Without a doubt, battery technology is improving. Nevertheless, these electrochemical reservoirs of energy continue to be the weakest link. This is even truer when conditions outside are suboptimal. What happens when batteries die? It was for this reason that the Smart Africa project wanted to do without batteries and still provide illumination in the dark of night. After all, in many rural places on earth there is no electricity or clean running water.
The concept is based upon the old, and already well-known pumped-storage power plant model, but on a much smaller scale. A small solar powered electric motor uses a rope-pump to pump groundwater into an elevated tank or pressure container. The excess energy can be used during the day to power mobile devices, etc. During the night, the retained energy potential can be used to generate electricity. The small pump motor now acts as a generator and delivers enough energy to power LED lamps for a few hours. The purified ground water can be readily consumed. The first prototype, dubbed Tiny-Hyrdo Generator, was produced during a “How to Make (almost) anything” lecture at MIT (link here). At this stage, it’s about testing the entire concept as part of a proof of concept. The project began as a collaborative effort between WING14 and students of the FH Kufstein technical college.