Green WiFi, a nonprofit organization founded by two Sun Microsystems employees, plans to bring solar-powered WiFi internet access to developing countries by building wireless network grids with battery-powered routers connected to solar panels mounted on rooftops, Ars Technica reports.
Funded by MIT's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, Green WiFi has begun development on the initial prototype nodes. According to Green WiFi:
Green WiFi has developed a low cost, solar-powered, standardized WiFi access solution that runs out-of-the-box with no systems integration or power requirements. All that is required is a single source of broadband access. Green WiFi nodes can then be deployed on rooftops to form a self-healing network that hops the source signal over a virtual 802.11b/g grid. Because these nodes require no fixed installation or power tie-ins, these nodes can form an unplanned, mobile grid that can grow or be relocated as needed.
According to Ars Technica:
Each of the $200 WiFi nodes includes a specialized control mechanism that manages power consumption and can exercise "elegant degredation" to decrease the extent of coverage and reduce accessibility when the battery lacks energy. For instance, when weather conditions are such that the WiFi nodes have limited energy, the nodes could automatically limit access so that connectivity is available only to teachers and students. Green WiFi co-founder Marc Pomerleau comments, "What we bring to the table is an intelligent charge-controller. We put the router on a diet."
Built with a 10-watt Shell ST10 solar panel and a Netgear WGT634U router, Green WiFi's first prototype fared surprisingly well in early tests, providing continuous network access through 28 days of rain. The inexpensive WiFi nodes can be deployed about a kilometer apart, which means that they could potentially provide much-needed last mile coverage to rural areas with limited infrastructure and accessibility.