LED Lighting:

Recent advances in LED (light emitting diode) lighting has recently reached a point where durable battery driven lanterns produce a powerful and very usable light and require very little power. These lanterns can last from 15 to 60 hours on a single battery charge. Recent advances in rechargeable battery technology had given us batteries that are smaller, more powerful, and longer lasting. Charging NiMH (nickel metal hydride) batteries is very efficient and uses minimal electric power. These batteries are designed to be recharged over 500 times and do not have the polluting characteristics of lead acid or nickel cadmium (NiCad) batteries. The combination of these new highly efficient LED lights with long lasting, powerful and rechargeable batteries offers great potential as a solution to the lighting problems of remote Himalayan villages.

The Power Source: pico hydroelectric or solar photovoltaic panels

By installing a very small pico (pico hydro is often defined as less than 3 kilowatts) hydroelectric turbine of less than 500 watts, the batteries can be recharged again and again and provide sufficient power for lighting in every home in a village. These affordable turbine and generator sets are manufactured and available in Kathmandu, Nepal. They are transportable as they are small and light enough to be carried into areas without roads by porters. Readily available high density polyethylene piping is used to get water from the stream to the turbine. Pelton wheel turbines, which require a high vertical fall of a small amount of water, are perfect for the conditions in the Himalayas. As very little water is diverted to the turbine which then flows back into the stream there is little or no ecological impact. Installation in many cases can be done without even using any cement

The attractive alternative to hydroelectric is a solar electric panel or panels coupled with a deep cycle storage battery. Current pricing in Kathmandu of readily available solar electric power systems are priced competitively with the hydroelectric alternative at the small size required. Solar power provides several advantages over hydroelectric in the case of this particular prototype village. First, installation should be significantly faster – hopefully complete in one day. Secondly it allows us to locate the battery charging location in the center of the village. This will eliminate the time and expense of collecting, charging and delivering batteries given that the hydroelectric alternative would be located roughly 20 minutes walk away. A proper solar design will include 3 days of backup power stored in a deep cycle battery. Solar also offers the ability to easily relocate the panels if needed. In this prototype village’s case there will be the opportunity to relocate the solar collection system to a new school which will be relocated closer to the village center sometime in the future. For these reasons the solar option (as opposed to hydroelectric) appears to be the best option for this village.

Hydroelectric Turbine and Generator or Solar Power / Photovoltaic Panels:

Kathmandu manufactured pico hydropower turbine sets are available for about $550. My former Nepalese partner (A.K. Nakarmi) to whom I introduced Pelton wheel technology to in the 1970’s, has gone on to producing over 300 hydroelectric turbines from his factory (Kathmandu Metal Industries) in Kathmandu. His sons are helping run the business. Alternatively the prices and specifications obtained from multiple solar power vendors in Kathmandu come to roughly the same installed price. Both the hydropower and the solar power alternative are approximately $1000 installed.

LED Lanterns:Apollo_black

In the USA discounted prices of lanterns go for as little as US$6.00 each. Quality lanterns are often sold at retail for US$20.00 – $50.00. For this prototype project Black Diamond Equipment Ltd. ( has generously agreed to provide their lanterns and batteries delivered to Nepal. See:

This lantern may well be the best available LED lantern on the market at any price. As far as other lighting products on the market, much of what is available appears to be very poorly made and prone to failure in short order. The batteries used with Black Diamond’s LED lanterns will provide 5 to 7 days of quality and portable light for 4 or 5 hours per night before needing recharging.


NiMH AA batteries are available in most parts of the world. Most are manufactured in China, Japan or Taiwan. The better quality and more powerful ones often cost over $2.00 each and are often seen at retail prices for over $4.00. As a component of this project they are a significant expense, and do need replacement over time. They need care in charging and are available in different sizes (AAA, AA and others) and have varying power capacities. They can last for years and are used in a myriad of devices.

Battery Chargers:

Battery charging NiMH batteries requires a quality charger to insure that the batteries are not damaged by overcharging or high heat. The more chargers available means the more batteries can be charged at one time. This would significantly lessen the time requirements for the person responsible for doing the charging. Charges commonly take from 2 hours to 8 hours and require very little power. In the case of the Black Diamond lanterns there is a built-in charger option when used in combination with the Black Diamond NiMH NRG battery and their power adapter. This would allow the batteries to remain in the lantern (protecting both the battery and the lantern) and the complete lantern would be dropped off for recharging.

Please read more about the benefits and social aspects of the project.

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