REBTEL: The power of the Sun

  
In the last few years, the rise of Nigeria’s economy to become the largest in Africa has often been heralded for overcoming numerous systemic obstacles but there remains one obstacle which many believe holds the country back: a chronic shortage of power supply.

With about 90 million Nigerians living without power, citizens are forced to live on expensively maintained generator sets. The effect of the lack of electricity is significant as it continues to hamper economic growth and hurts investor confidence. However a partnership between the World Bank, International Financial Corporation as well as local banks and energy firms in Nigeria could help assuage the pressing issue.

The Lighting Africa Project, as it has been tagged, will focus on helping to develop a private sector that will provide electricity, using solar power, to up to a million households in Nigeria. The project will target households without access to the national grid in rural communities over the next five years.

To make this happen, the World Bank will play a key role as it will provide low-interest financing for investors and energy firms involved in the partnership. One of the major goals of the project is to reduce the heavy dependence on kerosene lamps and gasoline-powered generators which pose various health and environmental risks.

A better bet

Exploring solar energy could be a more realistic option to fix some of Nigeria’s power issues since building new national grids could cost billions of dollars. In the long-term, alternative clean energy will also help the country meet its ambitious plan to down emissions by as much as 45% by 2030 as part of the landmark climate change deal reached in Paris last week.
In line with this, Nigeria recently announced a ban on low-cost generators citing health risks caused by emissions and fire hazards. It also stepped up its national renewable energy program through an agreement with the United Kingdom in October.

A similar trend is visible across most of the continent as the African Union recently announced a $20 billion investment in renewable energy over the next decade. One example of a viable private sector solar model is M-Kopa in Kenya where the pay-as-you-go solution already reaches 275,000 households with plan to reach serve one million homes in East Africa by 2017.

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LifeStraw personal water filter

  

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The Hello Hub: Nigerian Free Solar Powered Education Kiosk

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Seven months after terrorists kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria, many local students are afraid to go to school. In other parts of the country, children don’t go to school because schools don’t exist; cities and villages can’t afford enough teachers. Across the nation, more than 10.5 million children aren’t in school, more than in any other part of the world.

One Nigerian city now has a prototype of a new type of education that doesn’t involve a school or teachers. The Hello Hub is an outdoor computer kiosk hooked up to free, solar-powered Internet and filled with hundreds of educational games. It’s rugged enough to handle dust storms, rain, and thousands of users. Built and owned by the community, it’s available for anyone–adults or children–to use anytime.

The project was inspired in part by Sugata Mitra, the 2013 TED Prize winner who argues that schools as we know them are obsolete. Mitra has shown in experiments that self-directed learning works; children in slums or remote locations who were given a computer, and zero instruction, were able to teach themselves things like English and even the basics of biotechnology. In those experiments, the computers were eventually lost or broken, so the Hello Hubs take a different approach.

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“We don’t show up in a community and build a Hello Hub for them,” says MacMillan. “If we were to do that, it would take a day to knock up a Hello Hub, put it on Facebook, and get out. But it wouldn’t last, and I don’t think people would value it or use it as much as they do. I think it would be likely to go unmaintained after a while–that’s what Mitra’s research shows.”

Instead of giving a donation, the project involves the entire community. “We take parts of the tech and the expertise, but we don’t have what we need to complete it,” MacMillan explains. The community has to help negotiate for the solar power, find the land, feed and transport the visitors from the organization–and help build the computer kiosk from scratch, sometimes building and taking apart the server several times so everyone who wants to can learn how it works.

Find out more at http://www.hellohubs.org, thanks for reading.

SunSprite: The First Wearable, Solar-Powered Light Tracker

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What is SunSprite?

SunSprite is the first solar-powered wearable device that measures and tracks the amount of sun and light that a person is receiving. In its most basic form, it reminds you to get outside and absorb bright light, which wakes up your brain and makes you healthier!

SunSprite also syncs with its mobile app via Bluetooth Smart to give you personalized tracking updates and coaching tips based on medical science.

What are the benefits of bright light?

Dozens of scientific studies prove that the right amount of bright light exposure increases energy and focus, improves mood, and helps you sleep better. People who get their bright light report that it’s not only easier to get out of bed in the morning, but also that they don’t feel groggy when waking up. In fact, bright light wakes up your brain as well as coffee does (but without the caffeine addiction!).

One study even found that adding morning bright light to a weight control program helps reduce body fat and appetite.

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How does SunSprite work?

SunSprite uses patent-pending technology to track and record the amount of bright light exposure you receive each day. It takes these measurements and breaks them down into units friendly to you, “GoodLux.” This allows you to effectively track your bright light exposure for the first time.

SunSprite uses Bluetooth Smart to transmit your light exposure data to your mobile phone, where its app helps you analyze your patterns and learn how to optimize your bright light exposure.

Find out more at http://www.sunsprite.com
Thank you for reading.

The BIQ: World’s first algae powered building

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Does it make sense to power buildings with algae? That’s the question that arises with the Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) building, in Hamburg, Germany, which has now been operating for more than a year.

The panels are 0.78 inches thick and cover about 200 square meters in total. They’re filled with algae from the Elbe River and pumped full of carbon dioxide and nutrients. When sunlight hits the 129 “bioreactors,” photosynthesis causes the microorganisms to multiply and give off heat (the water goes to about 40 degrees C). The warmth is then captured for heating water or storing in saline tanks underground, while algae biomass is harvested and dried. It can either be converted to biogas, or used in secondary pharmaceutical and food products.

A prototype building, BIQ is being monitored by the Colt Group, which hopes to market the system, created by Splitterwerk Architects and Arup. Wurm says they’re pleased so far. “It’s producing more heat than we thought,” he says. “We optimized the performance after introducing a new set of pumps at the beginning of the year.” Surveys show the people in the 15 apartments are also content, as well they might be. They have no heating bills and plenty to show off to visitors.

Algae power has the additional advantage of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere, though the amounts involved are not huge. Wurm says each square meter of panel reduces emissions by eight tons a year, which includes two tons sucked up in the green gunk and six tons left unproduced by generating energy using dirtier methods. The building currently reduces overall energy needs by 50%, and Wurm says 100% is achievable. Combined with solar panels to power the pumps and heat exchangers, the building could be completely self-sufficient.

Wurm says we’re likely to see the first full-blown commercial applications on data centers, which of course are particularly energy hungry, and require a lot of cooling. That’s another advantage of algae: it provides natural shading as it absorbs sunlight.

Thank you for reading

PitchAFRICA: Kenyan Rainwater Harvesting

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DEMONSTRATING A NEW FORM OF ARCHITECTURE, EVERY BUILDING ON CAMPUS, INCLUDING DORMS, CLASSROOMS, AND A SOCCER STADIUM, COLLECTS CLEAN RAINWATER IN AN AREA WHERE CLEAN WATER CAN BE HARD TO COME BY.

When it rains, most buildings shed the water away. But for the last 10 years, two designers have been working on perfecting a new form of architecture that does the opposite: Waterbank buildings harvest and store as much rainwater as possible.

A new school campus in Kenya based on the design will collect 1.5 million liters of water a year–more than enough to provide water for all of the students and support garden plots in a region where clean water can be hard to find. Every building on the campus, from dorms and classrooms to a soccer stadium, is designed to harvest water and channel it into underground storage.

Though Kenya’s climate is semi-arid, the architects say there is enough rainfall each year for the population. “Many people who don’t have access to clean water, and this is true in Africa, are living in regions where it’s raining at least 600 millimeters per year,” says Jane Harrison, co-founder of PITCHAfrica, the nonprofit that designed the new buildings. “And that’s a very strange fact. The issue, of course, is that the water evaporates and it’s erratic, so people don’t have it when they need it.”

The architects are taking a different approach than many water nonprofits. “A lot of focus tends to be on the problems of water being solved by technological solutions,” says Harrison. “But one of the big factors with water is social. The idea that there needed to be a social approach–a community approach to water–was important to us.”

When the project first began in 2004, the architects had the idea to combine water collection with soccer–since soccer brings communities together. “I think the more we began to look at Africa, the more we began to think about the incredible power that football has there,” Harrison explains. “It really does cross over many social differences and brings a large and diverse audience together. And we felt that if you could couple that kind of energy and attention with the huge need of water, it would be powerful.”

In 2010, the team built a prototype of a water-harvesting soccer stadium during the World Cup. For the last four years, they’ve been working on bringing the architecture to life in Africa, and experimenting with creating different types of community buildings, since they quickly realized that the design could work well with more than stadiums.

First to be built was a four-classroom school in Laikipia, Kenya, which was named the “Greenest School on Earth” last year. With careful planning, it was possible to build for the same cost as a typical rural school of the same size. The new campus built this year replicates that project at a much larger scale–and includes the team’s first actual soccer stadium as part of the design.

Next year, the nonprofit hopes to release Waterbanks OS, an open-source operating manual that explains how to design, build, and use a Waterbanks building–including how to manage water supply in the dry season so the water doesn’t run out.

The technology could work in many parts of the world, the designers say, including places that seem too dry and those that actually do get plenty of rainfall, but struggle with pollution. “This is surreal, but we’ve now been approached by organizations working in the rainforest in Peru,” says Harrison. “These are communities who do not have access to clean water because of what’s been going on in the rainforest. Our relationship to water is very skewed. I think part of our larger mission is to start to draw attention to that.”

Thank you for reading.

Disarm – Turning Weapons Into Instruments

Pedro Reyes uses sculpture, video, and performance to explore the boundaries between the individual and the group, between ordinary experiences and extraordinary moments of interaction. His socially engaged practice seeks alternative methods to restore a peaceful society through pedagogy and participation.

He wants people to think about the availability of guns in the United States, and the impact that has in Mexico. At the University of South Florida in Tampa, he recently held a series of workshops and a performance, using theater to encourage a discussion about guns. It’s called “Legislative Theater,” a style of performance pioneered in Latin America in the 1960s to influence social change.

In Tampa, Reyes called his project “The Amendment to the Amendment.” Specifically, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms. Reyes asks his actors and the audience to consider if there are possible changes that might improve the amendment

Reyes believes art should address social issues like gun violence, even when they’re difficult and controversial. “We have to be allowed to ask questions,” he says. “If you are not allowed to ask questions, you are not free.”

Reyes also addresses the issue of gun violence in another way, by using guns themselves. His first project began in 2007 in the Mexican city of Culiacan. As part of a campaign to curb shootings, the city collected 1,527 guns. He used them to create art.

“Those 1,527 guns were melted and made into the same number of shovels,” he says. “So for every gun now, there’s a shovel. And with every shovel, we planted a tree.”

Find out more at http://www.pedroreyes.net

The Street Store: Hang Up and Help Out

The Street Store: Hang Up and Help Out

The world’s first rent-free, premises-free, free “POP-UP clothing store” for the poor, found entirely on the street and curated by you. The Street Store is a unique concept which allows people from all over Cape Town to drop off clothes and shoes that they no longer need. Then, set up in an innovative ‘on-the-street-shop’, these clothes will then be available for the homeless and disadvantaged. A store made just out of posters. It’s where you “hang up” donated clothes and drop shoes into “boxes”, and then the homeless help themselves.

To get involved and implement The Street Store in your own community, find out more at http://www.thestreetstore.org

Zeoform: The Plastic of the Future

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Zeoform is a revolutionary material that changes everything. Made from cellulose fibres and water – and absolutely nothing else! The patented process converts cellulose fibres into a super strong high tech moulding material capable of being formed into a multitide of products. ZEOFORM is 100% non-toxic, biodegradable and ‘locks up’ carbon from waste into beautiful, functional forms.

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