(Submitted photo)

Petawawa’s Glenergy solar powered lights and cookers changing lives

By Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post

Posted on Thursday, January 10, 2019

In the developing world, solar power is seeing a surge in everyday usage thanks in part to Petawawa’s own Glenergy Canada.

Glenergy is coming up to 18 years in business and has always been an advocate of helping people in developing nations replace dangerous kerosene lighting with safer, healthier solar-powered light emitting diode (LED) systems. They even offer solar cooking that eliminates smoke from traditional cooking fuels.

“Our mission is to get people to stop burning for energy,” said Owner Glen MacGillivray.

There are hundreds of thousands of people internationally converting to solar power every month. It isn’t enough yet, but it is still a step forward, noted MacGillivray

“At that rate, it is only going to take about 600 years, but we’ll get there,” he said.

Though solar and other sustainable energy sources are gaining traction, they weren’t so in demand even just a few short years ago. MacGillivray used to own another company in the airspace world and it was of a cyclical nature. When the airspace industry was suffering, so did he and other small businesses.

While trying to figure out if he could survive the ups and downs, he came up with an alternative, forging forward with renewable energies. He and his former partners played around with LED lights and came up with a solar light.

From the get-go, he shared his lights with the less fortunate.

“I wanted to change the world,” said MacGillivray. “I saw that solar LED lights would make such an enormous difference.”

At the time it was a stretch of the imagination to think solar LED lights would have any significant impact. But things have changed. Batteries are cheaper, solar panels work better and the light itself is much brighter.

Glenergy’s products have evolved over the years. He started with something he called a “hut” light as well as a desk lamp before realizing that neither were practical. But he learned from his mistakes and has created a solar cooker that can be used in any environment.

It costs the average household in Kenya about $1 a day to heat, light, and cook using fuels. It is a daily expense so it is often seen as an easier solution than paying for a solar light or stove. The price for an LED light or solar cooker equals 10 per cent of the salary of a household in the developing world.

To help ease the burden of purchasing one of his solar lights or cookers, MacGillivray turned to micro-credits, giving very small loans to impoverished people.

“They would never have $30 in their hand to buy one but the money that they would save from kerosene would pay for it,” said MacGillivray.

He has a network of people in developing countries testing out the solar cooker, compiling recipes and giving demonstrations.

“Everybody knows what lights are, but cooking with solar is a different thing,” said MacGillivray. “We want them to try it.”

He has heard many success stories, not just about the solar cookers, but the solar LED lights. He recalled one woman in Kenya who had purchased a light for her son so that he could study into the night without smoke getting into his eyes. Not only did his grades improve, but she saved enough money to be able to pay school fees for her daughter.

“With one lantern, you have a girl now who is in school,” said MacGillivray.