Off-grid project in Kenya by OSRAM

From energypedia


The OSRAM Off-Grid lighting concept, including the energy hubs and their off-grid technology, operational model and lighting devices, provides alternative and clean energy services for lighting, mobile phone charging and drinking water treatment to the rural fishing communities in Suba District – Kenya. Thereby, the main emphasis is on replacing kerosene-based lighting with efficient lamps like CFLs and LED powered by batteries charged with solar energy.

OSRAM Energy Hubs - O-Hubs

The O-Hubs are decentralized, solar powered energy stations. They represent the core infrastructure of the OSRAM Off-grid lighting concept. Their main source of energy is renewable solar energy provided by solar panels (e.g. 42 Solarworld SW 220 panels with a performance of 220 Wp each). This photovoltaic system is used to charge batteries and to purify and sterilize water. As a backup system, depending on the availability, a connection to the local power supply systems or a generator is added.

An O–Hub is equipped with:

  • A battery charging station for the battery contained O-box and battery powered lantern:
  • 14 charge controllers, each of them connected to a string of three parallel connected PV-panels, can charge 112 batteries simultaneously.
O-Hub in Nyandiwa.jpg
  • A mobile phone charging station
  • A water purification and sterilization plant with rainwater harvesting and collection System
  • A sales room, storage, and office.

O-Hubs are further leasing, sale and service points for OSRAM products based on renewable energy technologies, as well as a recycling and collection point for end-of-life products.

Since 2008 three O-Hubs operate in Suba District:

  • A mobile phone charging station
  • A water purification and sterilization plant with rainwater harvesting and collection System
  • A sales room, storage, and office.

Design, infrastructure, technical equipment and operational model of the O-Hubs in Suba District are based on the model installation in Mbita, the main town of the District. The reproduction of a standardized installation allows taking advantage of economy of scale effects.

Water and Energy Hubs - WE!Hubs

The WE!Hubs are based on the O-Hub concept, but where further developed and equipped with state-of-the-art photovoltaic systems and battery charging technologies. In addition to the battery charging infrastructure and water purification system, they have a IT-room for computer based trainings and to access the world-wide-web. The three operating O-Hubs in Suba District were upgraded to WE!Hubs in 2013.

Off-Grid lighting devices by OSRAM


The OSRAM O-Box contains a 12 Ah/12 V sealed maintenance-free lead acid gel accumulator. The battery is protected from deep discharging through an electronic control unit. By preventing deep discharge cycles the life span of the battery can be prolonged remarkable. The unit incorporates also the handshake technology that ensures the communication between charge controller and battery. This assures that batteries are charged only at the O-Hub under professional supervision. A control LED indicates the state of charge and warns the user when the battery reaches a low charging level. A discharged battery needs to be charged for 3 hours before it can be leased again. The O-Box system offers several possibilities and areas of use which goes beyond lighting. The standard usage solution for the O-Box is in combination with the O–Lamp (Osram Lamp). The O–Lamp is a lightweight lampshade with a watertight ca

O-Box with O-Lamp.jpg

se for the OSRAM DULUX® EL SOLAR 12 V DC VARIO CFL bulb. The bulb is dimmable and has two output levels, 6 W or 11 W, which corresponds to a lighting intensity of 30 W or 60 W of traditional incandescent bulb. The O–Box with the O-Lamp provides energy for lighting for 10 up to 18 hours depending on the setup. In this configuration the O–Box is operated for Omena night fishing, household lighting as well as lighting in small business like kiosks, restaurant, shops and schools and public offices. The O–Box is further equipped with a second plug which offers the possibility to connect a second O-Lamp or other small devices like a mobile phone charger, Laptop, Radio or TV.

The OSRAM O-Box Solar represents the second generation of the battery contained box and replaces the outdated lead-acid accumulators. Besides the switch to the state-of-the-art Lithium-Ion battery technology also the housing underwent a re-design. Together, the new durable plastic housing and the Li-Ion batteries, contribute to reduce the weight and increase the usability. The now stackable Box weighs only half compared to the first generation product, but offers the same energy services

OSRAM Solar Lantern


The OSRAM solar charged Lantern is designed mainly for the use in households and small shops. Its equipment with a 6Ah/12V DC maintenance-free lead acid gel accumulator to power the 7 W CFL and offers to the user up to 8 hours of lighting. After an operation cycle the Lantern, like the O–Box, is brought back to O–Hub where it can be exchanged immediately with a charged one. This continuous utilization concept is possible due to the leasing and operation system in use.

Leasing and Operation System

The operation concept worked out for the Energy Hubs is designed to solve the main problems in access and provision of energy, especially electricity through PV–systems, in rural areas of developing countries. These are mainly high investment costs as well as high operation costs with contemporary low household incomes, but also quality deficiencies which cause unreliable energy supply. Overcoming these constraints is possible through a centralized high-quality PV–system which charge batteries under control of trained technicians.

The charged batteries are further leased to fishermen, households, shop owners and schools. Subsequently they are used for lighting or fishing. Both lighting devices are distributed via a leasing system. Through the leasing system the customer saves the high buy in and maintenance cost for a PV–system. The leasing system stipulates that customers will be registered and provide a security deposit for the duration of the usage of the O–Box or Solar Lantern. The security deposit will be refunded afterwards. The leasing agreement covers a non limited use of the lighting devices including the maintenance. The security deposit for an O–Box with lamp shade and CFL bulb amounts to 1,000 Kenya Shilling (KES)[1]. The security deposit for the Lantern amounts to 750 KES. The security deposit can also be financed in cooperation with local micro finance institutions. They provide the security deposit for the customer who in turn will repay the loan step by step. Even here the security deposit will be refunded completely to the customer once he/she decides to withdraw from the use of the O–Box or Lantern and returns it to the Hub.

Through the leasing system the customer has the advantage to pay only for the service a household, a business or a fisherman really needs: this is lighting in the evening for cooking, eating, working, reading, extended business hours or just socialization and illumination for Omena fishing. Service fees are 75 KES for the O–Box and 25 KES for the Lantern each time a utilized lighting device is replaced with a charged one. For the customer this constitutes the total cost for lighting. Additional costs for maintenance and replacement materials are covered by the Hub operator. A supplementary advantage of the operation system, for both customer and the Hub operator, is that the property for the O–Boxes and Lanterns remains within the Hub. This means that whenever a discharged lighting system is returned to the Hub it can immediately be replaced with a charged one because there is no exclusively claim on it from the user. The customer always gets a fully charged and maintained product for the paid service fees. The Hub operator has the guarantee that all the products will be brought back for charging, maintenance and for recycling at the end of life span. The limitation of charging the batteries only at the Hub allows: to control the charging process, to constantly monitore the batteries conditions and to cover investments and running costs.

Mobile Phone Charging

Communication via mobile phones has gained massive growth rates in Kenya and other African countries. The wireless communication is a reliable way to connect remote rural areas to the centers. Nevertheless, electricity is needed to utilize mobile phones, but remote rural areas are poorly endowed with access to the grid. The rural population covers this lack with mobile phone charging centers, where batteries are charged with small diesel generators. The use of imported fuels and the lack of alternatives makes this service expensive and therefore communication for an already economically poorer rural population prohibitive. At the Hubs 48 mobile telephones of any type can be charged simultaneously with clean solar energy from the PV-System. Additionally, the costs for mobile phone charging could be reduced to 15 KES from an average of 20 KES asked at diesel-powered charging centers.

Water Purification and Sterilization

Each Hub is equipped with a solar powered water purification and sterilization plant. It filters the harvested rainwater mechanically and sterilizes it further with UVC-light. The water plant has a capacity of 5 liter/minute. From a storage tank the purified water is pumped into the salesroom and further distributed to the customers. They collect the water with their own containers and at quantities they require to cover their need for drinking water.


For households the replacement of kerosene lamp with battery-powered lighting devices brings a substantial rise in lighting quality through better illumination and lower expenditures per illuminance unit. Additionally, harmful fumes and soot, poisoning fuels as well as the dangers of an open fire are removed from households.

The Omena fishing sector depends on light for successfully harvesting the small cyprinids. Light attracts their fodder which in turn attracts the fish. Up to now, the fishermen’s need for a bright enough and transportable light was only possible to be covered by kerosene pressure lamps. The total costs for the 5 pressure lamps used per boat and night are 758 KES. The O–Box offers the same service: a portable lighting device with a high illuminance. The costs for lighting with 5 O–Boxes are 375 KES for a fishing night. This is a reduction to half. The switch to the alternative, less polluting and energy consuming, lighting device raises the income of the fishermen and further the living standards of their households.

Besides the economical, ecological, social and health benefits for the users, the concept also promotes the local economy and the transfer of technology through the training of the staff. During the construction phase materials and manpower are selected locally. Only materials and Know-How which are not produced or not available in Kenya are imported. The complete operative part of a Hub is organized by a local OSRAM partner who is supported by his local staff. This technical, as well as, the administrative staff is trained accurately for the maintenance and operation of the solar powered energy stations.

Cumulatively the Hub operational model allows minimizing the costs for the customers and maximizing the benefits for the local community, economy, environment and Hub operator.

Further Information


  1. 1 Kenya Shilling = 0.0124 US$ (August 2010)