A Roof is a Terrible Thing to Waste

(Via www.treehugger.com/business_politics/.)

A 650 KiloWatt Solar Array Completed in Hawthorne, California: “lithographix solar panels roof photo

Lithographix, Thinksolar, and Pacific Solar Energy
There are many green things you can do with a giant commercial building’s roof. From painting it white to reflect the sun’s rays, to building a green roof, to installing a solar array to generate electricity. Lithographix, a printing company, went for this last option and now has the first commercial solar array in Hawthorne, California.

I can only dream of doing this one day… However, last month during the holidays, my uncles & aunts put together some money for a solar system for Granny C, pics and a more detailed post is forthcoming.

PS: Happy new year, may 2009 be truly brilliant.

Song of the Day: Nairobi by Sauti Sol, featuring Stan. Why? one line…’Nairobi, kuna solar sana! kijijini ni ku poa sana’

Opportunities for Physics students interested in RE (Renewable Energy) – Africa

Please see the info below, you can send an email to Spelly DOT Ramoshaba AT za DOT fujitsu DOT com

I am looking for Physics students who are interested in Masters and PhD
studies in the field of renewable energy technologies, ICT and/or material
science (building materials).
I have lucrative bursaries for the students of
up to R100 000pa for Masters and R150 000pa for PhD for the period of 2
years at masters and 3 years at PhD. The bursary will increase annually
based on certain deliverables from the student. There is also an opportunity
for them to do contract work for Eskom with us and top up their annual
bursaries to above R250 000 for PhD and above R150 000 for Masters. I am
trying to get some people from previously disadvantaged groups but I do not
know anyone there, so if you know someone who might benefit from this
lucrative offers, even if its not someone from previously disadvantaged
groups, give them my contact details below.

This is a very urgent call because the money is lying somewhere and we need
to provide proof of students registration to get it to our account.

I will appreciate your assistance.
Sampson Mamphweli
Researcher (Renewable Energy)
Fort Hare Institute of Technology
Tel: +2740 602 2311
Fax: +27866659221
Mobile: +27822140367

Usual disclaimer: I am just passing the information along, please do your own due diligence when contacting the person.

Update: The Acumen fund fellowship program is accepting applications, the deadline for that is October 20th 2008. For more info, click here.

Solar Map SF

This is the San Fransisco Solar Map.
SF solar map

You can enter your address and it would give you relevant information such as the potential size of a PV system, and its approximate cost. This is definitely an example of how technology can be used to help people make informed decisions about renewable energy.
More on TreeHugger

Before you ask…when are we going to have something similar for Kenya/Africa? Soon, very soon. I refuse to use the phrase ‘Watch this space’. So ‘Soon’ it stays.

Pic of the day

Solar in madagascar

This picture was taken by Adriankoto, who writes on the blog Harinjaka [Malagasy]. He is the founder FOKO madagascar initiative which has been active in planting trees particularly in rural madagascar. More on his awesome work here[English].

PS: I know i haven’t been blogged about solar energy for awhile, doesn’t mean i have lost my mojo, I am just re-charging. ha!

Noon Solar Bag

This bag looks very nice. Its like the BMW/mac book Air of solar bags; beautiful, but just a tad out of reach for this blogger, as it is definitely quite expensive. Doesn’t hurt to gawk a bit though…
Noon Solar bag

You can view more bags here.
Hat tip whiteafrican!
PS: My thoughts are with Kenya as always…the GV special coverage page for Kenya is back up.
Amnesty International is appealing for action today to protest Human rights violations in Kenya. You can find more information and details on how to participate.

Africa RE News Roundup

Its been a minute since i did one of these, well here goes:
There is lots happening in the Renewable energy (RE) field in Africa. From various sources, here are a few hits that have crossed my virtual desk.
From AfriWea,
Can you set up a 120MW wind power plant? If so, the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPC) wants you. Interested companies can submit their proposals before Feb. 4th 2008. Please see attached PDF for the information.

An exhaustive article about wind power in South Africa, click on this cool graphic.


What is becoming more and more apparent is that there is a unique opportunity for the growth of a serious renewable-energy industry in South Africa, given growing security of demand and a desire to reduce the countryâ??s carbon footprint. But what is also plain is that unless government and Eskom take an active role in its promotion, the full potential for renewables will not be realised.

From Business Daily Africa:
Wind Energy driving Rural Growth
The article also includes a picture of Simon Mwacharo, the owner of craftskills, TEDster, and friend of the blog.

Simon Mwacharo knows one or two things about moving under the feet of the big boys and girls to be the first on the cash till. While KenGen is scheming in the boardroom on how to meet the rising demand for electricity, Mwacharo is on the ground, providing hundreds of homes with electricity generated from the wind.

June this year, i used the pun ’emPowering’ in this post, glad to know that i am not the only corny one: From Off-Grid. net comes a neat post ’emPowering Africa’
Alternative Energy African

Mozambique University has launched a local program to encourage renewable energy self sufficiency that may become a model across the continent.

From Newscientist: Solar water purifier distributed by Rotary international.
water purifier

The solar water purifier collects heat from sunlight and uses it to evaporate unpurified water running through the panel. The vapour collects inside the glass forming the panel’s surface and is collected – leaving behind most impurities

hat tip Emeka
Update: Cant believe i almost forgot about this video. William Kamkwamba was featured on WSJ!

end of brief roundup.

Solar Accessories:
Here is a link to a not so flattering post about the solar charger Solio (take it with a grain of salt) I haven’t tried Solio, but mysoldius worked really well for me.

So i finally bought a voltaic backpack. I was worried about traveling with it, especially when going through airport security. The screeners were fascinated about it, asking lots of questions. Joel Johnson of BoingBoing gadgets had mentioned that he had no problems traveling with it – My experience was the same. No issues at all, actually its a great conversation starter.
Initial envy from the geeks at my friend’s office in Kenya – Very High!

Solar Taxi

Via Digg

*Vid is abit grainy but not too bad, there is another one here.
This team is on a mission to showcase solutions to global warming…by driving a solar taxi. They are currently in India, where they spoke with the chairman of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Mr. Rajendra Pachauri. Incase you’ve been living under a rock for the past several months, IPCC were co winners of the Nobel Peace prize with Al Gore. The Solar Taxi team will be making their way to the United Nations conference on Climate Change next month in Bali Dec 3rd – 14th. How about a stop in Africa sometime in the future? They could even attend the Zero Africa Rally 🙂
Cool stuff.

Snake Light: Solar powered LED by Faludi Design & Thoughts on Design ‘For Africa’

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I came across this solar powered LED lamp via worldchanging author, product designer Jeremy Faludi. It definitely has an interesting design…wondering why the weird shape? Pictures from his site speak louder than words. First, 3 words “Usable form factor”.

Would be interested in your thoughts on this product. Would you use it? Do you like the design? Is it practical?

What follows are some tangentially related thoughts, just so I am clear, I am not attributing what follows below to the above product. Just thinking through the idea of design ‘for Africa’.

One of the things that came up during a spirited discussion of the solar powered computer and the OLPC laptop many moons ago, was the question of relevant  products, and  whether these products that are labeled ‘for Africa’ smack of designing down. Maitha asked (in swahili) Don’t Africans deserve products made of high quality – in reference to the OLPC that is currently available for purchase. Granted at the time, maitha was looking at the bulky nature of linux for the OLPC, and the product was still being designed (with myriad challenges to overcome). I have not gotten my hands on and XO but when i do, i would like to revisit some of the issues raised. Particularly (perhaps i am simplifying, but) is the OLPC a good quality product that is relevant for African children? Atanu Dey of Deeshaa.org looked at the OLPC in context of education in India (I need to reacquaint myself with his arguments…I had been following the OLPC dev, then sorta lost track somewhere).
Wired had a profile of the OLPC designer Yves Behar, which I am rereading now, I just recall that he did do some nifty things to get OLPC to be what it is today.So, please chime in with your examples of products you think smack of ‘designing down’ and those that you think are ‘just right’.

My entries for the ‘just right’ category are
mysoldius solar charger for mobile phone and IPOD (blogged about here)
Bogo solar flashlight (blogged about here)
These are based on positive feedback from my dear uncle who absolutely finds function and convenience in using the above products.

Solar traffic lights in Capetown + Other news bits

Via Carbon Copy
Capetown is using solar powered traffic lights to buttress it from expected power cuts. As Rory points out, its a great start to making solar power more commonplace. I would love to see pictures of the traffic lights…this is a blatant hint to our South African friends at WebAddicts. Implementation of solar tech such as this makes so much sense, here’s hoping more countries see the example and follow suit. Just imagine a whole street in (_______insert African country of your choice) with solar powered streetlights. Warms your heart yeah?

In case you have not heard, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has been appointed as managing director of the world bank! For brevity’s sake, i will just say that her appointment is laudable, in part because it signals a new direction for the world bank and how it views developing countries. Please watch the talk she gave at TED Global in Arusha to see how she tied together the issues of aid, trade and African self-determinism. I hope she will be given a chance to reshape the terms of world bank’s relationship to the developing world in a way that is beneficial to Africa, and continues to shape Africa’s next chapter “A healthy, smiling, beautiful Africa”.

Speaking of the world bank and its policies in Africa, according to the Guardian, the world bank is accused of razing congo forests, thereby endangering the pygmies. I feel a bit bad using the word pygmy, because they have names that I would much rather use such as ‘The Lega’. Several years ago i went to the Nelson Atkins museum in Kansas city for an exhibition named ‘The Art of the Lega’. It was an eye opener for me because the explanations for the pieces gave me a glimpse into their society. One of the tenets i remember was the idea of peace as a fabric of society; the Lega people have a pacifist culture which was expressed in the way they chose to fashion tools – with smooth edges, eschewing sharp points. Since that exhibition and when reading stories about the Congo war and its adverse effects on the people there, I wonder if we need to rethink how we address a community that we know little about other than their stature. Stepping back to the story about the world bank making recommendations to the DRC govt about industrial logging being beneficial to the DRC, did anyone listen to the local community about how best the forest can be used to truly benefit people?

For more on Art of the Lega, the companion book to the exhibition is available on Amazon.

Wind Energy Resources & RE News Tidbits

Via Leonardo Energy,
The Wind Turbine buyers guide [PDF]: “The article discusses small wind system components, wind turbine basics, and understanding the ratings. It also shows photos of the small wind turbines and lists several specifications for each.”

Via AfriWea
GVEP International receives a 2 million pound grant for a project in East Africa. GVEP’s role is, according to their site

… providing financial support, capacity building and technical assistance to energy SMEs in developing countries. Using funding from the Russian Government, GVEP intends to set up two Regional Funds in West and East Africa to build local energy supply chains and grow economic development from the bottom up.

The list of other organizations in Africa receiving grants from Europe aid can be found here. [PDF]. Some of the organizations in Kenya on the list include:
Kenya Arid Land Development Focus – Renewable energy in Wajir
Kenya Tana and Athi rivers Development Authority – Community based mini hydropower development in upper tana river basin
Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) – Up scaling the smaller biogas Plants

“The Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus has announced plans to invest $234m (£115m) in solar energy. Archbishop Chrysostomos II said the church would build a factory that would make photo-voltaic panels to capture the sun’s energy.” – Now that is a faith based initiative i could get behind.

Fun from The Daily show with Jon Stewart: An awesome lampoon of the Cape Wind project in Nantucket. Big wigs don’t want it because it will presumably ruin their long range view from their mansions.