Environment & Ecology• Invention

New Lights in a Crisis

By Fiona Mischel
A small, portable, muscle-and solar-powered light and charging station.

Wars and the effects of climate change have displaced 65.3 million people worldwide—the largest number of refugees in recorded history. Improving their access to reliable illumination and communication is essential in emergencies. The Nowlight, invented by the United Kingdom’s Deciwatt, combines kinetic with solar power, yielding up to 61 hours of illumination. 

Unlike traditional solar lights, Nowlights will still work during a monsoon or blizzard since they can be charged by pulling on a looped cable. Deciwatt CEO Caroline Angus “sees Nowlights as ideal for those kinds of scenarios. You can stockpile them and deploy them without having to worry about, ‘Is this a sunny country? Or what season is it?”’ 

Nowlights can also charge cell phones, which are a crucial way for refugees and energy-poor communities to stay connected to people and stay on top of finances, emergency information, or even asylum applications.

Nowlights have been included in a Red Cross/Red Crescent study of household energy sources in Rwandan refugee camps. At press time, the Nowlights were in the final weeks of accelerated life testing following a highly successful crowdfunding campaign. Angus says she expects to manufacture 10,000 units and begin distribution in November 2018.