Over the past couple of years, there has been impressive growth in renewable energy ideas and products, as more and more African countries pursue low-carbon, climate resilient development. In the lead up to our Spotlight Seminar on the Future of Renewable Energy in Africa on 29th November in London, here’s our pick of four of the most exciting innovations in clean energy on the continent.
1) Clean charcoal fuels
Almost 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity, causing many to depend on kerosene and wood for fuel. Aware that these fuels cause massive deforestation and significant health problems, Tom Osborn of Awendo, Kenya vowed to find a solution. He came up with the idea of a “clean charcoal” briquette, and won a $3000 innovation grant in 2013 to make it a product. Partnering with Ian Oluoch, Osborn founded Greenchar, a company that produces briquettes made with sugarcane waste for domestic and industrial use. Greenchar’s briquettes are reputedly 38% cheaper than traditional fuels, higher energy and last longer than firewood and charcoal. We applaud Tom Osborn and Greenchar for making clean energy sources available to more people!
2) Affordable power for African homes
Africa has incredible energy resources, as it can source an additional 10 terawatts of solar energy, 1,300 GW of wind power and 15 GW of geothermal potential. Kenyan M-Kopa decided to capitalise on this potential by using solar technology to provide affordable electricity to African homes. After paying a small deposit, M-Kopa users are given a solar system to install at their homes. Using a mobile payment system on their mobile phone, they can then top it up every day for a small sum in order to get energy. In this way, M-Kopa is harnessing hugely popular mobile money technologies and the latest solar systems to save its customers money on polluting energy, and fuel its own expansion. Hopefully, we will see more private sector companies follow suit.
3) A solar powered airport in South Africa
South Africa’s George Airport, which serves over 600,000 passengers every year, recently launched a clean energy project which, during its first phase, will contribute around 40% of the airport’s electricity needs. The airport will produce its electricity by harnessing energy from the sun through photo-voltaic panels, which cost almost a million dollars to install. As Dana Sanchez of AFK Insider reports, the balance of energy will be drawn from the national grid with supply capacity steadily increased according to demand. Once the project is completed, the plant will deliver 750 kilowatts of power to the airport. In doing so, the airport will cut operating costs, reduce its dependence on the country’s overstretched grid, as well as deploying a non-polluting and sustainable energy source.
4) The first human and solar powered football field in Africa
Last December, Senegalese rapper, Akon, and energy giant, Shell, unveiled the continent’s first ever solar and human powered football field in Lagos, Nigeria. What makes the field so exciting is that it combines kinetic and solar energy to produce electricity. The pavegen technology uses underground pitch ‘tiles’ that transform players’ footfall into kinetic energy. What’s more, the kinetic energy, combined with power generated from solar panels can power streetlights in the community for up to 24 hours. A truly remarkable innovation!