Energy innovations for developing nations
Here’s a cool invention for you. Two London-based designers, Martin Riddiford and Jim Reeves, have created the GravityLight, an LED lamp that runs on gravity.
“The lamp is as simple as it is inexpensive,” says the story I read on one of my favorite science-news sites. “A cable hangs from a gear mechanism holding onto a plastic bag filled with dirt or rocks. The energy created by gravity pulling the bag downwards is enough to power an LED bulb for up to half an hour.”
The targeted market is places where there is no access to a reliable energy source. The kerosene lamps typically used for light emit the equivalent of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day creating a health hazard, in addition to contributing to GHG emissions. The inventors expect to sell the GravityLight for under $10, aiming for $5 when mass production can be done.
On top of harnessing the power of gravity, the two developers harnessed the power of the internet to raise funds to develop the project. The campaign on Indiegogo for the project closed on Jan. 15 and, while the goal was $55,000 to manufacture 1,000 trial units, the project raised nearly $400,000. (A popular incentive for certain donation levels was one or more of the lights for the contributor.) The inventors want to give them to villagers in both Africa and India to use regularly, getting practical experience to be used in refining the design. National Public Radio did a very interesting interview with one of the inventors that explains more about it.
Ethanol is the power source for another project aimed at replacing coal and wood, in this case for cooking. The last we heard, the CleanStar Mozambique project has raised total of $20 million, with Novozymes and ICM among the early investors.
CleanStar is a rather complex, integrated project. One part is aimed at helping participating farmers transition from a slash-and-burn subsistence farming, with cassava being one of the targeted food crops to be grown. Surplus cassava production will be used to produce ethanol in a smaller-scale ethanol plant designed by project collaborator, ICM. This ethanol is intended to be replacement for charcoal in clean-burning ethanol stoves, give the farming communities a large urban market. According to the latest report, each ethanol cook stove will reduce GHG emission by approximately 8 tons of CO2-equivalent per year versus a traditional charcoal stove. “With over $10 billion spent annually on charcoal-based cooking across the rapidly-urbanizing continent, CleanStar’s business model is likely to be feasible in over 40 major African cities.”