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Underwater Dam-Free Turbine - Local and renewable electricity generation for cold storage facilities

In the Kafue Plains of Zambia, where fishing is the predominant means of generating income, fishing communities need an efficient way to keep their catch cold until its sold. Ice blocks are currently the most common method of preserving and storing fish, but this method is inefficient and impractical. In response to this problem, Kafue resident Mr. Robert Shimaingo, has designed and developed an underwater, dam-free turbine that that will harness energy from the flowing river to power a cold storage unit for the fishermen in the region to preserve and store their fish. The turbine harnesses natural energy that is abundant and accessible through most of Zambia.

Photo of Mariana Negrao
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In recent years, demand for renewable energy has increased significantly. The development of devices utilizing clean energy such as solar, wind, water, geothermal, and fuel cells attract more and more attention. Harvesting energy from rivers has long been an important energy source globally. Hence, many researchers and innovators are looking for ways to harness the potential energy of water to produce electricity as construction of dams has proved to be a very costly and time consuming venture.

The design of this particular water turbine started in 2010 by Robert Shimaingo and his team along the banks of Kafue River. Kafue is one of the major fish tading towns in Zambia and supplies fish to most of the country.

Robert and his team have used a few small grants from the International Development Innovation Network (IDIN) at MIT to build different iterations of their underwater dam-free turbine and to purchase a large-scale refrigeration unit for preserving local fishermen's daily catch. Now, they continue to focus on improving their prototype and launching a small business so that fishermen can start to benefit from the work they have done. 

Robert hopes turbines like this one can be set up eventually all along the river, wherever power and refridgeration would improve the lives of the local fishing community. The current challenges they are facing are moving the rig from the bank to the water. Robert has designed a propeller and is considering buying na engine.

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

As many as half of local residents of Kafue earn their living from fishing but prices must be slashed when the fish cannot be kept cold. The power generated by Robert's turbine is intended for a refrigeration system that will enable fish caught locally to be stored and sold at the best price.

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

Currently, people in the Kafue region use ice blocks that are frozen in other regions and transported to the rivers to store fish. This has proven to be inefficient and results in many of the fish becoming rotten. Through this technology, they will be able to minimize food waste with reliable electricity that is cleanly produced.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Robert Shimaingo has already started testing a prototype in the region. However, the prototype still needs to be improved to reach the necessary power requirements. Drawings and technical specifications are also a future challenge.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

- How to improve the prototype - How to connect Robert Shimaingo with other people interested in the technology - Other communities that could benefit from this technology - How to scale the technology

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

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This idea emerged from:

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hi jamie,
The environmental impacts with this turbine are minimal. if kill is not really at risk. the testing area of a turbine is 400metre wide.

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