Maina, Rhoda and little Winnie are a typical Kenyan family who live on the outskirts of Nairobi in an area that has no electricity.
But they have solved the problem of getting the daily news
When I visited their home I was impressed that despite the lack of electricity, Maina has come up with an innovative solution and is able to keep up with whats going on and listen to his favourite Kikuyu music all day long!
Here’s a better look at the system – a second hand car battery hooked up directly to his radio
The wiring is simple
Fully charged the battery last 2 weeks. To recharge Maina has to take it to a place in town for 24 hours at a cost of Ksh 50 (about 80 cents US. If he were to use ordinary batteries Maina would be paying several hundreds of shillings per month (15$) and creating toxic waste with their disposal (Kenya has no battery disposal system). No wonder used batteries are in such huge demand!
And no wonder this family is smiling!
I’m wondering how much it would cost to hook up Mainas battery to a solar panel and some lights. They currently depend on hurricane lamps. Powered with kerosene these are not only a weak source of light but are dangerous and prone to cause fires.
Got any ideas anyone – can we charge a car battery from solar?
Post note: This story was found while making a video slideshow about this average Kenyan families carbon footprint for WildlifeDirect.
Matt Berg has put together a wonderful photo montage on how LEDs and 12v batteries are changing the face of connectivity and cheap lighting in Mali. Reproduced here with his permission are the images from the (large) PDF.
“The mass market solution (LED + small rechargeable battery + 1 W solar panel) that will really make a difference will be Chinese and at a price that will encourage extremely fast adoption rates.”
“Used car batteries you can see are the “power lines” in a lot of African villages that form the basis of distributed power distribution.”
Dr. Cedrick Ngalande is an inventor. He’s been working on inventing new ways for everyday rural Africans to create enough electricity to power items like mobile phones or other small electrical devices. In the past, he’s been on AfriGadget for his yeast + sugar rotary electricity generator.
Today he has announced a new project called Green Erg, which harnesses (literally) a person’s movement energy to create electricity.
“This is basically a dynamo which is being driven as a result of friction between the ground and the blocks. The small yellowish blocks (these are covered by rubber in the real commercial product) rotate as you pull it. They are designed to rotate even on bumpy run even roads. We have tested it on moist lawn and have worked. It is very smooth so much that you basically don’t feel any disturbance as
you move along.
At normal walking speeds we have gotten more than 2 watts which is more than enough for running cell phones or radios. I envision that people will attach this to themselves and walk with it – or even attach it to an ox-cart, a skating board, bike, etc.”
She uses ordinary size D batteries that are readily available in the village to power radios and torches. She wraped five (5) batteries together, then removed the plug from the phone charger and attached the bare wires to the + and – terminals of the batteries.
Mrs. Muyonjo is a housewife in a remote village of Ivukula in Iganga district, Eastern Uganda. She had a bad experience with a local mobile phone charger, so decided to hack her own solution in response. Read the full story on the Women of Uganda Network’s site.
The BBC is running a story on a young inventor, 23-year old Daniel Sheridan, who has designed a teeter-totter (see-saw) that can be used to power school classrooms in Africa. His ultimate goal is to see a whole playground of energy-creating equipment.
“The current need for electricity in sub-Saharan Africa is staggering. Without power development is extremely difficult. The potential for this product is huge and the design could be of benefit to numerous communities in Africa and beyond.”
The idea came about after travels to East Africa, where he taught at a school and was inspired by the students. Daniel developed the see-saw power design as part of his final year at Coventry University. He has calculated that five to 10 minutes use on the see-saw could generate enough electricity to light a classroom for an evening.
What would be more interesting would be to see this idea built out with local supplies, as Daniel is going to be doing soon in Uganda. Then, with the knowledge learned there, see if it could fall into the same model of micro-entrepreneurial devices that we see with the KickStart water pumps. Speaking of which, this also reminds me of the PlayPumps idea, which also has a lot of potential.
Daniel states, “The unique selling point of this product is that it is not intended as a profit-making design.” I can only hope that he means this as profit for him. Profit making on the ground by Africans of this type of design could be crucial for its long-term success.