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Power Pallet Case Study: Liberia

In recent months there’s been a noticable spike in the interest in our Power Pallets, especially from places where energy is either very expensive, or not available at all. That’s certainly the case in Liberia, in West Africa, where buying energy from the grid ( when available ) is more than $.50USD per kWh.  While recovery from the past civil strife is occurring and the outlook is bright; there’s still a lot more work to be done.

But a while ago a former APL staffer ( Yoav Palatnik) teamed up with a local entrepreneur ( Vickson Korlewala) to take on this challenge, and what they’ve accomplished is deeply impressive.

They founded EcoPower Liberia , and funded by a grant from Winrock International via USAID (part of the broader Liberia Energy Sector Support Project) EcoPower Liberia  and a bunch of students known as the “biomass brothers” are bringing electricity back to the Liberia’s technical college, the Booker Washington Institute. In July, the students fired up their two new Power Pallets, and as soon as they were making power, immediately grabbed shovels, pickaxes, and PVC pipe.  Their goal?  To install an instant “micro-grid” to an adjoining building, where machine tools had been idle for years for lack of power.  In four days, they had it up and running, and over the next several months have plans to extend their network across the tidy campus of brick and tin buildings.

Inspired by the success with the students, a unique partnership of the private sector, NGOs, aid agencies and government has come together to form the “Liberia Center for Biomass Energy” at BWI.  A first of its kind facility, the LCBE is a “one stop shopping” hub of education, research and training in the use of indigenous biomass to create electricity, heating, evaporative cooling and shaft power—all using readily available waste biomass.

By June of next year, BWI will have 70kW of biomass generation on site, as well as a fresh crop of students.  As the students graduate, they’ll move into the private sector, taking jobs operating gasifiers expected to be snapped up by the private sector, eager to avoid costs as high as $0.50 to $0.70 per kilowatt hour of energy from diesel power in remote rural areas.

To learn more about the work of EcoPower Liberia, we’ve posted their reports, along with one from USAID, here.  

We’re now looking to replicate the success of this Center for Biomass Energy in other regions around the world, combining education and job training to build capacity–if this sounds of interest to you, drop us a note.

Biomass gasification: how to meet the world’s most interesting people

APL_Rich&bonoWe continue to be amazed at the interesting people that this work surfaces, and the places we end up finding ourselves.

Case in point: Our intrepid colleague Richard Scott has now been on the road for over a month, ever since we got a call saying “someone” important was going to be in Liberia, and could we send someone over to join the Biomass Brothers for a demonstration?”

The next day he was on a plane, which is how he found himself in Monrovia with a bunch of people from USAID, a half dozen US Senators, and Bono. From all accounts they all got on well, the demonstration went off without a hitch, and we’ve made a new batch of converts to the idea of gasification for rural energy production.

Richard has since gone on to visit projects in Uganda, Malawi, Poland and Spain. We’ll update on those trips in our next GEK News.


Another Case Study of Sorts: Indonesia

hubOn the island of Sulawesi, a rather remarkable project has been going on for some time–a comprehensively integrated system of energy production and waste management that rarely gets seen outside a sketch book. This real world application of various technologies is quite complex, but also inspiring. We play a small part in this video from National Geographic–around 2:20 there’s mention of a Power Pallet providing the electricity for a village of more than 40 families–but you really should watch the whole thing.


We’re now turning out 2-3 new videos a week  on our YouTube channel. Here are some of our favorite new ones:

Nuts and bolts: gasification basics
Can’t come to one of our workshops? Here are the basics, in three manageable slices.








Where we’ve been, where we’re going
For those considering significant projects like the one in Liberia, or for those interested in where design/development at APL is headed, here’s Jim’s latest “State of the Power Pallet”presentation from our August workshop.


How to use a Power Pallet, step by step
Can’t say enough great things about these new “how to” videos Ike Cantrell in our shop is making-even the soundtrack is great.









Happy Birthday To We
No summary of last month’s events would be complete without sharing this short video on our recent 5th anniversary, wherein the vice mayor of Berkeley summarizes our tumultuous, but ultimately very positive, relationship with our home town5th.   


2 Responses

  1. The problem with gasification is you are burning organic matter and changing its chemical composition. you do this enough in a particular area, you will end up with soil erosion, depriving the land of critical nutrients for crop production. you can try to truck in chemical fertilizers, but this is not a long term solution. Biogas is better than biomass gasification, and results in less environmental degradation.

    1. Azim- you are mistaken. Gasification is not burning, and in fact the resultant char ash can be a very positive soil supplement. Biogas has a lot of benefits, and a lot of challenges ( scale being one ). Both approaches have merit.

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