Global perceptions of renewable energy have been changing gradually as technologies become more advanced, adaptable and innovative. Traditional views in opposition to the adoption of renewable energy sources in both developed and developing nations has been that the drawback of renewable energy comes in the form of economic losses with the hardest hit being the world’s poor.
Interestingly enough, the ones to prove the renewable energy sceptics wrong have been innovators in these developing countries. Renewable energy innovations are growing rapidly as a source of alternative energy to fossil fuels, not just because of the adaptability and variety of technologies but because of their economic viability. Ethan Zindler of Bloomberg New Energy Finance told EcoWatch that “for years it has been widely accepted that only the world’s wealthiest nations have the means to enjoy the benefits of zero-carbon emitting sources of energy”.
Zindler emphasised how dramatically these beliefs are being proven wrong and that the potential impact on renewable energy growth in developing countries is huge. Developing nations play an extremely vital role in progressing climate action globally. The notion of renewable energy innovations in poor countries has been a part of the international agenda for years. The International Solar Energy Society released a white paper in 2003 emphasising that a transition to a renewable energy economy in developing nations is “an opportunity to be embraced, rather than a hurdle to be overcome”.
The ISES further stated that 60% of the energy growth in the next few decades will take place in the developing world, where about two billion people currently live without access to electricity. The facts about global energy consumption, human contribution to climate change and the massive task of fixing the mistakes of the past more often than not seem like an impossible and daunting mission. With more than enough negative press on the state of our climate and environment, here are five exciting and positive innovations in the developing world that are revolutionising the way underprivileged communities generate and consume energy.
1. Pollinate Energy
With over 1.2 billion people in the world living without access to reliable electricity, the potential for innovation in the space of energy supply is unprecedented. Kerosene lamps are the most common source of electricity at night in poor urban areas. This is a problem for a number of reasons.
The first being that it’s extremely dangerous when fumes are breathed in and the second that they cause frequent fatal accidents in the home. In addition, around 200 million tons of greenhouse gases are produced annually by the enormous numbers of lamps lighting developing communities.
Pollinate Energy is an Australian energy start-up who provides solar lanterns to urban India
. With some of the largest slums in the world, India has a huge demand for affordable and renewable alternatives to their inefficient and often costly kerosene lights. The company has distributed 11,437 systems to 52,775 people in India to date.
2. Eliodomestico Solar Still
The Eliodomestico Solar Still
is a solar terracotta water filter system that can distill up to five litres of water in a day. Gabriele Diamanti is an industrial designer who developed the system to solve the issue of limited access to fresh and clean drinking water in developing nations. The Eliodomestico system converts seawater, which is poured into the top of the terracotta structure, into fresh drinkable water using the heat of the sun.
The sun’s rays heat the water during the day, which in turn creates pressure, forcing steam through a tube connecting to a watertight compartment which creates condensation inside the collection compartment. This is revolutionary for communities in the developing world, where drinkable water is often a scarcity.
3. Solar Leaf
Developed by professors at MIT
, the Solar Leaf is made out of a thin silicon solar cell which is dropped into water in order to separate hydrogen and oxygen molecules, turning them into electricity by connecting them to fuel cells. The reason for the name ‘Solar Leaf’ is that the process imitates the photosynthetic process of a real leaf by converting water and sunlight into energy.
Essentially, one solar leaf placed in around one litre of water can produce up to 100 watts of energy, 24 hours a day. So where are all the solar leaves? You may ask. In terms of efficiency, they aren’t actually as efficient as traditional and emerging solar technologies; however, they are considerably cheaper. This feature makes them a suitable lighting solution for developing nations, which poses a promising addition to the ever growing renewable energy revolution.
4. Infrared Solar Energy
Another group of MIT researchers have developed a solar panel technology that can capture not just direct visible sunlight, but infrared light as well. The technology is a transparent carbon-based solar panel
, a feature that dramatically increases its application potential. Having an infrared solar panel that is transparent means the technology can be layered on glass, everyday surfaces and even on top of existing solar panels, increasing solar panel efficiency considerably.
The developing world applications of this technology are once again a natural research point as some of the highest demand for energy innovation comes from poorer nations. In terms of commercial production, infrared solar panels are still in the development phase, so watch this space!
is another company, along with Pollinate Energy, who aim to improve the enormous issue of energy supply in the developing world. Soccket’s energy solution provides off-grid power
that is 100 percent clean and renewable, but they don’t use solar, wind or any other mainstream method of energy production.
The Soccket is a soccer ball that stores and converts kinetic energy throughout the day while the ball is in motion. Similarly, the Soccket skipping rope produces energy simply by being used. A thirty-minute soccer game or skipping session can power an LED light for more than three hours. Soccket are already operational in developing countries in Africa and Central America – providing energy solutions that are not only innovative and renewable but also fun, engaging and healthy.