Sustainable Energy in Lesotho

With two IDEAS Competition awards and several PKG Center Fellowships and grants under their belts, Matt Orosz and his teammates have been working to bring an affordable and renewable source of electricity to the country of Lesotho, a small landlocked mountainous region in Africa where almost 30% of the adults are living with HIV/AIDS, and only 10% are connected to an electricity grid. Using locally available materials – cheap and ubiquitous automotive parts – the innovative technology combines solar thermal power and a microscale generator. The mechanical principles involved can be understood by any local mechanic or repair person.

Known formerly as Parabolic Power II, the MIT Solar Turbine Group recently won the $130,000 Development Marketplace Grant from the World Bank to install village-scale solar thermal plants in Lesotho, southern Africa. The team was one of 30 teams that the World Bank funded in the Competitive Development Marketplace (DM) grant program, whose theme was “Innovations in Water, Sanitation and Energy Services for Poor People.” Over 2,500 teams sought funding. The grant will enable Matt and his team to spend the next year in Lesotho setting up village-scale solar power plants in partnership with the Bethel Business and Community Development Center (BBCDC). In an email sharing the news of their award, Matt wrote: "I credit our success with this award to the enabling environment that we found at MIT through D-lab, IDEAS and the PKG Center."

With so few people in the country connected to an energy grid, this grant will do much to provide off-the-grid power to the people of Lesotho. The three pilot communities that will initially benefit are a rural school, a village in the high plateaus of Phamong, and a clinic.

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