For many communities in rural Africa, an energy supply would create life-changing benefits, such as pumped water and refrigeration for vaccines. Southampton researchers are leading an innovative project working alongside village communities to introduce sustainable power.
The arrival of electricity in rural areas can transform people's lives. There are many potential benefits to health and wellbeing, education, security and the local economy. For example, the additional light enables longer opening hours for community clinics and small businesses, as well as more hours for schooling and studying.
Our researchers will design and source the equipment to generate renewable power, and develop business models with the aim of making the new energy supply economically sustainable. The team will also work with communities in Africa to understand the impact of the project from a cultural and social perspective.
"The overall ethos is enabling people in the villages to become a partner in this project that will deliver them electricity; this partnership is crucial so that the energy supply remains sustainable and profitable in the long term," explains project leader Professor AbuBakr Bahaj, of Engineering and the Environment.
The method of power generation will be chosen based on the geography and natural resources of each village. Options include solar photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, hydropower or biomass (using food or agricultural waste to generate heat).
In the longer term, the study will measure the effects of the introduction of power on the health, wellbeing and economic status of people in the community.
Southampton is leading an international and multidisciplinary consortium to deliver the project, which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.