In Kenya, the national grid reaches just 18 per cent of its population, which means an estimated 30 million people are forced to use environmentally damaging and expensive alternatives like kerosene, diesel and dry cell batteries.
Disposable batteries for portable radios, for example, last just one week before they are thrown away - corroding and leaching hazardous chemicals into the soil.
Access Energy, a local social enterprise, has developed a micro wind turbine to provide communities with a cheaper and cleaner source of power.
Swaziland-born Dr Sam Duby and his team of engineers construct the turbines primarily from scrap materials, and lease them out as well as sell them – making the technology affordable for a broader range of potential customers.
The micro turbines do not generate a huge amount of electricity – enough to charge a phone and power a light bulb – but this is enough for most people’s needs.
In rural areas especially, it is often necessary to travel long distances to charge batteries and phones, and according to Sam Duby the turbines could provide power to people within a radius of up to 20km to 30km.
Based in the Western Kenyan port city of Kisumu, Access Energy works closely with Jua Kali, the informal manufacturing sector, to source suitable waste materials for the turbines.
They have come up with some ingenious ways to adapt locally available scrap, for example, standard car alternators are fitted with extra turns of copper, which means it can generate electricity when spinning at a much slower speed than it would in a car.
Using these local items and avoiding imported goods keeps prices low, and gives waste materials a second life.
Russell Beard of the Earthrise team joins Access Energy as they search for suitable scrap in Jua Kali, and construct a turbine for a new customer.
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