Other Power Sources

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Blue Energy Solar-Wind

A relatively small number of enterprises on the map deliver power from sources other than solar or biomass.

  • Hydropower
  • Wind Power
  • Human Power
  • Fuel Cells
  • Efficient use of Grid and Fossil Fuels


Hydropower is the generation of power by obstructing the flow of rivers, streams or other water sources and using its kinetic energy to power a turbine, which can generate decentralized power for communities. While hydro is a steady, low-impact form of power and systems can last for decades, it is dependent on the availability of a strong, steady flow of water. Therefore, it is used most often in regions with mountain streams such as Peru and Nepal. Plants are generally large enough to be most functional at a community level, rather than household level.


Wind Power

Wind power is generated by placing a propeller in a windy area and using the motion to power a turbine. The turbine can generate DC power to charge batteries, which can be used in DC appliances or converted to AC power for home systems. Since wind systems only generate power when there is wind available, they work better in some regions than on others. Wind can also be paired with solar to keep power generation constant on less windy days.
The ‘guru’ of small scale wind power development is Hugh Piggott, who developed a model of turbine in Scotland that is being implemented across the developing world.


Human Power

Human power is the use of hand cranks, pedals, or treadle pumps to generate small-scale power.

Technologies making use of human power include:

Positives of human power are that it is not reliant on any feedstock or weather. Negatives are that it can be very labor-intensive, and some models have found that customers do not always find it an appealing way to generate power, especially on a communal level. After the success of its WireBridges, Village Tech Solutions tried to implement a bicycle pedal powered generator for community power generation, but ended up switching to solar when it found that there were cultural barriers to pedaling and people considered it beneath them. Nuru Energy addresses this problem by having the pedal-recharger get paid on commission for every recharge, turning it into a job.

Fuel Cells

Fuel Cells are batteries powered by a chemical reaction.

Zolair Energy, an enterprise based in Vancouver, leases rechargeable zinc-air fuel cells to households and villages in Southern Africa, where customers pay for electricity on demand.  Zinc-air fuel cells use the chemical reaction of the metal zinc with the oxygen in the air to generate electricity, which can be used to power a multitude of different devices and appliances. Fuel cells are brought to a small-scale distributor to recharge.


Efficient use of Grid and Fossil Fuels

Several of the enterprises on the map are not focused on implementing renewable technologies, but on improving customers’ capacity to use grid and fossil fuel sources.

  • VidaGas is a supplier of liquefied petroleum gas to household and business users, as well as the Ministry of Health, in rural northern Mozambique. While LPG is a non-renewable fossil fuel, it is still cheaper and cleaner for users than the charcoal it is replacing.
  • IDEAAS founder Fabio Rosa started his work in energy by reducing the cost of grid connections for households in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil from $7,000 to $400 (by switching from a three-phase system to a less-powerful single phase system), which inspired the Brazilian government to fund grid connections to bring power to 80% of Brazilians.
  • Eastwind Laboratories sells battery backup systems in Nigeria.
  • Lumeter Networks has created a series of low-cost pre-paid electricity meters and a cloud based accounting platform that is sold to renewable energy providers to help them manage energy usage and reduce electricity theft.