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Developments in Energy for the BoP: From PlayMade's Energee-Saw to the Pot in Pot Cooler
Amanda Reed, 24 Jun 10

Adeena Schlussel at Next Billion has just published a series on energy for the base of the pyramid (BoP), which she hopes will be a "descriptive review of companies and projects "extending the grid" for the BoP. She reports on some great new ideas -- a couple of examples are excerpted below -- and I recommend you check out her full posts!

Energy Generation: Supplying Low-Income Customers in BoP Markets

PlayMade Energy

While this enterprise differs from the others in that it has not yet scaled, it touches on many principles enumerated above, and is worth monitoring. Daniel Sheridan's success is based on a high school level physics principle: there is a lot to gain in the transfer of potential to kinetic energy. When Sheridan visited a school in Uganda in 2008 he was captivated by the massive amounts of energy that the schoolchildren expend at recess. He knew that if he could capture this energy and repackage it, he would bring great things to a village that did not have much access to power before.

With this in mind he designed the Energee-Saw, a seesaw that generates electricity as its user bounces on it. (This concept resonates in the PlayPumps model, which employs the same principles, but delivers clean water in place of clean energy.) The generated energy can be used to power LED based lighting, mobile phones and radios. Five to ten minutes of play yields enough electricity to allow the school to stay open for an evening education session. Sheridan uses local materials to benefit the community further, as well as to decrease the project's carbon footprint. Having recently partnered with Build a School, an organization that works to erect schools in the developing world, PlayMade Energy is on the right track and will hopefully experience nice growth.

(Image of the Energee-Saw via The PlayMade Blog)

Energy for the BoP: Energy in Da House

Pot in Pot Cooler
Another example of an organization fueled by innovative thinking is the Pot in Pot Cooler. When most people think about benefits of having a steady supply of energy, they think about heating, cooking, and lighting. Most don't think about cooling, but in parts of Africa, it is hard not to think about cooling.

The Pot in Pot Cooler manages to keep food and medicine cool despite the lack of continual energy - all without harnessing solar, wind or hydroelectric power that we have become a familiar component of solutions to the BoP's crippling energy shortage.

The idea is simple, cost-effective and does not rely on the undesirable climate:

By nestling one ceramic pot inside a slightly larger one, and filling the space between with sand and water, the creators of Pot in Pot engineered a valuable refrigerator of sorts. As the water evaporates from the sand composition, it sucks the heat from the inner pot, creating an insulated chamber in which one can effectively store produce. In the absence of electricity, this method of preserving crops is invaluable to families and farmers alike and frees owners from having to babysit (or furiously consume) their produce. How well do the pots work? Tomatoes can last 2-3 days sans cooling, and can last for 21 days when potted. Eggplants can survive the sun for 3 days, but stay fresh for 27 days with this technology.

Mohammad Bah Abba - the brain behind the design - first constructed his product with mattress foam as the space filler between the pots; it is probably for the best that the widely available sand was more effective. Once the technology was finalized, the next challenge was distributing it. In a unique publicity approach, the founder partnered with a local drama group who projected a performance of the founder's mission onto a community center wall, providing both clever advertising and the community's night activity in one fell swoop.

While this alternative energy initiative is not reliant on erratic weather or a grid, the technology is only useful for a singular purpose. Still, hundreds of thousands of pots have been distributed and Mohammad bah Abba is now the worthy recipient of various awards such as the Rolex Award and the Shell Award for Sustainable Development.

(Image of the Pot in Pot Cooler via Design for the Other 90%)

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