School children and villagers over 5,000 miles away in a remote corner of Malawi will soon have access to a secure and reliable electricity supply, thanks in part to pupils at Ockbrook School.

The pioneering pico-hydropower engineering project in Ruarwe, Malawi is being coordinated in the UK by The University of Nottingham’s Student Team for Renewable Energy Aiding Malawi. Pupils from Ockbrook School are being provided with the resources to engage in all aspects of the project, from surveying, research and development, design and testing to construction.

The team from the University of Nottingham will install a generator that will provide power for 21 lightbulbs, eight laptops, a projector, a fridge and a sterilising unit. The power is generated using the force of falling water from a local waterfall. The electricity generated will provide free secondary school education and light after sunset, which is around 5pm in Ruarwe.

Alison Steele, Head Teacher, Ockbrook School, says: “Our partnership with the University of Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering is enriching the learning experience for our pupils, at all levels. This is real, hands-on learning at its best.

“Our pupils are experiencing first hand the life enhancing role that engineering plays in remote communities. Electricity is such a part of our everyday life. Our pupils are now discovering how harnessing the power of natural resources – using simple science and engineering – is changing live standards for the better.

“Pupils are also following the project’s progress via the internet and blogs, so they can see that the ideas and theories being put to work in a country thousands of miles away.”

Pico hydro is water power up to 5 kW. There are thousands of sites where people have a source of falling water but do not have electricity. For these rural communities, pico hydro is the lowest-cost technology for generating electricity. Lighting from this source is cheaper than using kerosene lamps, and safer, too. A report prepared for the World Bank shows that Pico hydro is potentially the lowest cost technology for off-grid electrification. – « Ockbrook School Website

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