means households are no longer prevented from installing a photovoltaic system because of the high upfront costs.

Eight19’s photovoltaic system employs an organic, printed photovoltaic deposition technology. The semiconductor material is printed onto a flexible plastic backing, which forms a lightweight module. The technology was developed at Cambridge University and licensed to Eight19 in May 2011.

In a release announcing the company’s move into Sudan, Nyungura James Ode, a rural farmer in Nimule, described the advantage of using the IndiGo system: "I used to have to go to a market three kilometers away to buy batteries for my family’s battery-powered lanterns and had to charge our mobile phones at charging stations in town twice a week. Now I save about half of the money I would spend on batteries and kerosene and can spend more time at home now that I don’t have to walk to the village and wait for phones to charge."

Eight19 has been partially crowdfunded, using the site Kickstarter, and it launched a second round of venture capital funding in January, 2012.