Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

ACT1: SolarAid -- Bringing Clean Energy to Africa, One Step at a Time

SolarAid is quite possibly one of the best social entrepreneurial models out there when it comes to bringing clean energy to Africa. Their own summary of their overarching strategy describes it better than I ever could -- give it a good look.

I found them through a simple Google search for "bringing clean energy to Africa," hoping to find some organization that was somewhat close to my original idea of bringing fuel cell technology to bring power-on-demand to remote developing areas, without the need for a massive (and massively expensive) power grid. However, when I came across SolarAid via repeated mentions of their work in rural African communities, I was intrigued, found their website, and started folllowing them on Twitter, where they link to updates on their efforts across the continent. (I sent them a message on Twitter already, and will provide an update if I get a response.)

As I mentioned in my previous post on the Bloom Energy Server, solar energy could linked with Energy Servers to provide the electricity in order to convert surplus electricity in a community's Server into usable fuels for vehicles. While solar energy has its own issues, solar cell technology is improving, and SolarAid's targeted "microbusiness" format helps to build a grassroots entrepreneurial movement around green technology and sustainable energy. Empowering people with both direct technological aid and remote financial assistance for entrepreneurial ventures is the key to bringing clean energy to the developing world in a self-sustaining manner.

Views: 39

Comment by David Sahlin on March 4, 2010 at 9:38am
How cool! I wish we had this kind of program in the United States. I think we'd be in a much better position if our children were taught these skills in school.
Comment by Bruce Haynes on March 4, 2010 at 10:36am
I've given this post another power vote for KNOWLEDGE SHARE, but i think David that over the next ten weeks ill be powervoting you for entrepreneurship !
Comment by Yemisi Ajumobi on March 4, 2010 at 10:49am
This is a great post David with a lot of promise for sustainable development in the developing world. Thanks for sharing this.
Comment by Adrian Poaca on March 4, 2010 at 2:18pm
I really enjoyed reading your post.
Comment by David Dreshfield on March 5, 2010 at 6:28am
David: Thanks so much. Something like this would be great to do here in the U.S. Imagine classrooms or even schools powered by systems like these -- you'd get kids thinking about where our energy comes from a lot earlier in life, and that can only be a good thing when it comes to our green efforts.

Bruce: Thanks for the power vote!

Yemisi:: Thank you. I hope to keep bringing you guys things of this caliber as the game continues!

Adrian: Thank you. I'll do my level best to keep up the quality!
Comment by David Perner on March 5, 2010 at 4:50pm
I'm enjoying the posts, but there's something I've been wondering about the Bloom Energy Server. When it converts electricity back into fuel, what is the fuel? Based on what I know about fuel cells, I'm imagining that it's converting water back into oxygen and hydrogen (and, I'm assuming, keeping the hydrogen as fuel) which might present it's own safety and storage problems. Of course, no solution is without it's barriers, but I've been curious on this point.
Comment by David Dreshfield on March 5, 2010 at 10:47pm
David, you bring up an excellent point. I haven't yet found any hard facts on how the reversibility works, since the product was only recently unveiled, but this section of Bloom's website seems to suggest that it could actually yield some type of biofuel(s) as an output.
Comment by David Perner on March 5, 2010 at 11:01pm
I'm also really not trying to be negative on the idea, but I'm also curious what work has to be done to take, say, corn stalks and turn them into something the fuel cell can use. I'm guessing something like a biogas reactor would do, but is there more you know on this element of the process?

I was looking over the website you posted as well, and I think on this page they make it sound like the "reverse fuel cell" produces hydrogen, but that could just be a specific case perhaps.
Comment by David Dreshfield on March 6, 2010 at 12:39am
No, don't worry about that at all. Your feedback has been very constructive, and that's what EVOKE is all about.

Great find about the reversibility process, by the way. Not sure how that one slipped my notice. I'm thinking of drafting up an e-mail to someone at the company, identifying myself as an EVOKE member and directing them to our discussions here, to see if I can get any more specific information from them about this might be implemented.

Thanks for your thoughts!
Comment by David Perner on March 6, 2010 at 12:49am
Sure, let me know how that goes. I might be able to dig up a connection at Bloom Energy if you don't have any luck.


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