INITIATE! Uber(ising) solar energy: Students prove that it is feasible
On Thursday, May 16 at the 2019 African Utility Week and PowerGen Africa conference, a team of students from Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya, won a R$20,000 award for creating an innovative concept to provide fair access to energy in remote villages, based on Uber(ising) solar energy, among other things. The 19th edition of the conference brought together thousands of experts from the electricity, water and gas industry in Cape Town, South Africa.

They were part of the very first Initiate! Impact Challenge. Teams of students from Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand also participated in this three-day challenge sponsored by the Enel Foundation, The Innovation Hub, Lesedi and the Russian Rosatom Nuclear Agency. Initiate! aims to create a networking platform between students and energy sector experts to stimulate innovation and share ideas to accelerate progress in the sector.

Members of the Strathmore University team included Ignatius Maranga, Raymond Kiyegga, Fredrick Amariati and Alex Osunga, all engineering students. 

The young engineers had the idea of installing a solar panel container in rural villages that will also house a clinic and a vocational training school to teach the uses and benefits of solar energy. "The school will contribute to capacity building as villagers will see and learn the benefits of electricity and, as the project expands, they will want to have electricity in their homes. We will then have solar-powered tricycles to transport and deliver the batteries as Uber does for villagers in the most remote areas.” Maranga goes on to explain that "The system is modular, so we will add another container to charge the batteries".

Maranga explains that the lack of access to energy is a challenge for many African nations and many people live in remote rural villages: "It is therefore not always possible to extend the electricity grid to these areas because it is very expensive. So why not use battery transport?". 

Rosatom Director General for Central and Southern Africa Dmitry Shornikov noted: "We are very satisfied with the solutions presented by the students. The maturity and depth of their research gives us great hope and proves that young Africans are truly committed to solving Africa's energy challenges. Shane Pereira, Business Development Manager at Lesedi Nuclear Services, explained that the company has partnered with Initiate! because the platform is dedicated to the young people who will be the leaders of tomorrow. He said, "Growth and development, as well as the training, coaching and mentoring of young people, are essential to the success of our future economy.

The ideas of the other three teams focused more on mitigating climate change risks and their members proposed solutions ranging from vertical urban farms to energy boxes.

The next meeting of the Initiate! Impact Challenge at the African Utility Week and PowerGen Africa is in 2020. To be continued!


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