Off-grid solar e-waste in the Global South

“There has been a boom in the sale of small-scale off-grid solar products across the Global South over the past decade. A substantial portion of this boom has been driven by international investment in off-grid solar start-up companies, and a formalized off-grid solar sector has been established, with the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association acting as a key representative body.”

“Although this boom has aided in extending electricity access to many energy-poor households and businesses, an emerging concern is the short (three to four years) working life that these off-grid solar products typically have. This has led to a growing issue of solar e-waste. Here we examine how the structure of the off-grid solar sector results in substantial barriers to addressing solar e-waste in the Global South. We consider how practices of repair might contribute to addressing the issue, and set out a research agenda to facilitate new approaches to the issues of solar e-waste.”

Read more: Munro, Paul G., et al. “Towards a repair research agenda for off-grid solar e-waste in the Global South.” Nature Energy (2022): 1-6.

Solar Metal Smelter

Jelle Seegers set out to design a production line that drastically lowers our footprint, using nothing but the sun, wind, or muscle power as its energy source. The ‘Solar Metal Smelter’ is his pièce the résistance: this huge magnifying glass creates a powerful focal point that, on a sunny day, makes metal melt. Cast in a sand mould, the hot substance is transformed into machine parts for a foot-driven grinder in an off-grid practice.

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Solar Concentration for Craft Practice

“This research indicates the technical capabilities of using a 40 cm2 Fresnel lens to heat, melt and vitrify a variety of materials and suggests future applications of this technology including the ability to digitise the process. This material processing technique offers an alternative to heat matter and is significant in geographical locations with ample sunlight, offering a cost-effective option to traditional heating methods and allows directional heating, which local craftspeople can exploit to their creative advantage.” [Read more…]

Solar Powered Website: Uptime for 2020

In 2020, our solar powered website obtained an uptime of 95%, meaning that it was offline for 444 hours or 20 days. Unsurprisingly, most of the downtime is concentrated in the winter months.

The graph above (click to enlarge) shows battery storage capacity in relation to the weather in Barcelona from January to December 2020. Yellow is sunny, grey is cloudy, blue is rain. From May to November, we were online without interruption for almost 6 months.

The data were collected and visualised by Roel Roscam Abbing and David Benqué.

Scaling of Greenhouse Crop Production During Nuclear Winter

During a global catastrophe such as a nuclear winter, in which sunlight and temperatures are reduced across every latitude, to maintain global agricultural output it is necessary to grow some crops under structures. [Read more…]

Off-Grid, Solar-Powered, Zero-Battery Refrigerator

Joey Hess has designed, built and tested an off-grid, solar powered fridge, with no battery bank. Using an inexpensive chest freezer with a few modifications, the fridge retains cold overnight and through rainy periods. The set-up consists of a standard chest freezer, an added thermal mass, an inverter, and computer control. He writes: [Read more…]