Good news isn’t always easy to come by when it comes to issues related to health, the economy, or the environment in developing nations. However, there are a host of new technologies trying to ensure that changes. Here are nine green tech projects, the big and the small, taking place in the developing world, doing their part to make this world a better place.
Stripped Down Tech Innovations
A Windmill Made of Junk Powers Small Malawi Village
William Kamkwamba couldn’t afford his $80 school tuition, but that wasn’t going to stop him from learning. While other 14 year olds might look for ways to ditch class, Kamkwamba was doing quite the opposite, and sneaking in. Despite his noble intentions, a teacher eventually caught him and kicked him out. This led him to do something even more out of teenage character, seek refuge in a library.
While there, he came across a book on windmills titled Using Energy. The book described how windmills could be used to generate electricity. Because only two percent of Malawians have electricity, he became determined to power his village by building his very own windmill. Kamkwamba scoured through junkyards for bicycle parts, garbage-slime-clogged plastic pipes, tractor fans and car batteries. For the tower, he collected wood from blue-gum trees. Though people initially made fun of him, upon completing his first windmill (which powered four lights and two radios in his family home) Kamkwamaba successfully went on to construct five windmills, including one at a local school that teaches classes on windmill-building.
Subsequently, members of the TED community got together to help him improve his system (by incorporating solar energy). Other projects on the agenda will include: clean water, malaria prevention, solar power and lighting for the six homes in his family compound; a deep-water well with a solar-powered pump for clean water; and a drip irrigation system.
Watch his TED talk
Harnessing the Airwaves
Yet another story to come out of Malawi is that of 21-year-old, Gabriel Kondesi, who built his own radio station, harnessing airwaves using three small transistor radios, car batteries, TV aerials, wires, and a radio cassette player. In order to ensure proper sound insulation and reduce echoes, he built the structure out of brick. To aid transmission, he made sure to have a relatively high foundation, covered by a grass roof.
The station was named Pachikweza, which, in the local Chichewa language, means “something very high”. Pachikweza broadcast at 105.1 FM and he answered listeners’ calls via his Nokia cell phone. Even though his village of Soza has no electricity, Kondesi would dutifully walk to an out-of-town barbershop to recharge the station’s cell phone and the car battery that powered the whole station. With a staff of 10 volunteers, working in 3 hour intervals, the station would broadcast news from neighboring villages and provide its listeners with amusing stories and jokes.
Unfortunately, when police heard the broadcast, they shut it down and arrested Kondesi on the basis that he was operating without a license. Kondesi tried applying for a license for two years, to no avail. Censorship and political interference choke what could be of potential influence, even something as small scale as a local radio station. Kondesi was subject to penalty, either pay 50,000 kwacha (approximately US$350 an extremely high amount in Malawi), or go to prison for 10 months. The story made national headlines and he spent only a night in prison before family, neighbors, friends and fans of his radio station pooled their limited resources to pay the fine.
Though his radio station remains closed, Kondesi says: “The people of the village expect me to continue broadcasting to them because I used to give them the opportunity to express themselves. Everybody’s expecting a lot from me so I will continue to be a radio broadcaster”.
Aquaduct Mobile Filtration Vehicle
With over 1.1 billion of the world’s population lacking access to clean drinking water, a group of inventors from the U.S. created this funny looking tricycle which uses pedal power to both transport and filter clean drinking water. Women are most often responsible for water gathering duties, and it can sometimes be miles before the nearest water source.
The Aquaduct Mobile Filtration Vehicle cuts travel time, and ensures clean, filtered drinking water. It comprises a 20 gallon storage tank fitted on the back, a built-in filter, a belt drive, a clutch connected to an idler pulley, and a peristaltic pump.
Cooking with Clean Burning Stoves
A large majority of households in Africa, Asia as well as in Latin America rely on traditional biomass fuels for cooking, such as wood, dung, coal, charcoal and agricultural residues. Not only are these fuels inefficient energy carriers, their heat is difficult to control, they produce dangerous emissions, and their current rate of extraction is not sustainable for forests. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that toxic emissions from cooking stoves are responsible for causing 1.6 million premature deaths a year, half of them among children under five years old.
Responding to the dire need to create more efficient and less hazardous clean burning stoves, there are now a host of organizations, such as GlobalResolve, Envirofit and ProWorld Service Corps addressing the problem with higher efficiency stoves. The ProWorld stoves for instance, are made entirely from ceramic and assembled with fresh mud, making them easy to maintain and repair. The stoves cost $15 and greatly reduce indoor smoke inhalation as well as reduce fuel consumption by 20-60 percent.
What’s the Big Idea?
Here are FIVE…
Solar Photovoltaic Farms- Portugal
Portugal produces 1/3 of its energy from renewable sources. In having to quickly respond to a shortage of oil, coal and gas, Portugal is now an EU leader in the clean tech revolution. In less than three years, Portugal has trebled its hydropower capacity, quadrupled its wind power, and is investing in more photovoltaic plants. What is to be the world’s largest solar photovoltaic farm is taking shape near Moura, generating electricity straight from sunlight . It is expected to supply 45MW of electricity each year, enough to power 30,000 homes.
Mexico City’s Urban Bus System
This innovative bus system has dramatically reduced traffic congestion and pollution in Mexico City. Metrobús has reduced carbon dioxide emissions from Mexico City traffic by an estimated 80,000 tons a year. The new buses, which operate on clean-burning ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel, make more than 450,000 trips per day.
Geothermal Energy- Philippines
The Philippines is the largest consumer of electricity through geothermal energy, and second only to the U.S. for geothermal energy production in the world. Geothermal energy is the heat energy from within the earth. Hot springs, geysers and steam inside the earth’s crust can be used to produce electricity, heat buildings and as long as rain falls, it is a completely renewable resource.
Ethanol Fuel- Brazil
Brazil has the largest sugar cane crop in the world, and is the largest exporter of ethanol in the world. With the 1973 oil crisis, the Brazilian government initiated, in 1975, the Pró-Álcool program. The Pró-Álcool or Programa Nacional do Álcool (National Alcohol Program) was a nation-wide program financed by the government to phase out all automobile fuels derived from fossil fuels in favour of ethanol. The program successfully reduced by 10 million, the number of cars running on gasoline, ultimately reducing the country’s dependence on oil imports.
Wind Farms- India
India relies heavily on coal, so in order to reduce their dependence on this polluting fossil fuel, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is aiming to have 6,000 MW of additional wind power capacity installed by 2012. Moreover, companies as well as individuals will get tax breaks for investing in green energy, especially wind farms.
The development of wind power in India began in the 1990’s and has significantly increased in the last few years. India is home to one of the world’s largest wind power company’s, Suzlon Energy. Suzlon is the largest wind turbine manufacturer in Asia (5th worldwide) and operates a 584 MW wind park in the Western Ghats-Tamil Nadu- the state with the most wind generating capacity and the largest wind park in the world.
Despite the fact that wind power accounts for 6 percent of India’s total installed power capacity it only generates 1.6 percent of the country’s power. For this reason, the government is considering the addition of incentives for ongoing operation of installed wind power plants.