Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hydroelectric - Beginning Microgrids

This video shows two technicians, Patrick and Gerald, testing the first
hydroelectric generator. It worked, but immediately the technicians
destroyed it and started to build a bigger version. Now that they went from
having the bicycle generator powering a light bulb and then a colored tv...
they want their hydroelectric generator run a tv! While they are doing
this, you can see in the background the vertical wind turbine (a discussion
left for another blog coming soon).

A lot of times when groups bring devices to developing nations, they simply
mass implement their machinery throughout the area. This is because they
have the mindset that if a device works from an engineering aspect, then it
will have success in the field. Our research, however, disputes this
approach, for it ignores the area’s social constraints and the ability of
local technicians. Once again, the philosophy of designing with Africans
versus designing for Africans comes up. When you design with Africans, you
design technologies that are needed in the area and utilize local resources
and geography, something that doesn’t happen when you design for
Africans. An example of this is the hydroelectric generator and something
Professor Debey will be immediately implementing in Liberia after they
successfully go through the bicycle generator knowledge.

Therefore, we believe in creating micro-grids where we first test each
individual device success in a small area and then all the devices together
in the same area. While this may take longer and is less efficient, it
ensures that all of the local constraints are satisfied and increases the
probability of our endeavors having success - it is therefore more
effective. Once our micro-grid shows that our devices will work, then we
plan on expanding them throughout the entire area. Since few will believe
this, we will start talking next week about our curriculum including
building a small scale microgrid.

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