Developing Sustainable Off-Grid Energy Systems in Rural Mali

Iowa State University, 2007 - $46,778

Mali is one of the poorest nations in the world, with approximately 80% of the population engaged in subsistence-level farming or fishing. Nan Kenieba is a collection of eight rural villages in which no resident has access to electricity or phone, and only half of the 7,000 people have access to clean water. The average person earns $1/day. Iowa State University began working in Mali in 2006 with the NGO Medicine for Mali. ISU has established lighting as a primary concern, and an appropriate technology design course in the mechanical engineering department has worked to design lighting solutions using photovoltaic cells and thermoelectric devices. Sixteen prototypes designed in the course were tested in Nana Kenieba, and ISU students partnered with students from the University of Bamako in Mali to survey the costs of different light sources and battery costs. The team will now develop a battery charging station to be run by a local entrepreneur collecting the excess power from a solar-powered water system. The water system's electrical pump demands less power than the output of the solar panels, leaving approximately 300 watts of available power to be used for electricity in the village. Financing will be done through a micro-loan program, and the team will train local entrepreneurs and continue to monitor and support the businesses they launch.