For those who struggle to imagine life without a slew of wifi-enabled devices at the ready, it’s sobering to think that a billion people worldwide lack electricity. But that’s starting to change. As developing countries build the infrastructure needed to power major cities, the rural poor are pulling themselves out of darkness with off-the-grid solar.

From Myanmar to West Africa, private companies are now selling solar panels and building solar farms; a development that’s allowing farmers to move away from noxious kerosene lamps and acid-leaking batteries. “The customer makes the decision to buy solar services primarily for personal financial reasons,” University of Minnesota environmental engineer Julian Marshall told National Geographic while speaking about the burgeoning solar-service industry in the developing world. “But health and environmental benefits for the community come along with it, and I think that’s great.”

Advertisement

For details on how solar power is transforming the lives of the rural poor, check out the feature article in National Geographic’s November climate change issue. Since a picture often says a thousand words, we’ve collected some of the best ones for you here.

At a brick kiln in India’s rural state of Uttar Pradesh, workers use solar lanterns to illuminate their paths. Image credit and copyright: Rubén Salgado Escudero/National Geographic

Denis Okiror, 30, began using solar lights at his barbershop in Kayunga, Uganda, two years ago. He says most of his customers prefer to visit him in the evening. Image credit and copyright: Rubén Salgado Escudero/National Geographic

Holding a solar-powered lamp, Soni Suresh, 20, and Suresh Kashyap, 22, celebrate their marriage ceremony in Uttar Pradesh, where 20 million households lack electricity. Image credit and copyright: Rubén Salgado Escudero/National Geographic

Ibrahim Kalungi and Godfrey Mteza, both 20, work at night in their motorcycle repair shop in Nbeeda, Uganda. Solar lights allow the mechanics to work longer hours and earn more money. Image credit and copyright: Rubén Salgado Escudero/National Geographic

In India’s state of Odisha villagers trap fish using cone-shaped baskets and solar light. Fewer than half of Odisha’s 42 million residents use grid electricity. Image credit and copyright: Rubén Salgado Escudero/National Geographic


Follow the author @themadstone

Top: Indian workers install solar panels atop the Narmada canal at Chandrasan village, about 25 miles from Ahmadabad, India. Image Credit: AP Photo/Ajit Solanki