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Pedal Powered Village Lighting System

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Many people have written me asking for advice or assistance with pedal powered systems for locations that have no utilities. Typically, these locations are in rural areas of developing countries. I have some recommendations for such rural lighting and water systems here:

  • A permanent, shared generator will be easier to implement than multiple temporary systems based on individual's bicycles. It is likely to be more cost-effective as well.
  • Efficiency of a permanent, purpose-built pedal generator will be higher than a bicycle conversion.
  • Ultracapacitors should be used for power smoothing and storage instead of batteries. Efficiencies and lifetimes are both much better for Ultracapacitors, and costs have become reasonable.
  • Wires to individual dwellings can be buried or strung overhead.
  • A "star" topology with the permanent pedal power plant in the "center" of the dwelling cluster will work best electrically.
A complete system with 9 white LED's (three separatly locatable and controllable "lamps") for each of 30 dwellings could be built for US$750-$1500 dollars, depending on component quality and level of instrumentation. This system would provide lighting for 30 dwellings from a single rider for as long as the rider continued to pedal. Some residual "glow" lighting would be available from the Ultracapacitors for a considerable time after the rider stopped.

If not being used to light dwellings, such a system could provide light for a "common area" plus a shared information appliance such as a laptop computer, radio, or television set.

The Pedal Powered Prime Mover is unique in its capability to generate electricity and pump water at the same time. The nightly lighting activity could also refill an elevated water storage tank, providing running water the next day.

The PPPM I have designed would work well for this. It could also be used solely for pumping water or directly driving small machines.

The machine is simple, reliable, and many of the parts are from bicycles. While I used steel for the frame, it could be assembled from wood. The device is essentially maintenance free. I have ridden a prototype daily for 30 minutes a day for more than a year with no parts repair or replacement.

Click on the "PPPM Live" link to the left to see a "real-world" example of this use of the PPPM.

The Village Lighting configuration is an example of the PPPM System - a tested, matched set of devices selected to maximize Human power generation.

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