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Solar lightbulb to shine on developing world

The Nokero solar-powered LED lightbulb is designed for the more than 1 billion people who rely on kerosene lamps due to limited or no electricity.

Here's a bright idea for the planet. A Hong Kong-based company has introduced what it bills as the world's only solar-powered lightbulb with the hope of reaching millions of people with little or no access to electricity.

Nokero's N100 solar LED lightbulb Nokero

The Nokero N100 solar LED lightbulb is meant to replace kerosene lamps as a lighting source in the developing world. The company says 1.6 billion people still lack sufficient access to electricity, and many burn fossil fuels for light, which can be dangerous and expensive.

The N100 solar bulb is about the size of a standard incandescent bulb and has four small solar panels in its rainproof plastic housing. Five LEDs and a replaceable NiMH battery inside provide up to four hours of light when the device is fully charged. People hang it outside during the day and then turn it on at night.

Weather, seasons, and latitude can affect charging times. Nokero asserts that one day of charging in the sun can provide about two hours of light, though charging near the equator can provide more. So on a cloudy winter day in northern latitudes, the bulb would probably not be able to replace a kerosene lamp, but on a clear summer day near the equator it would.

The LEDs are meant to last 50,000 to 100,000 hours, and the solar panels are rated to last 10 years. The life of the N100 is basically 5 to 10 years, according to Nokero representative Tom Boyd.

The cost? A single bulb is $15; a case of 48 costs $480. The company offers a "significant" discount when buying a thousand or more. It adds that the bulb pays for itself within months when used in place of a kerosene lantern. NGOs are considered to likely be the main buyers.

In addition to eliminating indoor air pollution and burn risks, consumers can cut 550 pounds of CO2 emissions over one year when lighting with the N100 instead of kerosene, Nokero says. Though the device's lumen rating is unclear, the company says the N100 is five times brighter than kerosene lamps and uses only 1/200th the energy.

In the developed world, the solar bulb could also be used in areas deprived of electricity due to natural disasters, as well as campgrounds and home patios.