Milton Callera (holding the microphone) and Nantu Canelos,
members of the indigenous Achuar community, explain how the two
solar boats built to transport their people on the Amazon rivers of
Ecuador work. The project is from the Kara Solar Foundation, which
is promoting an alliance to “solarise” river transport in the
Amazon rainforest. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS
By Mario Osava
MANAUS, Brazil, Apr 5 2019 (IPS)
A large steel wheel, 14 meters in diameter and 1.3 meters wide,
could be the energy solution of the near future, generating 3.5
megawatts – enough to supply a city of 30,000 people, according
to a company in the capital city of the state of Amazonas in
An internal fluid, which expands through a chemical reaction in
contact with an ink, drives the rotation that produces electricity
without interruption for at least five years, say executives at
Eletro Roda, a company in
the city of Manaus that is marketing the invention and is building
its first demonstration unit.
“Installation of the unit costs less than half that of an
equivalent solar power plant and occupies an area of just 200
square meters, compared to 50,000 square meters for solar and 5,000
square meters for wind power,” Fernando Lindoso, the director of
the company in which he is a partner, told IPS.
In other words, in the space occupied by a wind power plant that
generates 3.5 megawatts (MW), 25 electro-wheels could be installed,
multiplying the generating capacity by a factor of 25.
In addition, it has the advantage of stable generation, “free
of the intermittency of other sources,” said Lindoso, who
estimated the cost of each 3.5 MW unit at around five million
dollars, a price that is reduced for social projects.
There are interested parties in Japan, India and other countries
in Asia, as well as in European and Middle Eastern countries, based
on earlier prototypes that never made it to market, he said.
There will be a smaller version, generating one MW, “30
percent cheaper”, of identical dimensions, but with three tons of
the fluid that is biodegradable, instead of the four used in the
This was one of the alternatives presented at the Fair and Symposium on
Energy Solutions for Communities in the Amazon, which brought
together more than 500 participants and 39 companies and
institutions in Manaus Mar. 25-28.
“My favorite is the solar boat, a good example of how to find
solutions,” said Sam Passmore, director of the Environmental
Programme at the U.S.-based Charles
Stewart Mott Foundation, one of the meeting’s eight
A large metal wheel that can be taken apart in order to
facilitate transport produces electricity by rotating driven by an
internal fluid, which is expanded by a chemical reaction. Producing
3.5 megawatts, the generator to be sold by Eletro Roda could
produce a steady supply of electricity on just 200 square meters of
space. Credit: Courtesy of Eletro Roda
An alliance for solar-powered transportation in the Amazon is
propose by the Kara Solar
Foundation, of the indigenous Achuar people of Ecuador, who
since 2017 have built two 18-passenger boats powered by electricity
from a rooftop made of photovoltaic panels.
Kara means dream in the Achuar language and it is about
maintaining the sustainable culture of river transport, as opposed
to “the roads that threaten our territory, presented as if they
represented development,” project coordinator Nantu Canelos told
IPS during the fair.
“We want to build 300, 400 solar boats,” said Milton
Callera, technical director of the Coordinating Committee of Indigenous
Organisations of the Amazon Basin (Coica).
Riverside dwellers and indigenous people in Brazil are also
seeking to “solarise” their boats, especially the small ones,
dedicated to fishing and the transportation of a few people. The
problem is where to put the solar panels on the so-called “flying
boats”, without slowing them down.
The discussions at the symposium, however, focused on the need
to universalise energy. “There are still 500,000 people, or
100,000 families, without access to electricity in Brazil’s
Amazon region,” according to Paulo Cerqueira, coordinator of
Social Policies at the Ministry of Mines and Energy.
Attorney Joenia Wapichana, the first indigenous woman to hold a
seat in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, speaks at the opening of
the Symposium on Energy Solutions for Communities in the Amazon, in
the city of Manaus. She is from Roraima, the state with a high
indigenous population in northwest Brazil that is suffering a
serious energy crisis due to the interruption of supplies from
neighboring Venezuela. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS
The Light for All Programme, launched in 2003, benefited more
than 16 million people, according to the ministry, in this country
of 208 million people. But so far, isolated and remote communities,
not reached by the power grid, have been excluded.
There are also millions of families who do have electricity, but
are outside the National Integrated System, including the entire
state of Roraima, in the northeast, with 580,000 inhabitants, on
the border with Venezuela, from where it received most of its
electricity until the supply crisis that erupted in March in the
Isolated communities in the state receive electricity mainly
from diesel- or other petroleum-fueled generators.
The slogan for such cases is to replace costly, slow and
unreliable transportation fueled by fossil fuels on the Amazon
rainforest rivers, and to prioritise clean sources of energy. Solar
power is presented as the most feasible solution, since the Amazon
rainforest is not windy.
The exception is Roraima, where the state´s numerous indigenous
people are studying the adoption of wind farms to help defend
themselves from the impacts of the Venezuelan crisis.
Autonomous solar generation projects are mushrooming in the
Amazon, in indigenous villages and riverbank settlements, sometimes
funded by non-governmental institutions and international
assistance, such as the German Agency for
International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Rainforest Foundation of
Willi Seilert, from the I9SOL Institute, explains how his solar
panels are manufactured, during the Fair and Symposium on Energy
Solutions for Amazonia, held in Manaus. He has a project to
disseminate a thousand small solar panel factories in Brazil, in
order to make photovoltaic generation cheaper in poor communities.
Credit: Mario Osava/IPS
As a result, companies such as Fabortec Solar, which installs
photovoltaic systems and sells equipment, focused on designing and
offering off-grid projects, incorporating batteries and equipment
that ensure operation and maintenance by the users themselves.
“The Amazon is a great market for those who don’t mind long
trips and can work in places that are difficult to access,” a
company technician told IPS.
The expansion of solar energy in many parts of Brazil, not only
in the Amazon, prompted Willi Seilert to design a plan to promote
1,000 solar panel micro-factories throughout the country.
This could make the product cheaper and facilitate access by
poor families and communities to solar energy, in addition to
training, employing and generating income for nearly 20,000 people
in the country, he estimated.
That’s why he founded the I9SOL Institute, where the “9”
stands for innovation.
A 50-square-meter office, at least 10 people trained by two
instructors, a glass-top table, an oven and a few tools are enough
to produce small solar panels, he told IPS.
“The main obstacle is the import of photovoltaic cells, which
Brazil does not produce and which has to pay too high a tariff,
because of a strange legal measure adopted in 2012,” he
In addition to this, there are two industrial processes for
processing silicon, and “the rest is packaging work that trained
people can do without difficulty,” he said, before pointing out
that this continues to be the case in China and India, which
provides employment for millions of workers, especially women.
The project is to be launched in Teófilo Otoni, a city of
140,000 people in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, whose
mayor plans to employ prisoners nearing release in the solar
industry, Seilert said.
There are more energy alternatives in the Amazonian region.
Experiments with the use of oil from the babassu (Attalea speciosa)
palm tree abundant in the Amazon and neighboring areas, and from
andiroba (Carapa guianensis), a tree with oilseeds, for electricity
generation were presented at the symposium.
Railton de Lima, the
inventor of the Eletro Roda, which he called a “voluntary engine
for mechanical energy generation,” also developed a system for
converting urban waste into charcoal briquettes to generate
electricity, making it easier to recycle metals.
This technology is already used in several Brazilian cities,
including Manaus. Of Lima’s 28 inventions, more than half are
already being used in the market, and others are being developed
for energy purposes.
Creativity, which helps to seek more suitable alternatives, is
also found in poor communities.
“The idea of the right to energy is powerful” and stimulates
solutions, said Passmore of the Mott Foundation. In the same sense,
the diversity of peoples and communities represented at the Manaus
meeting was “a very positive factor,” he concluded.
The Amazon Seeks Alternatives that Could Revolutionise Energy
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
The Amazon Seeks Alternatives that Could Revolutionise Energy Production