Submit Content
Get the latest delivered to your inbox
Privacy Policy

Solar Electric Light Fund Receives Grand Challenges Explorations Grant for Groundbreaking Research in Global Health and Development

Published 05-09-12

Submitted by Solar Electric Light Fund

The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Steven McCarney, SELF Project Manager, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled, “Development and Field Testing of a “Battery Free” Solar Freezer for Immunization Support.”

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges.  SELF’s project is one of over 100 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Grand Challenges Explorations encourages individuals worldwide to expand the pipeline of ideas where creative, unorthodox thinking is most urgently needed,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  “We’re excited to provide additional funding for select grantees so that they can continue to advance their idea towards global impact.”

To receive funding, Mr. McCarney and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and nutrition. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9, will be accepted through May 15, 2012.

Mr. McCarney’s project is designed to accelerate the development and field testing of two solar powered, battery-free vaccine icepack freezers to support immunization efforts. Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) does not have such a prequalified freezer system; this project will conduct field tests of solar powered, battery-free freezers alongside WHO prequalified battery-free vaccine refrigerators at remote health posts in two Colombian indigenous villages in the Sierra Nevada mountains. If successful, immediate deployment of the freezers will begin.

“We are honored and very excited about this grant. Steve’s innovative thinking will help to ensure the vaccination of many more people, and we’re proud to have him on our team,” said Bob Freling, SELF’s Executive Director. “Our work in the field has shown that the vast majority – approximately two-thirds – of solar system equipment failures have been the batteries. This can be costly, and depending on where the system is located, it can also be logistically difficult to ship the amount of batteries needed to maintain its operation. Our pioneering work to power vaccine refrigerators with solar energy and without batteries – and now for the first time, freezers – provides a sustainable and reliable way to preserve vaccines and medicines in remote areas.”

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Launched in 2008, over 600 people in 45 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants.  The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization.  The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required.  Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

About SELF

The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit whose mission is to implement solar energy solutions to assist those living in energy poverty with economic, education, health and agricultural development.  Its Whole Village Development Model takes an innovative approach to designing and implementing integrated solar systems to improve the lives of the 1.5 billion people living in worldwide energy poverty. Since 1990, SELF has completed projects in more than 20 countries, pioneering unique applications of solar power for drip irrigation in Benin, health care in Haiti, telemedicine in the Amazon rainforest, online learning in South Africa, and microenterprise development in Nigeria. Connect with SELF on the web at; on Twitter @solarfund; and at

Solar Electric Light Fund logo

Solar Electric Light Fund

Solar Electric Light Fund

The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) is a Washington, DC based nonprofit working to eliminate energy poverty by using solar power in developing countries to assist in economic, education, health and agricultural development. SELF has pioneered innovative applications of solar power for drip irrigation, health care services, online distance learning, and micro-enterprise development. Since 1990, SELF has completed projects in 20 countries, making it a leader among non-governmental organizations implementing practical, cost-effective solar power solutions in the field. For more information, please visit

More from Solar Electric Light Fund

Join today and get the latest delivered to your inbox