A woman at the Iridimi camp in Chad boils water in a solar cooker (photo courtesy of Jewish World Watch)
A cardboard box is saving the lives of thousands of people in Africa. It’s called a solar cooker, and it is pure ingenuity. Take two pieces of cardboard, add some tinfoil and sunlight—and anything can be cooked. You can even get water to boil.
With the help of thousands of Americans, solar cookers have found their way to camps in Chad that house refugees who fled the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. More than 250,000 live in these camps, each sheltering about 20,000 people.
The cookers have made a huge difference—and not just because they are a way to heat food. Without them, refugee women must go outside the camp to gather firewood. But to leave camp is to gamble with death. Women and children—especially girls—are “particularly vulnerable to attack and rape when they are out getting wood,” says Rachel Andres, director of the Solar Cooker Project at Jewish World Watch. The equation is simple, she says. A solar cooker keeps you in camp, and that helps keep you alive.
The numbers back this up. A recent survey at one refugee camp showed that journeys to collect firewood outside the camps dropped by 86% after the solar cookers were made available.
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.
Ford has partnered with SunPower, one of the nation’s largest solar companies, to offer Focus Electric buyers discounts on home solar installation. Which makes for a intuitive pitch: Buy an EV, get a discount on a solar array that will power the car for under $10,000.
The discount SunPower offers varies from state to state, depending largely on where there are tax incentives for clean energy. But the company guarantees that the bill will come to less than $10K, before taxes, for the array and installation. Then your car will be running on 100% clean power no matter where you live.
The cost might seem a little steep, but look at it this way: The average American driver guzzles 558 gallons per year, costing him/her $2,100 when gas is $3.80 per gallon. Using a home solar array to power your EV, you’ll break even in 5 years—and the solar system is guaranteed for 25. Plus, when you’re not driving as much, you’ll be saving on general electricity costs.
For more info on this great deal, please click here
Tennessee Technology Center at Pulaski’s Solar Photovoltaic program along with Industrial Welding and Advanced Manufacturing have recently joined together to design, develop and construct a mobile power station able to produce 2,400 watts of solar power with a 9,600 amp hour capacity battery bank. This power station was the design of TTC’s Solar program the frame of which was built by the Industrial Welding class. The ten Sharp solar panels and the eight SunExtender batteries, inverters and electronics were wired by TTC’s solar class. The Advanced Manufacturing class installed a dual cylinder, 3000 pound capacity hydraulic system to lift one side of the station for better solar access. This 2.4 Kilo Watt system has the potential to power a small home or an average construction site. This system has a 25 year warranty to produce clean, quiet energy and will be in service long after the warranty is gone. All components, products and hardware are proudly made in America – from the solar panels made in Memphis, TN to the inverters produced in Denver, CO. This system can be placed in service anywhere you can drive a truck.
This mobile power station is to be unveiled on Monday, April 2nd at the Pulaski town square next to the electric vehicle charging stations from 11 am until 1 pm.
See our website for more information, pictures and videos and any future display dates and locations of this and all of our other projects and programs.
Intensive research around the world has focused on improving the performance of solar photovoltaic cells and bringing down their cost. But very little attention has been paid to the best ways of arranging those cells, which are typically placed flat on a rooftop or other surface, or sometimes attached to motorized structures that keep the cells pointed toward the sun as it crosses the sky.
Now, a team of MIT researchers has come up with a very different approach: building cubes or towers that extend the solar cells upward in three-dimensional configurations. Amazingly, the results from the structures they’ve tested show power output ranging from double to more than 20 times that of fixed flat panels with the same base area.For more on this please click here
For the first time, U.S. Army soldiers are receiving specialized training on how to use generators with solar-power capability before heading to Afghanistan. The Army says these generators save lives by reducing the amount of fuel that needs to be trucked to troops over dangerous roadways. For more about this please click here.
The 2012 Tennessee Valley Solar Solutions Conference (TVSSC) will take place April 10-11, 2012, at the Cook Convention Center in Memphis.
Last summer’s TVSSC in Nashville drew more than 500 participants and, six weeks from the start of the 2012 Conference, more than 270 people have already registered.
The program is loaded with great topics and features world-class speakers Julia Hamm (President and CEO, Solar Power Electric Association) and Rhone Resch (President and CEO, Solar Energy Industries Association).
Register here for the conference. Registration will close on March 23, or when conference capacity of 500 participants is reached.
Hotel reservations can be made at the Downtown Marriott Hotel in Memphis.
The 2012 Tennessee Valley Solar Solutions Conference is once again being presented by the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Tennessee Solar Institute.
“Seed Pod,” Chattanooga’s first solar-powered sculpture, will be on exhibit for 18 months in Renaissance Park. The sculpture was created by Birmingham, Ala., artist Deedee Morrison and is part of Public Art Chattanooga’s 2012 Biennial Sculpture Exhibition. (Photo: Staff)
A new solar-powered sculpture installed Wednesday near the wetlands in Renaissance Park artistically demonstrates how solar power works by illuminating laser-cut sheets of metal designed to replicate a seed pod coming out of a dormant state to form new life.
After years of tweaking by other scientists, researchers at MIT have figured out how to chemically stabilize plant-derived photosystem-I (PS-I), the structures inside plant cells that perform photosynthesis, on a substrate that creates electric current when exposed to light–all using readily available materials.