Connecting SMEs for a green economy

Sunna Design: providing solar lighting in both developing and developed countries

Sunna Design's picture

Sunna is a French SME which designs and manufactures innovative solar street lights. The company is committed to bring light to everyone, everywhere, in a reliable and durable way, with no grid and no electricity bill.

It all started in 2010, when Mr Thomas SAMUEL created his business to design and manufacture in Bordeaux innovative solar street lights. His objective was to provide a reliable and sustainable off-grid public lighting solution, yet affordable for all, even in rural areas in emerging economies.

Today 600 million people live in Africa without access to electricity. They spend up to 30% of their income on candles, batteries and kerosene. 80% of them own a mobile phone but sometimes they have to walk kilometers and pay up to 0.5€ in order to charge them.

The financial and ecological cost ensued by the connection to the grid does not make that perspective conceivable.


Description of the case study (green solution)

A battery is required to store solar energy during the day and to give it back during the night. In all autonomous systems, energy storage is critical. Most systems use a lead-acid battery that has a very short lifespan, because they are very sensitive to heat. The solution offered by Sunna Design for its iSSL street lighting products is an innovative Nickel based battery, and a unique intelligent electronic managing dynamically the lighting to avoid black-outs.


The lifespan of the streetlights is exceptional, allowing Sunna’s lighting service to be one of the most affordable in the market. The LED performance and the all-in-one design allow a fast and easy installation as well as a durable control of the costs - especially thanks to the free maintenance. Indeed, for 10 years Sunna Design is able to provide the necessary maintenance to the appliances they installed. The complete iSSL product line allows, therefore, to provide always the most suited solution.



Thanks to the iSSL grid, each home can have a LED lighting and mobile charging service. In particular, Sunna Design offers the Nanogrid option that envisages a pay as you go system to prepay energy consumption via user mobile phone, in concordance with their needs and income. They thus gradually repay the full system. This flexible offer, designed thanks to the habits and phone credit purchase approaches, allows an easy adoption and a strong impact on their daily life.

More than five years later, the company has installed over five thousand solutions in over twenty countries.



Especially at the beginning, it was important for the company to increase its awareness to potential funders and producers, while developing its iSSL solutions. During its first years of activity, the company received 8 international awards (MIT, Ernst & Young, La Tribune, etc.), raised funds up to $ 6,6 million euros, teamed up with prestigious partners such as the reference lab CEA, Saft, Schneider Electric, Thorn, and filed 10 patents for breakthrough innovations. Through all these achievements the company managed to take  a reference position in the solar street light market.

Once the business was up and running, and recognised by awards, funders and producers, crowdfunding from the general public has been fundamental to streamline the production of the iSSL streetlights. An example, is the recently closed campaign to launch the installation project of lighting systems in Senegal.


Barriers/challenges and Lessons learnt

Electrifying people without access to energy, imagining the future of smart cities, finding business models as innovative as our technology, transferring expertise to create jobs here and there are the challenges for the future.

A lesson learnt from our experience is that we must constantly reinvent ourselves to hope to make a difference.

Further details

How was the green solution financed?: 
Would you characterize the green solution as: 
Medium to low capital intensive investment (i.e. €3,000 -€10,000)
Operating and maintenance costs: 
No O&M costs
Regulatory framework prerequisites and constraints?: 

Necessary a private-public partnership with the local government for the installation of the Sunna streetlights system