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Participant

Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 2

Portable Energy Generator for Impoverished Off-Grid Communities

10/07/2017 8:45 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. Whether 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 sacrifice a huge portion of their busy survival life to spend on setting up or generating power, as they are yet to "see" the full 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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Guru
Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Engineering Fields - Piping Design Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Richland, WA, USA
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#1

Re: Portable Energy Generator for impoverished off Grid communities

10/07/2017 9:49 PM

Duplicate thread alert; please go to the other one.

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Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: at the beach in Florida
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#2

Re: Portable Energy Generator for impoverished off Grid communities

10/07/2017 11:10 PM

I would go with small steam powered generators....easy to build and maintain....

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Guru
India - Member - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: India, 200 Km. North of Delhi.
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#3

Re: Portable Energy Generator for impoverished off Grid communities

10/08/2017 12:35 AM

As you wrote farmer uses Ox to plough their farm. those Oxen can be used to drive a dynamos or alternators to Charge batteries.There are people working on this idea and might have installed already some units in some other places. you may try to find those and talk to them..

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Active Contributor

Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 13
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#4

Re: Portable Energy Generator for Impoverished Off Grid Communities

10/08/2017 10:59 PM

Suggest biogas pit which uses a composting process to create natural methane which can be used to run a generator. Source "fuel" is animal waste, human waste and farm/vegetative waste. A popular third world solution in agricultural areas. Plethora of info and examples on the Web on the topic.

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Guru

Join Date: Sep 2016
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#5

Re: Portable Energy Generator for Impoverished Off Grid Communities

10/09/2017 1:46 AM

May be you can do improvement on this

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Power-User

Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Scotland
Posts: 141
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#6

Re: Portable Energy Generator for Impoverished Off Grid Communities

10/09/2017 7:25 AM

I think Bill Gates has it sorted already!

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Guru

Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 5628
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#7

Re: Portable Energy Generator for Impoverished Off-Grid Communities

10/10/2017 4:09 PM

How about a Stirling engine connected to a generator. A Stirling engine contains a trapped gas that is repeatedly shuffled between a cold region and hot region. As the gas expands and contracts, the different pressure moves a piston which transports the gas and a piston which provides power.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4T-uVWZR2Rc

A Stirling engine is an external combustion engine and can run on any source of heat - focused sunshine, burning plant matter, anything. It requires no refined fuels or water. It's perfect for an isolated village's power source.

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/stirling-engine.htm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVCtgB66T28

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