Holy Cow: YOLK Brings Sustainable Energy

Overview YOLK Solar Cow, CES® exhibitor and a TIME Magazine Best Invention of 2019, helps improve access to electricity and education in developing nations.

A steel-framed cow sitting in front of a primary school in northwestern Kenya rewards parents with free access to electricity in exchange for sending their children to school.

The solar charging system provides “milk” — white, portable batteries — for students to take home to their families. Students plug the Power Milk banks into the Solar Cow in the morning and pick them back up after classes at the end of the day. Each power bank has the capacity to provide most daily electricity needs for an average local household.


Harnessing the Power of the Sun

After developing Solar Paper, one of the thinnest and lightest solar chargers in the world, Sung Un Chang, CEO of South Korean solar energy company YOLK, saw an opportunity to focus YOLK’s solar energy technology on addressing challenges with infrequent access to electricity and high rates of child labor in developing countries.

The Solar Cow and Power Milk system provides an incentive compensation for early education to keep children out of the workforce.

“Purchase of kerosene and electricity [in these areas] could otherwise account for 20% of households’ budgets,” Chang said.

The first Solar Cow that was set up in Pokot, Kenya, showed that the new solar charging system saved four to six hours of walking to the nearest charging station, previously one of the only limited access points to electricity.


Global Green Pastures at CES

At CES 2019, YOLK’s Solar Cow received a CES 2019 Innovation Award in the “Tech for a better world” category, even catching the eye of award-winning musician Kanye West at the Innovation Awards showcase.

The YOLK team returned to CES 2020 with an interactive booth that allowed attendees to sign their name on Power Milk replicas with the phrase “I support Solar Cows to help stop child labor and climate change.”

A pledge was exchanged for a Battery ID Code that linked the attendee with a child who was equipped with a corresponding Power Milk bank in a developing country.  By logging in to the app platform, the CES attendee was able to see the student’s school attendance and how attendance had improved since the installation of the Solar Cow.

An educator at a Kenyan school equipped with Solar Cow said, “Someone who has been educated, they will not only change their life but even the life of the community.”

Chang hopes to expand the initiative more widely across Africa and Asia with cows that are customizable to school sizes.

“The fact that such enormous energy [from the sun] is being given every day suggests infinite possibilities,” she said.

Explore other 2019 Best Inventions that were on display at CES 2020.

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