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Lighting Liberia
-for $.08 a kilowatt hour

Development work is notoriously hard, especially in places struggling to recover from civil unrest. That’s why we’re so pleased to tell you about the latest chapter in our work in Liberia, in partnership with Winrock International and USAID.

As you may recall, about a year ago we started a project at the Booker Washington Institute in Kakata, Liberia, to turn eager students into renewable energy experts while providing cheap energy from waste biomass, on a campus thoroughly looted during the civil war.

Fast forward to last month, and the barren room in a leaking building where we began has been turned into a state of the art Renewable Energy Center. We’ve been told it’s the first of its kind in West Africa, not only teaching about various renewable technologies ( like biomass, biodiesel, and solar), but putting them to use-three Version 5.0 Power Pallets now power 1/3 of the campus, and the entire surrounding village where faculty and staff live.


After a lot of elbow grease, the center now looks like this, with three days supply of feedstock in bins on the left, raw feedstock to the right, and classrooms in the back. (For more/larger images, click here.)
Pan Bldg_1

During the last week of June there was a flurry of activity leading up to final handover to the student operators. First, a few dozen representatives from various international NGOs and development organizations drove out from the capital Monrovia to take a tour, and learn about biomass gasification.

They were followed the next day by an eight member ministerial delegation from the Government of Mali, including a personal representative of the president, Minister Baby of the Ministry of Professional Employment. They came to tour the facility, and make plans to create a similar facility in Bamako. Like any good politician, the Minister worked the room, posing for photos.

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And the day after that was the main event–ribbon cutting and official opening with Vice President Joseph Boakai, the Acting US Ambassador, and various other cabinet members and government officials.


Once the ribbon was cut, REC operator Willie McGill explained the technology to VP Boakai, who declared his intention to see this sort of technology spread across Liberia, and for the Renewable Energy Center to be a model for West Africa.

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Through it all, the Power Pallets performed exactly as expected, thanks in part to training from our globe-trotting support specialist Richard Scott.

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With the ceremonies over, the students–now employees– can focus on their work of creating affordable renewable energy. So far things are going quite well. The Power Pallets are running reliably, delivering almost double the planned hours and actually more power than is currently needed.

But there’s clearly a need–below is an image from earlier today of students in the nearby autoshop welding, with power made from rubber tree chips.  Whether or not the school can afford diesel is no longer an issue–now they have power when they want it. Wifi was just installed at the REC, and in the weeks ahead we’ll be able to post live (or almost live) updates on the actual power produced.

BWI Starting to Weld

Including the cost of the biomass and salaries for staff, the BWI Renewable Energy Center is making energy for about $.08 per kilowatt hour, or about 1/5 the cost of diesel. In a country literally covered in biomass, the potential for biomass gasification to make a meaningful impact is significant.

APL is just getting started in Liberia. We’re training up a team of experts who can travel the region to support other customers, and in September will be installing another three Power Pallets in a remote village called Kwendin.


Upcoming Event

August 8 Monthly Open House
APL Berkeley, CA


Come walk around our factory and see the latest innovations, and ask your questions directly to our experts.

APL in the News

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A mention of our work as a potential “missing piece” in the clean energy puzzle, in a story about the recent Asia Clean Energy Forum. We’ll be writing about next week. Read the story here.

Crowded House


1, 2, 3 units being commissioned simultaneously in our yard. Notice they look a little different? We have exciting news to announce in two weeks.

4 Responses

  1. On the Liberian article, it mentioned “the BWI Renewable Energy Center is making energy for about $.08 per kilowatt hour, or about 1/5 the cost of diesel”. So, rather than 8 cents ($.08) per kilowatt hour, isn’t it 80 cents ($.80)? The latter here would be 1/5 the cost of diesel ($4/gal). Appreciated, Art

    1. You’re mixing a couple things up–diesel has a cost per gallon, which will make X number of kilowatt hours. From that you can get a cost of diesel per kilowatt hour. In Liberia that’s about $.50 or so, versus $.08 or so in Liberia–hence the ratio of about 1/5.

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