Community-Driven Innovation


Elpis Solar

Off-grid solar solutions for essential services and connectivity in refugee communities

Team Lead

Samuel Kellerhals

Solution Pitch

The Problem

Refugee camps—home to approximately 40 percent of the world’s 26 million refugees—often lack access to electricity, internet connectivity, clean water, and other basic services. In Rwanda, where more than 173,000 people live in six main refugee camps, this hampers residents’ health, economic opportunity, and the ability to learn new skills.

The Solution

Elpis Solar’s hardware package provides key services and opportunities to residents of refugee camps. Its multipurpose, off-the-grid devices offer customers water filtration, mobile charging, electricity, and even educational software. 

The organization has developed two solar charging systems, SolarHub and Swapcy. SolarHub can charge up to 120 phones per day and delivers more than 250 gigabytes of free medical, educational, literary, and entertaining digital content. As for Swapcy, it charges 40 phones per day, and can also filter 300 liters of water and provide light.

Because the hubs are managed by refugees, they also present rare entrepreneurial opportunities, ultimately transforming stagnant communities into places of opportunity and growth.

Market Opportunity

Up to 90 percent of refugees living in camps have little to no access to electricity or essential services. Globally, the provision of essential services in camps amounts to an annual cost of $646.5 million. Elpis plans to provide services to refugees in Rwanda and Uganda, at a fraction of the cost, and eventually scale up to reach a large portion of the 4.4 million refugees living in camps across East Africa.

Partnership Goals

Elpis Solar currently seeks:

  • Partnerships with organizations such as the Rwandan Ministry for Refugees and UNHCR to scale its solar solutions within Rwanda;
  • Connections to high-quality providers of educational content and MOOCs, including MIT OpenCourseWare, Edx, Khan Academy, Coursera, YouTube, and Kiwix; and
  • Resource support to access subsidised single-board computers.

Organization Highlights

Some of Elpis Solar’s notable achievements include:

  • Receiving Solve’s Innovation for Refugee Inclusion Prize, made possible by the Andan Foundation;
  • Winning the PremaGyan100 Medal at The Good Festival in Lausanne, Switzerland;
  • Speaking at The Edinburgh Social Innovation Forum; and
  • Winning at the Clinton Global Initiative, Resolution Fellowship Finals, Berkeley, US.

Existing Partnerships

Elpis Solar currently partners with several organizations such as:

  • Entec S.A., which provides solar-powered modules, technical and logistical support;
  • Challenges Worldwide, which supports Elpis Solar in entering the Rwandan market through short-term work including market assessments, business development, training and mentoring of local volunteers; and
  • Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, where co-founder Sam Kellerhals helped develop a circular business model, conducted market research, and published findings which are now yielding new product developments for Elpis Solar.


Elpis Solar has deployed 11 solar systems across six refugee camps in Europe and Africa, providing more than 30,000 people with filtered water, light, charging capabilities, and wireless access.

Solver Team

Organization Type:
Not Registered

Zurich, Switzerland

Company Stage:

Working in:



Solution Team:

Economic Prosperity

Off-Grid Solar Solutions for Refugees

Solver Elpis Solar received the $25,000 Innovation for Refugee Inclusion Prize from Member Andan Foundation in 2019 to provide off-grid solar solutions for essential services in refugee communities.

Economic Prosperity

Off-Grid Solar Solutions for Refugees

Solver Elpis Solar, which provides off-grid solar solutions for essential services in refugee communities, received a $10,000 grant from Solve in 2019 for being selected as a Community-Driven Innovation Solver.

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