Traditional Winterskol torchlight parade on Aspen Mountain will be tweaked to illuminate world problem | AspenTimes.com

Traditional Winterskol torchlight parade on Aspen Mountain will be tweaked to illuminate world problem

The Winterskol torchlight parade on Aspen Mountain's Little Nell will break from tradition this year and not use torches.

It has nothing to do with the sooty mess the torches create for the 100 handlers. Instead, it's about trying to make the world a better place — one solar light at a time.

Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen Chamber Resort Association and Denver-based Nokero Solar teamed to provide 200 LED bulbs with small batteries charged by solar panels for the parade. Each entity chipped in $600.

The Torchlight Descent on Jan. 14, prior to the fireworks, will now be the Solar Light Descent. It's believed to be the first solar-powered event of its kind at a ski area.

"It's a way to take an event that's just a party and make it into something important," said Auden Schendler, Aspen Skiing Co. vice president of sustainability.

Light bulb went off

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Former Aspen resident and inventor Steve Katsaros co-founded Nokero in 2010. He said he was driving by a construction site where workers had standard bulbs strung up with extension cords so they could see. He thought there had to be a better method. He woke up the following day, Jan. 23, 2010, with the idea of using tiny solar panels to charge batteries to provide juice to high-efficiency LED bulbs. He patented the idea.

He and partners selected the name Nokero to signify the effort to replace kerosene as a major light source across the world. The company has distributed over 1.5 million solar lights across the globe and improved the lives of 10 million people, according to Katsaros.

Nokero is a for-profit company, he said, because that's a quicker path to the exponential growth and distribution goals he desires.

The solar-powered bulbs also are a hit with campers, but Katsaros said that hasn't been a big focus thus far. The company wants to get them into the hands of those that could benefit in their day-to-day lives, not just on their recreational outings.

The company's website, Nokero.com, contends that use of the bulbs increases study time, saves expenses for low-income workers who can reduce their kerosene purchases, adds to productivity and eliminates the health and safety hazards of people inhaling indoor air pollution caused by kerosene.

One charge, six hours of light

Katsaros said about half of the bulbs provided by Nokero have been through aid channels such as non-government organizations, churches and governments. Indonesia has purchased 450,000 lights over a four-year period, for example.

The other half are provided through paid channels. In some cases, entrepreneurs in Third World countries will buy bulbs and resell them at a markup.

The N233 solar light sells for $19.99 for one or $49.99 for a three pack. A single-day's charge powers the light for about six hours at a brightness of 25 lumens, Katsaros said. The battery's life span is listed as 2,000 cycles, which is good for three to five years. In reality, the bulbs last longer. They have a low setting that lasts longer when partially powered on a cloudy day.

Katsaros said the solar lights were made in the shape of a bulb with the solar panel visible because both are so recognizable across the world.

From Aspen to Fiji

Katsaros said the lights will shine brightly during the Winterskol Solar Descent, with each of the 100 participants holding a bulb in each hand. The difference for viewers will be that the light will be white instead of red.

After they are used for Winterskol, the intent is to get them in the hands of a village in Fiji that doesn't have electricity. Schendler visited the village while stopping in Fiji after a business trip to New Zealand recently.

Now the partnership is working on the logistics to make the delivery happen.

Katsaros and Schendler said they hope use of the solar lights in Aspen will illuminate the problems and needs of 1.3 billion people globally who live without electricity

scondon@aspentimes.com