Last month, right after taking a camel ride into the Sahara Desert to sleep under the stars, on the far outer fringes of what we take to be civilization, I wasn't expecting to see a striking example of high tech. But see it I did, atop street light poles in the Moroccan village of Lgarfe: A small photovoltaic panel linked to what was obviously a battery box, so that energy from light stored during the day could be used to illuminate streets at night.
It took me a while to track down the manufacturer named on the poles, and to distinguish it from other manufacturers with very similar names, because, as it turned out, the maker of the PV streetlight system is a native Moroccan startup, not the subsidiary of some large global player. That is, Ecolite.ma is a private, independent Moroccan company, where "We are developing and manufacturing our products in Morocco," as a company representative reported in an e-mail. "We are helped by big European firms such as Philips, Solar World, [etc.], who provide us by equipments and devices," he continued, with evident pride. "[But] our products are certified made in Morocco."
According to the company's website each lamp is a 33 Watt LED, capable of producing 3000 lumens and with an operating lifetime of 50,000 hours; the pole-mounted energy storage system is a 12 Volt, 75 amp-hour battery; enough energy can be stored during the day to light streets for two nights, with a 50 percent discharge
A quick Google search reveals that Ecolite.ma is not the only company out there with a battery-equipped solar streetlighting system. But it is the first one I have ever noticed. How much potential is there for such systems? could Ecolite.ma some day be a household word in, say, Arizona or Andalusia? Well, remember this: Daytime temperatures on the edge of the Sahara can exceed 55 degrees Celsius (135 degrees F). It is not your usual environment.