Design / Technology
Little Sun: Offering an entry point into renewable energy can be made in a creative way
Felix Hallwachs, managing director of Little Sun, on how a small amount of electric light can have a big impact on people’s lives.
5 Apr 2023

Is universal access to energy possible? Little Sun, a Berlin-based startup founded by artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen, strongly believes so.

— And we know solar has the potential to help individuals and families own their access to power at the source, which makes them more self-sufficient, independent, and resilient, says Felix Hallwachs, managing director since the start in 2012. 

However, he continues, there is a huge disparity in energy access, where 800 million people still lack access to energy worldwide, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

— We deliver solar lamps and chargers to communities living without electricity and so far have delivered clean energy to over 4 million people, including students, farmers, doctors, and young entrepreneurs across Senegal, Ethiopia, Zambia, and Tanzania. Our Little Sun Original (the company’s first solar lamp, Ed’s note) became a positive symbol for solar energy, helping us engage in discussions around global energy disparity.

In a little bit more than ten years, Little Sun has distributed 1.5 million products, providing more than 2.2 billion extra light hours for households living without electricity. And so far, according to estimations, over 1.2 million metric tons of CO2eq emissions have been avoided, over lifetime of products.

How’d you describe your range?

— Our products are very simple: a solar panel at the back captures the energy of the sun that can be used for lighting or charging, wherever you go. You literally hold the power of the sun in your hand — it’s very tangible. The design of the Little Sun Original was inspired by the Ethiopian meskel flower, which is a national symbol of positivity and beauty. To us, it is very important that our products are not only highly functional but also beautiful, so our other products, the Little Sun Charge — a solar charger and lamp — and the solar lamp Little Sun Diamond also have a thoughtful design. Together, these products each offer an entry point into the world of renewable energy in a practical way.

The idea of sharing energy also makes it natural to work with collaborations and Little Sun is just to release SAMMANLÄNKAD, a series of solar-powered lamps for IKEA.

— We have a lot of beliefs in common, and the line is designed to awaken interest in solar energy and raise awareness for the need for alternative energy solutions today. They work in the same way as our solar lamps — it’s all about capturing the sun’s energy and using it in your everyday life — and both lamps are equipped with solar panels and rechargeable batteries. I am pleased to see we are using beautiful design as a catalyst for change. With these products, we hope to spark curiosity and dialogues about a world powered by the sun — solar energy is abundant, fair, and conscious, Hallwachs states. He adds:

— We’ve been providing access to solar energy for ten years now and there is one thing that we have witnessed: a small solar-powered lamp — even if it provides a small amount of electric light — can have a big impact on people’s lives. But it has also become clear that this is the first step on the energy ladder. We have now started providing communities with larger systems to have an even bigger impact and will share more on this later this year.