Prompt: An issue that effects many people in developing countries is the lack of access to power (i.e. electricity). Access to electric power could mean lighting, access to the internet, satellite phone charging, powering of medical equipment, food preservation, electric anti-predator countermeasures (i.e. electric fences), etc. If you were tasked with developing an inexpensive DIY power generation system for use in a 3rd world country, what kind of engineering considerations might you take into account?
1. Solar Energy: For a small to medium sized population, solar panels seems to be the easiest to install, albeit not the cheapest solution. Modern solar energy solutions try to get the most out of these solar fixtures by energizing flywheels that can be used to access energy even when the sun goes down. This gives the users the ability for 24 hour energy. Prices for these solar cells are going down and efficiency is going up! So in a short while this might actually be the lowest cost solution. You’ll have more money in your pocket and more power to keep your baby carrots fresher for longer!
2. Fluid Mechanics: Probably the easiest solution would be to harness the energy that Mother Nature has bestowed upon the area. If a stream or river is near, a water wheel can be hooked up to a generator for a reliable form of energy that lasts all day long. But what if there is no water but high winds? Well not to fret mon ami, a wind turbine can be easily made as a DIY project. In less time than it takes you to match socks in the morning, a homemade wind turbine can be made of simple materials such as a chain and sprocket system and PVC pipe.
3. Machine Design: Say there are no natural resources available. Bicycles parts are easily available and one can be modified as a means of power generation. A good gear ratio can easily get a generator moving at the small expense of doing light to moderate exercise. Flywheels can also make an appearance here to give people who are not training for le Tour de France a break while people take shifts on the bike. Some means to protect components from the elements must be taken as well like UV (ultraviolet) protective shielding and sealing of non-water resistant components, but this seems to be one of the most cost effective solutions of the three.