Having easy access to light and power is something we in the developed world take for granted, but for many people across the globe, it's not easy or cheap, and often unavailable all together. An estimated 1.5 billion people on our planet are living off of the grid, illuminating their lives with dirty (and expensive) kerosene lanterns and having to constantly search for a place to charge their mobile phones.
A solar-powered solution that can provide not only bright and efficient lighting, but also store enough power to charge cell phones and other gadgets goes a long way toward reducing energy poverty, and WakaWaka Power can do all of that, while also fitting into a tiny space.
WakaWaka, which means "shine bright" in Swahili, initially produced their efficient solar LED solution, WakaWaka Light, thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, and are now producing the WakaWaka Power, which takes that concept a step further.
WakaWaka Power measures just 4.8 x 4 x 0.8 inches and weighs 7 ounces, which is small and light enough to go anywhere that you do, yet it's so powerful that 8 hours in the sun will provide 40 hours or more of clean, bright LED lighting, and can fully charge a smartphone in just two hours. At the heart of the Power unit is a 2200 mAh LiPo battery, which can also be charged via a micro-USB port (about four hours for a full charge). Charging of other devices is simple and easy, with a standard USB port to fit just about any gadget's cord.
The device is made from ABS plastic, incorporates a fold-out stand for positioning it at the optimum angle for either charging it or lighting up the area, and the stand can also be used to hang the light from the ceiling or placed on a bottle for stability. The WakaWaka Power is sturdy and water-resistant, and the two bright 0.5W LED lights can run in several modes, giving users the option of anywhere from 20 hours (highest setting) to 200+ hours (at the lowest setting) of light, plus a SOS mode that repeatedly flashes the universal emergency signal for help.
I've spent the last couple of weeks putting the WakaWaka Power through its paces, and I'm really impressed by not only how efficient and easy it is to use it, but also by how light and portable it is. It's literally only a little bit larger than the average smartphone, and because there are no detachable parts (some solar charger have a separate battery unit and charging cables to keep track of), taking your personal power supply with you is as simple as throwing the WakaWaka unit in your bag.
The adjustable stand makes it easy to position the device at the right angle for the best solar exposure for charging, as well as providing plenty of options for aiming the lights for optimal illumination. Checking the state of the charge is as simple as pushing the one single button that's on the device, which then lights up indicators showing how much battery life is left or how fast the unit is charging.
The only weak point that I could find on the entire device is the positioning of both USB charging ports, which are covered when the stand is closed. I can see why keeping them covered from dust and dirt may help to prolong the life of the unit, but it also means that the WakaWaka Power has to be open in order to access the ports for charging itself or for charging a phone or other gadget. Granted, it's a small thing, and in no way takes away from the overall usefulness of the unit.
And not only does this gadget supply light and power, but it also helps turn the tide of energy poverty. For each WakaWaka Power that is sold, the company donates $10 to the WakaWaka Foundation, which uses the money to administer micro-loans, finance entrepreneurial education where its most needed, and to subsidize the purchase of these units for those living without access to electricity or lights.