20081227-the-goals7The Acumen Fund blog this week posted a call for solutions to the energy challenges posed by wood-burning stoves responsible for much of the black carbon causing 18 percent of global warming, according to the New York Times. Much of the third world uses wood as fuel because it is widely available and free, but the stoves they use to burn the wood are inefficient and produce large amounts of smoke and soot, causing major health and pollution problems.

Acumen Fund’s main criticisms of alternative stoves like rocket stoves and solar cookers are as follows:

There are lots of stove technologies…out there that can do the job better and use cleaner fuels, but the capital costs are higher and the distribution models are complex. Incentives from the carbon markets…have not provided enough benefit to drive the adoption of clean cooking products…getting certified through the Kyoto Protocol is a long and complicated process, a real barrier for start-ups interested in attacking the stove problem.

20090501_great-darfur-smoke-outCould the Berkeley Darfur Stove be a solution?

  • They certainly are not the cheapest solution, placing the stove at $20 on a stove comparison chart that cites their main competition – stoves made of three stones or mud/dung over burning wood – as $1, and the only two more expensive – solar cookers and the Saves 80 Stove – as $20-57. They claim that the cost is offset by a savings of $240/year due to a 75 percent reduction in wood consumption with this stove.
  • The stove design is indeed well-thought out, citing a wind collar to protect against Darfur’s windy environment, a variety of cooking surfaces for various types of Darfuri cuisine, and a small firebox opening to discourage over-feeding the fire with excess wood.
  • But they may have the edge when it comes to distribution model. By manufacturing the parts in India then flat-packing them for shipping to Sudan for assembly (a la Ikea), the Darfur Stoves project has been able to increase production seven-fold, to 100 stoves per day.

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20081227-the-goals2The electric generator playground is expanding…next to a see-saw, schools can add a merry-go-round.

There are over 10,000 public schools in Ghana with no power source. Missionaries found that in Ghana, kids were so excited about playground equipment that fences had to keep them out while school was not in session.

20081231-playground-power-2The Empower Playgrounds merry-go-round is designed to produce 300 to 350 watts of electricity, enough to light three or four rooms from the same power that 60-pound children would expel climbing 10 feet of stairs in 35 seconds. Portable LED lights can be taken home after classes to relieve their families’ reliance on fuel and flame for light.

Empower Playgrounds installed their first six merry-go-rounds in Ghana this year, starting in June. This was built as a BYU engineering project involving five multi-disciplinary team members. Unrelated discovery from this press release: residents of Utah are called “Utahns”.

We will be watching closely for their next project slated for 2009: swings as electrical generators.

20081227-the-goals2A few designs have come forth that harness the seemingly boundless energy of children for community benefit. The first of this series is the Energee-Saw by PlayMade Energy, a company formed by Daniel Sheridan out of his awards-winning university research.

20081229-playground-power
The see-saw arrives as a DIY kit (low carbon footprint for delivery + community-building experience to set it up) and can power a classroom’s low-drain devices like LED lighting, radios, mobile phones, and low-power laptops for an entire evening after just 5-10 minutes of play.

Energee-Saw has a working prototype in Uganda and has been redesigned after receiving recognition and funding this year. The idea has gotten notice from India, where renewable energy could also be used. Daniel volunteered with schools in Kenya in 2007 and came up with the design based on “the positive aspects of the African community”.