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Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 2

Portable Energy Generator for Impoverished Off-Grid Communities

10/07/2017 8:33 PM

I am a 3rd year integrated Engineering Student at UBC. For our 3rd year project we decided to make a portable generator to power laptops that were donated to an isolated off grid village in Nepal (for educational purposes). This project course has an entrepreneurial aspect to it, so as part of the design and brainstorming phase, we are reaching out to charities, subject matter experts, potential customers, and any possible relevant stakeholder to ask for their input.

The device we are making must be portable, and relatively simple and easy to fix and use (so users can fix it themselves in case of damage). It has to fit into the lifestyle of subsistence farmers who spend the whole day ploughing land with ox and other beasts, cutting and collecting firewood, collecting water from a river which is 3 km away...etc.
At night the villagers are usually around a camp fire inside their homes.

As a minimum, the total amount of energy generated must be enough to power 20 laptops for 90 min 5 days a week. Weather this is achieved by one device or by several devices collecting small amounts of energy is still to be determined. the prototype must not cost more than $500. (university funding available to us)
The forms of energy we can use range from microhydro, mechanical energy (of animals, or somehow harnessing the energy of walking from humans), solar ,or wind (both harder to fix). Other less orthodox ideas are using the fire pits that are created nightly, or the rain during monsoon season. There is no geothermal, and gas or diesel are not available (we also prefer sustainability). Also it will probably cost too much for us as students to travel to Nepal and set up a hydro generator if it involves having to change the landscape, install pipes...etc.
The villagers themselves also may not commit a huge portion of their busy survival life to spend on setting up power, as they are yet to "see" the benefits of education and are trapped in a poverty subsistence life.
Any suggestions, comments, or ideas would be greatly appreciated.

  1. What are some of the ways people in remote communities produce electricity? Any innovate or unorthodox solutions you know of?
  2. How do you think we can tailor this device to solve the specific needs of the community mentioned and also be useful to other charities or even to camping enthusiasts?
  3. Do you use any similar devices ? What bothers you about them?
  4. What are some of the challenges of producing power in an off grid community that you can think of?
  5. What improvements would you like to see in your current power generators?
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