Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Electric tankers for the poor people in Congo

Fill with electricity and transport it upstream
  (+6, -1)
(+6, -1)
  [vote for,

This is a very specific idea tied to very local circumstances.

The poor people of Congo live in a huge country transsected by the majestic Congo River and its many tributaries.

These people have no electricity (only 2% of them have). But there are big plans to upgrade the Inga hydroelectric dams on the river.

However, this electricity will only go to the capital, Kinshasa.

It will take decades before the electricity lines reach people in the vast interior. Decentralised electricity production seems to be way off too.

Now the Congo River is the spine of the country, used to transport agricultural products from the interior downstream to Kinshasa and for exports.

Instead of relying on hugely expensive oil (or biofuels, which could threaten the pristine rainforest), we build a large fleet of electric boats.

These are 'floating batteries' that can not only transport produce, but also electricity to far off places.

The boats would be charged in Kinshasa, with electricity from the hydropower plant. Then go upstream and load off some electricity to a village which has its own battery bank. On the return trip, products from the village are brought to the large market downstream.

Mmm, not sure whether this is efficient.

Check map for situation in Congo.

django, Apr 17 2008

Small map: Inga http://www.fao.org/...BAL/IMG/congo-e.gif
Inga dams supposedly have the largest hydropower potential in the world, with 44,000 MW [django, Apr 17 2008]

5kW water turbine http://www.absak.co...90/products_id/1098
They need these, but cheaper. [marklar, Apr 17 2008]

A proposal to 'ship' renewably-generated electrical power from Iceland to Europe http://www.evworld....first=3858&end=3857
Different proposals: aluminium battery ships, cable, etc... [django, Apr 17 2008]

Beautiful film about the Congo River (trailer) http://youtube.com/watch?v=cHzYsj8rZp0
At YouTube. Beautiful music too. [django, Apr 17 2008]

Link to official page for the film "Congo River: Beyond Darkness" http://www.congo-river.com/index.php
Great pictures of this beautiful but tragic country. [django, Apr 17 2008]

Tiny personal Generator Tiny_20personal_20flashlight_2fgenerator
[MisterQED, Apr 18 2008]


       //Mmm, not sure whether this is efficient.//   

       I am - it's not.
wagster, Apr 17 2008

       Hmm, the batteries might cramp your efficiency a bit - but I like the idea of powering up remote places. I have a mental picture of something a bit like a paddle steamer, which could run a cable to shore, then anchor itself in midstream and allow the paddles to freewheel and power an onboard generator - a mini hydro plant! Sadly, though, as with any infrastructure, if you can't service it it's only as good as it's mean time-to-failure; and I imagine people with guns could be quite convincing as they remove your floating hydro plant closer to -their- settlement.
navel-gazer, Apr 17 2008

       Local water turbines would be much more useful [link]
marklar, Apr 17 2008

       I must add that this idea was inspired by an Icelandic company which wanted to build huge ships that are aluminium+something batteries. The ships would transport cheap hydroelectricity from Iceland to mainland Europe.   

       Looking for the link. [Got the link].   

       @Marklar, you're right, best would be locally generated power. But mind you, the average Congolese makes US$150 per year (that is: the richer of the poor Congolese. Most of them make no formal money at all.) So the turbine is excessively expensive indeed.
django, Apr 17 2008

       //The ships would transport cheap hydroelectricity // Another idea was to ship hydrogen catalsyed from water, by electricity generated from geothermal energy.
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Apr 17 2008

       Wow, they actually considered "shipping" electricity.
wagster, Apr 17 2008

       From what I recall of the vid that I saw, most of the middle section river is wide and slow-flowing, so is unsuited for local electricity generation. (That part of Africa used to be the flat middle of Pangaea, or something, and is really flat.)   

       I like the idea, and suggest, in some cases, hoisting batteries out of the boats and exchanging them for ones left on shore. That might make it less inefficient, maybe.   

       Bun for battery boats.
baconbrain, Apr 17 2008

       I remember during the war in Yugoslavia, the people in a city under siege built many small generators, using household appliances, and put them in the river that ran through town so that they could have electricity. I would think that this could be done anywhere there was flowing water.
bungston, Apr 17 2008

       This kinda reminds me of the statistics on how many American families living below the poverty line have two cars. What are they going to do with all that wonderful electricity? Run computers?   

       I suspect they need things like clean drinking water and medicine ahead of electricity.   

       Besides, battery electricity won't provide nearly enough power for any reasonable application (purifying and pumping water, running fridges to keep medicine cold).
DrCurry, Apr 17 2008

       I think they will run lights, radios and fans.
bungston, Apr 17 2008

       Play video games?
normzone, Apr 17 2008

       I don't kno wmuch about the area, but I bet it's hot and they have water, wouldn't thermal electric power be better? You'd still need batteries at night, but sounds easier and cheaper.
MisterQED, Apr 17 2008

       yeah, [marklar]'s idea is more the real deal. but again, capital cost, maintenance, and theft-protection all make it a bit tricky.   

       But if [bungston]'s analogy holds true, maybe we could collected all discarded electronics, scavenge them for electric motors, waterproof and propellerise, and wahay! microgeneration. Should be enough to run a small peltier-junction fridge (or a discarded PS3 and TV).
navel-gazer, Apr 17 2008

       Would not their greatest non-hydro energy source be plant matter?   

       The day may come soon when we have access to a relatively small cellulosic ethanol processor / ethanol fuel cell. A Mr. Fusion of the jungle in this case.   

       I'm not saying feed it everything in sight, but it would be more efficient than burning plant matter for cooking for example, plus the waste heat from the fuel cell could be used to distill some murky river water.   

       [+] for thinking of the needy.
TIB, Apr 18 2008

       /waterproof and propellerise/ I really would love a photo of that stream. My memory is too hazy to google it. It was not Sarajevo.   

       Any motor can be a generator. I would keep them out of the water. The propeller could have a chain drive extending up to the motor platform.
bungston, Apr 18 2008

       What is the advantage over just running the power lines?
Voice, Apr 18 2008

       Voice, good question.   

       In the 1980s, Mobutu built huge electric poles to electrify the entire country.   

       Before the actual transmission lines were installed, the steel poles were looted and sold off as scrap steel! :-)   

       The electric boats would be merely a disaster relief type of intervention.   

       Some say it would be best to have the UN build a few huge cities in the middle of the jungle, and to have all Congolese migrate to these behemots, so that you can provide basic services there in an efficient manner.   

       Congo is really a catastrophy. So large infrastructures that cannot be permanently controlled are very risky.
django, Apr 18 2008

       //It was not Sarajevo//
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Apr 18 2008

       There is actually only one thing holding back the efficiency of the traditional Congolese way of life, and that is the civil war.
Ned_Ludd, Apr 18 2008

       //every electric motor can be a generator// No, almost any DC motor can be a generator. Most motors are AC series fixed RPM motors which have neither magnets nor commutators. Unplug an electric motor and if it still doesn't spin freely you can turn it into a generator.   

       Isn't there a flamable liquid/gas you can make with hydrogen? Even hydrogen burned in a IC engine seems more energy dense then batteries. Tanks aren't cheap, but neither are batteries. Can you burn hydrogen for light? This is a good idea, but it sounds like even if the ships are made from some highly efficient battery, the people will be using Lead-Acid. Also there are all those charging losses. If you sold batteries off the boat they would get stolen, or never returned, so you have to set up tiny inverted AC or DC electric grids.
MisterQED, Apr 18 2008

       I feel guilty about it, but I posted a link to a little read idea of mine for a flashlight that could probably be mass produced for about 25 cents a piece.
MisterQED, Apr 18 2008


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