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Three ways Africans are making cheap do-it-yourself electricity

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But three innovative approaches aim to brighten the future by expanding affordable grid access and harnessing renewable energy sources with minimal carbon emissions:

1. Turbines from scrap give new meaning to "local power." A Kenyan company is finding power in scrapyards. While solar energy is abundant in Africa, and solar panels are generally cheaper than wind turbines, Kenya-based Access:energy is making wind power work in rural regions. Its trick? Funded by NGOs, donors, and consumers, Access:energy teaches locals to build reliable turbines using existing scrap metal and car parts already present in communities.

That means no need to import or transport materials, and it creates design and manufacturing jobs in rural communities. Turbines are built where they are needed, minimizing the cost of tapping into existing electric grids or transporting solar panels over long distances. And replacement parts, when needed, are easily accessible.

For the 30 million Kenyans lacking electricity, Access:energy believes “the easiest way to get that power to residents is to teach them to make it,” according to Fast Company. So the organization is training local technicians to build the Night Heron turbine. One turbine can cheaply power up to 50 rural homes.

With fully local sourcing, Access:energy says it has created “the first commercially viable zero-import wind turbine,” while creating jobs, reducing waste, and increasing off-the-grid energy.

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