Energy ideas for off-the-grid communities

The annual eta Awards – organised by South Africa’s Department of Energy and national electricity provider Eskom – recognise the proven application of sound energy efficiency principles in the commercial, industrial, residential, agricultural and education sectors.

FoodProcessing Africa highlights two energy-efficient designs that can be implemented by communities across the continent which do not have access to electricity in their homes.
Khaya Power
(Community Category)
Billy Hadlow was motivated to create a solar energy power pack that could supply electricity to a home after he discovered that many learners living in informal settlements have to study under street lights at night.
Hadlow’s design called Khaya Power is a five litre plastic container converted into a solar energy power pack. Each pack contains a 12 volt battery, a DC socket
and is fitted with LED lights to supply a home with electricity for lights, a small TV, rodent repellant device, a DVD player, a radio and a cellphone charger for eight
Although Khaya Power can be charged with solar energy during the day, Hadlow also supplies a solar charging unit to the owner of the Khaya Power pack to continue recharging it on a long-term basis. The business model is simple: the unit is leased by the home owner, who pays a small deposit. Once the unit has been charged 120 times, ownership is transferred to the home owner.
Hadlow also hopes to empower the communities he is supplying through a simple business model. Spaza shop owners, for example, can lease out the units to members of the community for a rate of R7 ($0.77) and when they are finished using it (the power typically lasts for three days but is dependent on the daily consumption) they can bring it back to the shop to be charged and then pay for another usage period.
The system is currently being used in taxis primarily as a charging facility for mobile phones.
Hadlow says so far about 30 units have been sold to companies and individuals
Billy Hadlow:

Shiza Manzi
(Innovation Category)
Jannie Schonken conceived, designed and developed – over a period of four years the Shiza Manzi geyser – a smokeless and biofuel geyser that uses compost like cattle dung, horse dung, corn cobs, sticks, dried grass and forest waste to heat 20 litres of water
Schonken explains that Shiza Manzi – meaning hot water – is eight times faster than the average household electric kettle and gives 20 litres of near boiling point water in 10 minutes for free, regardless of weather conditions or time of day.
“The idea was sparked when I visited a friend who is a farmer and noticed that workers were chopping down trees every time they wanted to cook or bath with hot water. I was concerned about the damage being done to the environment, so I developed a geyser for people living off the grid, which reduces carbon emissions, prevents deforestation and is commercially viable.”
The geyser costs R3,700 (around $412).
Jannie Schonken:Tel +27 57 398 2500 or +27 82 788 9477; website:

Inventive young designers
The eta Awards also showcased two promising designs by learners and students.
Daniella Oosthuizen:compost hot water system
This experimental invention uses four cylindrical containers surrounded by compost waste, such as kitchen waste, peelings, grass cuttings and manure to heat water in
communities without electricity supply. The water is stored in a pipe – which enables it to circulate – and is heated as the waste breaks down.
Ray Kruger: generating electricity from cardboard
This invention entails generating electricity directly from waste biomass, such as cardboard and wood on a small-scale through the process of gasification.During gasification organic or fossil-based carbonaceous materials are converted into carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. This is achieved by reacting the material at high temperatures with a controlled amount of oxygen and/or steam.
Producing electricity from cardboard in this manner produces 650 watts of electricity per second and allows lighting, cellphone charging and other smallscale electricity needs for up to three hours a day.