- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Award Winner Makes Renewable Electricity from Jatropha Nut

| Winter 2007-2008

For many living in rural sub-Saharan Africa, lack of electricity means nobody can work after sunset. This limits productivity in many areas, including students' ability to study in the evening. Kerosene lamps are an option, but they are expensive and dangerous and are used only in emergencies. Many people are left in the dark.

The 2007 Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership project winner is working to shed some light on this problem with a local and green solution: the jatropha nut.

The challenge of providing 24-hour electricity is being met with a jatropha oil-solar power system. A solar panel provides electricity during the day, and the oil from the jatropha nut is used to fuel a modified diesel generator at night.

This winning innovation, called Hybrid Systems for Rural Electrification in Africa (HSREA), is the product of a unique collaboration between several groups. These include: Energiebau Solarstromsysteme, a German solartechnology provider; InWEnt- Capacity Building International, Germany, a non-profit organization with expertise in human resources development, and their African colleagues at Kakute Limited, a technology training company in Tanzania; RENERG Ghana; and the Vincentian Sisters in Mbinga, Tanzania.

"This is an inspirational project put together by a group of very dedicated and creative people," said Henry Lee, director of the Belfer Center's Environment and Natural Resources Program (ENRP), which administers the Roy Family Award. The locally produced fuel from the jatropha nut is cleaner and less expensive than diesel, producing 24-hour electricity with no fossil fuels and no carbon emissions. The ability to approach rural electrification as a systems problem is unique, especially in a rural context.

The Roy Family Award, inaugurated in 2003, is given bi-annually to celebrate an outstanding partnership project that enhances environmental quality through the use of novel and creative approaches.

Energiebau, the PV developer, and InWEnt, its capacity-building partner, have enlisted the help of local NGOs to maintain and manage the local projects. They engage the local communities to allocate the electricity, Lee said. "Thus each community is intimately involved in the project as opposed to the traditional model where an outside company installs the facility, gets its picture taken, and disappears."

"We hope," Lee added, "that this innovation will stimulate similar projects in rural Africa, and in other environmentally challenging areas around the world, to encourage sustainable technological innovation and entrepreneurship."

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Maclin, Beth. Award Winner Makes Renewable Electricity from Jatropha Nut.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Winter 2007-2008).

The Author