Micro-Power for Liberia

by Margaret Scott - Individual Grantee

I've been asked a few times for a budget breakdown or projection, and will answer the question as well as I can.

The answer would be easy if all we wanted to do was to provide crank flashlights and solar cell phone chargers. Even though we limit the target beneficiaries to single females with school aged children, the upper limit of households that are in dire need of these devices would far exceed our ability to fund them. All money raised on this site will, in-fact, be used to purchase those devices.

There is available, to Liberia, a very cost-effective shipping option and all of the devices will be distributed in Kakata, through WAMODA, a woman's health and entrepreneurial NGO. The shipping is being privately funded and there will be no in-country distribution costs so all funds raised on this site will go towards the flashlights and chargers.

The pedal/water/wind powered device is harder to estimate since we have not yet come up with a workable design. The goal with the larger generator, which should be able to charge at least four cell phones at a time, is to to build and distribute it in Liberia. There are almost no resources available in-country. Items such as used bicycle parts, salvaged automobile alternators, marine batteries, and many small electronic components are just not there. That means everything needs to be located elsewhere and shipped. I've already mentioned that shipping is inexpensive, so we will ignore that for now, But it does take almost three months to arrive.

My closest estimate, now, for the electronic components is <$50US. Since we don't have the mechanical part done, there isn't an estimate but, for the sake of moving on, let's use $50US so we have an easy number to deal with (although, unfortunately, I think it's low).

A worker in Liberia earns about $80 a month, a teacher earns about $120. We would pay by the piece and price it out so that the assembler could earn $10 a day. Tools will cost about $200. I will assume a two week training period and a week to make each generator. (Yes, I know others could do it in much less time. They also have experience, understanding of the process and power tools.) We will not rent any building until and unless the project can prove itself successful. The first two units will be given to local entrepreneurs to test and critique.

Here's the breakdown of expenses to that point: 1 training unit $100 2 working units $200 Tools $200 Labor $200

Total $700

If the first two units prove to be successful we will still have $300 seed money to put into the next phase. If we are not successful we'll buy more flashlights and chargers.

Using only basic hand tools
Using only basic hand tools

A bicycle wheel, plastic cups and duct tape were the starting points for our first attempt to create a water-wheel driven power supply.

Our ultimate goal is to design a unit that can be made without power-tools and from materials readily available in Liberia. The unit should be large enough to charge a battery that can, in turn, charge several cell phone batteries. This ability could be used to create or enhance a small business.

Building the water-wheel was a one day project and it's encouraging that it worked so well. Now we have to make it stronger.

Here's a link to a video. http://www.youtube.com/user/scottpeggie

Detail of Components
Detail of Components
Gutter-Power in action
Gutter-Power in action


Sketch of electronics for 12V power generation
Sketch of electronics for 12V power generation

Our quest for a power source that will be able to charge several cell phones at a time has had us playing mix and match with off-the-shelf parts. We are looking for components that meet the following criteria: Light weight (to keep shipping costs down) inexpensive and readily available.

We've been able to design a unit that should be able to power at least a few cell phones. Here's the configuration (on paper). We'd love to have your opinions.

Human (could also be from wind or water) power input using a standard bicycle rim with adapted pedals > to bicycle generator > to converter (AC to DC) > to battery (12 volt from a power tool) > to a car cigarette lighter socket. The cell phone plugs into the socket.

The various parts are readily available and not too heavy or large (to keep shipping costs down).


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Organization Information

Margaret Scott - Individual Grantee

Location: Kakata, Margibi County - Liberia
Project Leader:
Margaret Scott
Kakata, Margibi County Liberia

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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