Finding an energy source for the remotest parts of Africa is always a challenge. Infrastructure for any type of traditional power system is nonexistent, and the terrain and lack of funds make it nearly impossible to build a traditional system there. But someone has finally come up an energy source that is not only clean and renewable, it is downright inexhaustible: the energy of young kids.
Now don't get nervous, they aren't strapping kids to a hamster wheel or anything. Well, actually they are — but trust me, they will love it. A U.S.company is the brains behind the renewable energy nonprofit Empower Playgrounds, a company that uses the power of play to bring energy to a community.
The idea took root about a decade ago, when Ben Markham, engineer and former ExxonMobil vice president, visited classrooms in Ghana and was dismayed to see that they were dark, dingy and lacking in both electricity and playground equipment. Markham launched Empower Playgrounds to bring toys for the the kids to play with during the day and light for them to study by in the evenings.
Empower Playgrounds decided to utilize the power that could be generated in a merry-go-round as its energy source. Each time the kids took a ride around, the merry-go-round could store energy in its battery packs. The kids could then take the battery packs home in the evening to power lamps that they could use to see their books in the evening. One lantern charge will last for 50 hours, and because the overall system costs $10,000 to install, each lantern provides light for around 200 children at a cost of about $10 per year per child.
Exercise and renewable energy? Now that's what I call some brilliant innovation!
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