Jessica Sieff | September 15, 2018
It powers nearly every aspect of our daily lives, but in low- to middle-income countries, more than one billion people live without electricity. The issue is particularly overwhelming in sub-Saharan Africa where, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development, 600 million people — an estimated 70 percent of the region’s population — do not have access to electricity. What’s more, the majority of institutions in those countries also lacks reliable electricity, including national hospitals.
Researchers at the University of Notre Dame with counterparts in Uganda, Rwanda and Nigeria are working to bridge the gap through a program called Energy E3 — Empowering Nations to Power Their Nation, with plans underway for an inaugural energy innovation center in Uganda.
Energy E3 enables education, engineering design and entrepreneurship by teaching local technicians and engineers how to prototype, design, build, install, maintain and create a business venture for renewable energy devices using local materials and resident technical expertise.
“If we can combine three or four systems at a site, we have a microgrid,” said Abigail Mechtenberg, assistant teaching professor in the Department of Physics and international sustainable development researcher in the Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame, who created and launched the Energy E3 program in 2008. The site is the next step toward increasing accessibility, coordinating research and development, and generating new projects at future sites.
Notre Dame’s research team and collaborators have developed wind turbines, hydroelectric generators and biogas cooking devices with thermal electric generators in addition to hand-crank and table generators at multiple sites in all three sub-Saharan countries, with additional projects in Haiti and an upcoming project in Nepal. They are also working with colleagues on finishing the concentrating solar power generator and biodiesel from local Ugandan algae.
Read more here.