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Our climate projects: Thermo Electrical Generator

06 / 2016
Our climate projects: Thermo Electrical Generator

The ultimate aim of the project is to develop a domestic electricity generator that can provide adequate, affordable and reliable electricity for charging low-powered electrical appliances such as mobile phones, LED lanterns and radios.

 

The technology under development is a thermoelectric generator that is powered from the heat produced by biomass-fed cooking stoves. The re-engineered generator utilises a single thermoelectric generator (TEG) to produce up to 4 Wof electrical power.

 

Improved cooking stoves have been identified as an encouraging alternative to traditional open fire cooking methods, and can offer many benefits such as improved fuel efficiency, personal risk reduction, indoor air quality improvements and a range of associated positive health impacts (Ruiz-Mercado et al., 2011).

 

Whilst there are many factors influencing the adoption of any stove design (Pine et al., 2011), the addition of an electrical generator to an improved stove could make it more attractive than the traditional cookingmethods whilst simultaneously tackling the energy access problem typically encountered by the very people using these stoves.

 

Electricity and other energy access are hugely important factors in establishing economic and social development on both a domestic and industrial scale (Winkler et al., 2011), yet affordable access to electricity remains one of the primary objectives of developing countries.

 

Of the estimated 1.4 billion people lacking access, over 85% live in developing countries. Africa has the lowest electrification rate in the world (Adkins et al., 2012). The energy access problem is particularly problematic in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), with the population having the least access to electricity compared to emerging countries from other regions (Onyeji et al., 2012).

 

It is not uncommon for off-grid rural villagers in developing countries to travel long distances by foot or bicycle in order to charge their mobile phones and other battery-powered devices. For many people a trip to the local charging station takes place more than once per week. Formobile phone charging,Manchester and Swan (2013) report an average fee of $0.20 per mobile phone charge.

 

A survey study by Adkins et al. (2012) on rural household energy consumption in almost 3000 households in SSA found that the average household spent $58 on fuels and $19 on batteries per annum. Of these outgoings, $21 was spent on cooking-related purchases and $48 was used on lighting and electricity related purchases. These types of expenditures represent a significant financial burden for many families in the developing world.

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