19. Village Industrial Power Plant
1.4 billion people worldwide do not have access to electricity. Energy poverty is a barrier to food security, nutrition, health, hygiene, opportunity and financial independence. Rural exodus accounts for 14 million people a year leaving their villages with 70% ending up in the slums. The lack of appropriate agricultural processing technology results in significant post harvest losses in some cases as high as 80%. The Better World Workshop (BWW) has 35 years experience developing and disseminating energy and crop processing technologies in Africa. Gazogen’s Village Industrial Power (V.I.P.) plant is a carbon neutral, small-scale power plant fueled by biomass in the form of crop waste. Carl Bielenberg, MSc, M.E., M.I.T., founder of BWW and Gazogen, strives to create opportunity through a systems approach to problems. The V.I.P. technology provides opportunity in a number of critical areas including women's empowerment, food security, hygiene, water, education, and economic opportunity.
The Village Industrial Power (V.I.P.) plant is a skid mounted steam power plant providing an incubator for village industries requiring low cost thermal, mechanical, and electrical energy. The V.I.P. burns biomass from crop waste, including palm fiber, peanut shell, rice husk, coffee husk, etc. It produces 7 kW of 3phase electric and/or mechanical power, suitable for running crop processing equipment, replacing diesel engines. Thermal energy is available as steam, hot water, or hot air for cooking, sterilization, laundry, bathing, and crop drying. The V.I.P. plant provides on demand 3 phase electricity for energy intensive activities, steam for thermal energy applications, and the capacity to power micro-grids. The use of wet or dry biomass fuels provides fuel flexibility and eliminates the fuel cost associated with other forms of power generation. Using biomass by-product from crop processing eliminates the labor typically used in collecting wood and other forms of biomass, since the processing occurs next to the generating plant. Women and children can spend 4 to 6 hours a day collecting fuel. Carl Bielenberg demonstrated an earlier prototype version of this technology in the Casamance, southern Senegal. The feedback prompted us to invest significant personal time and money developing the technology. We installed a 100kW woodchip fueled pilot plant at a 150 bed New Hampshire state nursing home. This plant will produce electricity for the facility and capitalize on the waste heat from the woodchip fueled boiler. Gazogen’s V.I.P. plant is a technologically advanced small-scale steam power plant. Like other steam power plants, it is able to use any fuel that can support a fire. Our high temperature furnace burns low grade wet or dry biomass efficiently, with minimal smoke. Often these forms of biomass are burned in piles producing incomplete combustion, an environmental hazard, with little or no benefit to the village. Our robust boiler produces high temperature superheated steam, converted to motive power in our thermodynamically efficient, oil-less steam engine. Our literature review found only one comparable unit. Tiny Tech, India, makes a small steam power plant of traditional design, that is approximately half as efficient (uses twice as much fuel) as the V.I.P.. The high efficiency of our technology combined with the reduced size of the equipment, lowers its cost and increases its portability. The V.I.P. plant can be transported by pickup truck, and placed immediately in operation. Recycling its water reduces water consumption, boiler fouling, and corrosion. While the V.I.P. is manufactured by Gazogen, the technical training and adaptation of crop processing equipment will be carried out by The Better World Workshop. Gazogen will provide beta prototype V.I.P. units at well below their current cost for the purpose of the demonstration project. The Better World Workshop will provide crop processing technologies specifically adapted to the V.I.P. unit. Based upon our many years of work developing agricultural and energy technologies in Africa, we are convinced of the enormous potential of the V.I.P. technology to revolutionize the economies of rural communities in developing countries. This potential extends to other parts of the world, i.e., the Philippines and Indonesia, where there is limited access to electricity in rural areas, and important food crops that produce suitable biomass during processing. The Better World Workshop will use the prize money to establish demonstration units in the Northwest Province of Cameroon, where we have close relationships with local village organizers and environmental stewards. Our principal collaborators will be: Joshua Konkankoh, founder of the Ndanifor Permaculture Eco Village project, Bafut; Edwin Binfon, founder of the Office Pro School, educating primary students and individuals whose education was affected by child labor and early marriage, and Dr. Ajume Wingo, Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the Center for Values and Social Policy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Associate of the Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and founder of Wingo Wireless in Kumbo. In an effort to verify our calculations and continue to improve the V.I.P. technology we plan to conduct research on the units. We will partner with Patrice Levang, agro-economist, IRD, for the evaluation of research data collected. Joshua Konkankoh will film the installation and operation of the projects for use in future training and marketing.
Why it should be recognized:
The V.I.P. plant represents a new paradigm for sustainable community development through agricultural crop processing. Small scale oil palm provides a compelling example. Combining the V.I.P. plant with one or more oil palm expellers and a sterilizer enables a village to process up to 500 tons of fruit per year, producing 100,000 liters of oil, worth about $100,000 and about $25,000 in palm kernels. The wet palm fiber enables the generation of roughly 20,000 kWhrs of electricity, of which about half would be used to process oil palm, the balance can be used for lighting, battery charging, water pumping, and other activities normally not available or fueled by expensive diesel fuel. Using the thermal energy by-product from power generation to sterilize the fruit eliminates the consumption and incomplete combustion of firewood. The V.I.P. plant represents an intermediate step in sophistication and scale that supports the economic development of villages through entrepreneurship. Several hundred farm families per village, and as many as 100,000 villages, representing an aggregate population of more than 100 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, could benefit from this technology. The V.I.P. plant provides low cost electricity making it an economically attractive solution that will remain competitive and coexist with grid supplied electricity, available mainly in urban areas, and conventional renewable energy sources far into the future.
On Apr 09, 2013 john.francini said: Practical, thoughtful, empowering and maybe, best of all, its green. Congratulations Carl on a brilliant idea! I fully support your ongoing efforts.
On Apr 04, 2013 lizzie.mullings said: What an elegant and intelligent approach to a global problem. This project deserves to be recognised and backed by governments world-wide.
On Apr 02, 2013 bruce.easom1 said: Carl has worked tenaciously to reduce his steam engine to its essential simplicity thereby making it understandable and maintainable by people in villages throughout the developing world.
On Mar 31, 2013 rosemary.greene said: good luck Carl in getting all the support and funding you need to implement this innovative technology everywhere it is needed.
On Mar 30, 2013 madeleine.lodge said: This is such an important cause and such a brilliant way to go about it! I will support this in any way I can!
On Mar 29, 2013 bob.steingart said: Carl has the intellect, passion and drive to make this long-term dream a reality.
On Mar 29, 2013 averill.powers said: This technology is terrific, a solution that is not only efficient, relatively affordable and environmentally appropriate but does so in a way that hinders dependence.
On Mar 29, 2013 frank.daller said: This is no surprise coming from Carl Bielenberg and A Better World Workshop. He previously helped our organization, Malnutrition Matters, greatly by developing a non-electric multi-fuel boiler for our VitaGoat food processing system.
On Mar 27, 2013 tod.wason said: Let us hope repressive powers do not see this as any kind of threat.
There are places right here in America that could use this technology.
On Mar 26, 2013 marguerite.ritchie said: Wonderful work. How fortunate we all are to have such dedicated and creative professionals like Carl!
On Mar 25, 2013 edwin.seymour said: I remember a grade school teacher commenting on Carls' capabilities and achievements even then,and I have seen his name surface many times, on many projects like this over the years. Back him in any way you can.
On Mar 25, 2013 adelaide.waters said: The integrity of this project is worthy of support.
On Mar 24, 2013 edward.cutler said: Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, stated "Give a man a fish; feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; feed him for a lifetime!” Carl’s device is right at the heart of this saying. Providing farmers and towns with tools and education that provides them the ability to become self-sufficient in anyway is many times more powerful that short charitable fixes that may cure the results but does nothing to cure the cause. I am proud to give Carl Bielenberg 5 stars for his efforts and caring and wish his project the best; thousands count on it.
On Mar 24, 2013 njah.tobias said: very good technology for Africa. Keep up, carl.
On Mar 22, 2013 marc.rosenbaum said: This is the next step in Carl's brilliant and creative career, dedicated to helping people help themselves through appropriate scale, replicable technology.
On Mar 22, 2013 bill.gesing said: This could have many applications in many places.
On Mar 22, 2013 liping.yang said: I like this idea, bring energy to help people~
On Mar 21, 2013 russell.taylor said: Carl is to be congratulated on using his creative skills to benefit those that lack what most of us take for granted. His humanitarian attitude is a gift in its self. How fortunate for the disadvantaged to have some one with depth of both. I am pleased to support his effort!
On Mar 21, 2013 bruce.hubach said: Carl's passion for steam engines can be traced back to when our Grandfather would bring out the "toys" for us to watch and experiment with. He has never given up on perfecting newer technologies which are simple, yet durable while easy to manufacturer in Third World Countries.. I have seen prototypes of this newest version, and WOW, VERY IMPRESSIVE!. I support this project 110%!!
On Mar 21, 2013 judith.ashworth said: One of my great pleasures recently was to hear Carl describe how this works on all levels in a village. An excellent solution from a dedicated and talented person!
On Mar 21, 2013 janete.kibong said: This will be great relief as a heavy load will be taken off women and children who have to fetch fire wood daily for cooking in most rural communities in Cameroon. We can't wait to see this innovation in our villages.
On Mar 21, 2013 steven.brown said: This is a solid design that meets an important need in underserved communities. The world needs more entrepreneurs like Carl.
On Mar 20, 2013 webster.brauzer said: Please also consider Thailand as a viable location. It has the highest(or 2nd) world rice export. Rice husk, as you suggest, could fuel the plant instead of slow burning as in done in many locations now.
On Mar 20, 2013 chris.ryall said: Clear vision, clear product, cost effective and clean - an assured benefit to all emerging markets. Let's get it out there where it belongs!
On Mar 20, 2013 jim.enright said: Geat idea!
On Mar 20, 2013 gilda.forrester said: I think that the idea being proposed will certainly help make our planet a healthier place for the poorer villages in Africa, and possibly elsewhere. This Carl's work deserves recognition.
On Mar 20, 2013 curtis.koren said: This is a stellar project in every way, and only someone like Carl could have brought it to this level. Such important work!
On Mar 20, 2013 suzette.smith said: From a health care worker's perspective this is an amazing gift to those who live without.
On Mar 20, 2013 mike.farmer said: Power Good. It may well come in handy for the US should our current infastructure take a likely nose dive.
On Mar 20, 2013 john.king said: This mechanism is a good solution as it is simple, rugged, relatively low tech and utilizes a locally available energy source that would otherwise not be used. There is no single solution to the energy problem so we need many good solutions. This is one of the good ones. Yes, it was Shawn Buckley that also guided me here. My interests are in mathematically modeling combined economic-energy-infrastructures.
On Mar 20, 2013 mahamar.toure said: This is indeed a bright idea and deserves everyone's support.
On Mar 20, 2013 geoffrey.pingree said: Shawn Buckley guided me to your invention - it sounds great - keep up the good work - I also appreciated your web site.
On Mar 20, 2013 roberto_.guerra said: Great idea to provide hope and a future to many people.
On Mar 20, 2013 alfredo_.vazquez said: An excellent example of a complete, 360° view problem solving.
On Mar 20, 2013 david_gordon.wilson said: Carl Bielenberg is extraordinarily creative in ways that users fully appreciate. His work in the Cameroons (where I once briefly taught in an Outward Bound school) was a series of bright and very helpful ideas, and this is another in that line. Dave Wilson
On Mar 20, 2013 eduardo.tello said: Congratulations to Carl for his extraordinary project, but above all the welfare that will cause to those in need of something as basic as drinking water.
On Mar 20, 2013 carlos.solares said: It is always very encouraging to see that brilliant minds come up with such brilliant ideas focused towards better living for the ones who need it most. A straightforward, eco-efficient solution for a very basic development problem. Kudos!
On Mar 20, 2013 philip.gerard said: When I worked in Lesotho, in southern Africa, Carl's name was synonymous with well-designed, cost effective, culturally and economically appropriate solutions. His recent project is a game-changer. The V.I.P. plant could transform the lives of millions of rural people in west Africa and beyond.
On Mar 20, 2013 jeff.felten said: This is a great solution for productive use of renewable energy. Perfect for Africa!!
On Mar 20, 2013 christina.robert said: This is a brilliant solution. Taking innovation and enterprise to where it is most needed. Genius.
On Mar 20, 2013 nsahdzeyuf.jude_leh said: I believe that this technology is a perfect solution for the rural communities of Cameroon
On Mar 19, 2013 janet.wells said: As a former Peace Corp volunteer in North Africa I see amazing possibilities for people who will not only benefit from this technology but will also create unforseen opportunity.
On Mar 19, 2013 jack.beecham said: This technology has profound implications for health care in developing countries. It addresses issues of hygiene, nutrition, sterilization, clean water and electrical power to run potentially life saving devices.
Thank you Carl!
On Mar 19, 2013 cynthia.rollins said: Great project worthy of support!
On Mar 19, 2013 mark.anderson said: What an incredible impact this will have on the lives of the people Carl has spent his life working for, to find eco-concious energy solutions and help them move forward. This is a brilliant plan - we hope to see it come to fruition soon!
On Mar 19, 2013 edwin.binfon said: This will be like the second coming of Christ for most of the dark continent. Announcing the advent of light to the millions who've hardly dreamed of such is really only comparable to a powerful awakening! We are looking forward to this happening, Carl.
On Mar 19, 2013 joseph.wheelwright said: This is a very sunny idea for an awakening planet. Thanks Carl.
On Mar 19, 2013 shawn.buckley said: I am pleased to see Carl's work bearing fruit. Carl was one of my most creative students in mechanical engineering at MIT, at the time the best mechanical engineering department in the world. He combines hands-on skill with a broad understanding of technology.
On Mar 19, 2013 margaret.seymour said: Carl Bielenberg has spent his entire life recognizing the very real needs of some of the most undeveloped places in Africa and developing practical solutions to address those needs. Carl's solutions are mindful of the environment and of human autonomy. The Village Industrial Power project addresses those concerns, providing a solution to the need for power, markets for small farmers, renewable energy, and alternatives to the giant agri-businesses that destroy the environment and marginalize small farms and human labor. This is a project that has the potential to really change lives for the better without destroying communities or the natural world those communities exist in.
On Mar 15, 2013 ross.evans said: I had the chance to work with and be mentored by Carl in Nicaragua and Senegal as I developed the Xtracycle and Worldbike designs. I believe he is the brightest and most experienced design engineer working in development today. I know his standards and If he devotes himself to something, you can be assured the outcome will be amazing. Clearly, I'm a believer. I would encourage you to back his efforts in any way that you can.
On Mar 12, 2013 samantha.lodge said: This is not only an eco-concious energy solution, but also a humanitarian project. Carl is the kind of man to follow through on a commitment like this to change the world for a better place. I believe in his solution wholeheartedly!
On Feb 26, 2013 harry.lodgesr said: This technology addresses a number of a critical needs including providing electricity, fuel self sufficiency, and addressing the problem of methane gas from rotting biomass, methane gas is judged by the International Panel on Climate Change to be 25 times more potent in terms of global warming potential than CO2.
On Feb 25, 2013 marion.wasserman said: I believe in this.
On Feb 21, 2013 mory.thiaw said: This is a very good thing for village development and it will help thousands of people have better lives!
On Feb 20, 2013 diana.propper said: Having spent 6 years in emerging markets, I know the impact that cost effective, small scale energy solutions can have. Having power that saves time and money creates better conditions and more opportunities for education as well as economic development. Carl, thanks for your commitment and passion. Diana Propper
On Feb 20, 2013 laura.yorke said: This is so, so valuable and Carl has dedicated his life's work to making energy available at low cost to communities who desperately need it- not only so that they can have sustainable energy, but so that they can have enterprise. Brilliant work!
Submitted: Jan 02, 2013
Author: Carl Bielenberg
  • Energy (Resources)
  • Water (Resources)
  • Culture and Engagement (Human Systems)
  • Invention & Innovation (Human Systems)
  • Knowledge Development & Transfer (Human Systems)
  • Product/Service Design (Enterprise)
  • Stakeholders/Community/Infrastructure (Enterprise)
  • Supply Chain (Enterprise)
  • Industrial Ecology & Cradle-to-Cradle (Regional)
  • Food/Agriculture (Industry)
  • Healthcare (Industry)
  • Energy Capture, Transport, Storage (Planetary System)
  • Water Cleansing, Transport & Storage (Planetary System)
  • Food Production, Transport & Storage (Planetary System)
URL: www.thebetterworldworkshop.org, www.gazogen.biz