Solar Power CEO Turns Out the Lights

Guatemalan children display the LED bulbs from the 10 W solar-powered generator Quetsol has created.

Solar Power CEO Turns Out the Lights

Juan Rodriguez envisions Guatemala ‘leapfrogging’ developed countries with solar energy

Today, Feb. 18, Juan Rodriguez will step into a windowless room in Guatemala City, turn out the lights and stay there with no electric power until he meets his goal of raising $50,000 to help bring solar power to thousands of his country’s rural poor .

The provision of solar energy at the scale Juan envisions — with this new system, he’d like to see more than 500,000 Guatemalans using solar power in the next five years — would be an ironic twist on the green energy revolution, he says. Some of the world’s poorest would be “leapfrogging” the expensive technologies and infrastructure of the developed world’s electricity systems — straight to the innovative and green technology so many purport to want.

Private electric companies meet the bulk of Guatemala's electricity needs, but even with the promise of subsidy from government, they are not reaching the country's many remote communities. About 2.6 million Guatemalans do not have access to electricity.

“Solar-energy democratization is one of the catalyzers of the democratization of quality of life in the world,” Juan tells Axiom News. He refers to a UN study that shows an income increase of 65 per cent when people are given access to electricity.

As CEO of the four-year-old renewable energy company Quetsol, Juan has seen what providing clean, individually managed, low-cost power can do for people who’ve had none.

In 2010, Quetsol launched a solar-power kit that provides five hours of electricity to a household a night. Over a period of 24 months, 3,000 Guatemalan households that formerly had no access to an electric grid had the kit.

People replaced their candles and kerosene lamps for electric lights and could power devices such as cell phones, portable computers and small household appliances through the solar kits. Users reported spending less money than they had on candles and other means of cell-phone charging, as well as increasing their productivity each day.  

Quetsol wants to scale up its provision of solar power by 40 per cent to Guatemalan residents who don’t have power — which is why Juan is turning off his own lights.

Through a new Quetsol system, Guatemalan residents, most of whom find the cost of the kits prohibitive, would be given the kits and then be required to pay for the electricity they use in small installments via mobile phones.

Residents would buy credit for their systems as they need it, in one-day, one-week, or one-month increments. The mobile technology allows each kit to be activated when a payment is made and shut off if the payment is not made.

The $50,000 to be raised will finance the last phase of research and design of the solar power kits Quetsol continues to develop.

  Quatemalans are able to increase their daily productivity with access to electronic devices such as such as cell phones, portable computers and small household appliances through the Quetsol solar-power kits.

It will also be used to purchase a first order of new solar kits for Guatemalan residents.

Quetsol is aiming to launch its new system in June. 

Juan begins his darkness pilgrimage this morning. He says he’s looking forward to it as a kind of retreat; he has been working on his meditation skills. Juan will be bringing candles and some reading material, and is anticipating the “rewards” — food, a visitor, the chance to wash his face — as fundraising goals are met.

To learn more, visit the Quetsol website.

To jump directly to the Idiegogo campaign to donate, click here.

You can comment on this article below, or e-mail michelle(at)


I just made my contribution to sponsor light for 1 month! What a great project and write-up. Thanks. 

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Michelle Strutzenberger

Michelle Strutzenberger has been a Generative Journalist and curator with Axiom News for more than 15 years.

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