WE CARE Solar wins humanitarian technology award for Solar Suitcase

WE CARE Solar wins humanitarian technology award for Solar SuitcaseImagine having to deliver a baby at night without the power of light. That’s what WE CARE Solar’s Solar Suitcase intends to fix. The suitcase-sized device consists of LED medical lighting suitable for medical tasks, chargers for cell phones and AAA or AA batteries and outlets for 12-volt DC devices.

On Oct. 20, the device received one of the 15 Tech Awards awarded for new technologies that benefit humanity and was one of five that received a $50,000 award for the device.

The organization said that maternal mortality accounts for more than half a million deaths worldwide annually, with 99 percent occurring in underdeveloped countries.

“For every maternal death, at least 20 women suffer severe complications from childbirth,” the company said. This can include massive hemorrhages, seizures, obstructive labor and more.

But by increasing access to a simple thing like light at night and communications or even the Internet, health workers can start to get an upper hand on treatment.

“The name ‘WE CARE’ means Women's Emergency Communication And Reliable Electricity," said Dr. Laura Stachel, a cofounder of the nonprofit. “We wanted a solar electric system to facilitate emergency communication as well as powering lighting and medical devices.”

The system is designed for simplicity.

“Our basic suitcase comes with a 40-watt panel and one 15-Ah [amp-hour] battery. This can charge a laptop computer, cell phones, charge AA and AAA batteries and illuminate a large room with two bright LEDs,” Stachel said.

The system was designed with expandability in mind to fit local needs.

“It depends on the size of the rooms and the size suitcase being deployed,” Stachel said. “Expanded systems can hold additional batteries and can illuminate an additional room or two, via a satellite box connected to the Solar Suitcase with a long cord.”

The organization has received requests from numerous underdeveloped nations around the world.

“We receive requests for Solar Suitcase programs from many NGOs regions of the world. For example, we have requests for 90 Solar Suitcases in Malawi, 37 in Nepal, and more than 28 in Haiti. When we receive donations, we put them toward our Solar Suitcase program requests,” Stachel said.

Already, WE CARE Solar is deploying the Solar Suitcase in the field.

“By the end of November, we will have 120 in the field,” Stachel said.

And they plan to deploy more at a quicker pace.

“Our goal for 2012 is to deploy 1,000 units,” she said. The grant will help make that possible.

Image courtesy of WE CARE Solar.