An estimated 1.5 Billion people, or a quarter of the world’s population, are without electric power. Reliable electric power is key to economic development around the world. Electricity is needed to power cell phones, medical equipment, schools, lighting, radio, and many other uses to increase human health and the quality of life. The answer to reliable electric power for all people is a solar powered, inexpensive, air-droppable power source.
According to the Humanitarian Technology Challenge sponsored by the United Nations Foundation and the IEEE, what is needed is a low cost, high reliability, low maintenance, high scalability and flexibility, environmentally friendly solution to energy accessibility. A household in a rural area without power only needs a modest 0.1 to 1 kW of power, and a rural hospital only needs 3 to 5 kW of power. A solar powered air-droppable power source fits all of these requirements.
Our vision is a 5 kW solar array combined with a power box that will house all the power electronics and enough energy storage to continue supplying power at night or through the rainy season. The power source is neatly packaged and air-dropped into location, where it can be set up in a few hours by the local population. All they have to do is inflate the solar panel array, plug it into the power box, and then simply plug in their lights, cell phones, or anything they require day or night.
As the village requires more electricity, the modular design of the system allows for the flexibility of adding more panels or more energy storage in the future. A system can accommodate energy storage levels from 1 kWh to 50 kWh. The system could also be used as an energy source for a micro grid connecting to all of the houses and small businesses in the village.
This is an achievable goal with new technology in the next 5 years at a low price that would enable a village to buy their own systems. Instead of relying on foreign aid money, the people of the village can pay as little as $2.00 a month to buy their own power source through micro loans.
We could build a factory for these systems here in Tennessee, and sell these systems to the people of less developed countries all over the world. This would be a giant leap to helping our fellow humans. We can bring jobs and money into our community, while making the world a better place for everyone. We are our brother’s keeper.
For more information on the Humanitarian Technology Challenge, visit their website at: ieeehtc.org.