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  • James McEwan

Two Birds One Trailer: HydroTrailer Malawi Trials

Updated: Mar 21, 2019

HydroTrailer provides Clean Electricity and Clean Water to off grid village in Malawi.

HydroTrailer, Proterra Energy’s own mobile hydropower system, has successfully undergone its first field trial in Sub Saharan Africa. Upon Landing in Blantyre, Malawi, the HydroTrailer was towed to a rural village on the outskirts of the City. From there it was set up on a nearby river and in less than two hours, amid much excitement, began generating electricity for a number of houses for the first time.

Off grid energy is quickly becoming recognised for its tremendous benefits to the developing world. Currently lack of access to electricity in Sub Saharan Africa is a serious problem with around 600 million people living without it. In Malawi where we conducted our trial the figures are desperately low with less than 2% of the rural population having access to electricity. During the trial we learned how this makes recruiting teachers, health care professionals and skilled workers to live in these areas without electricity a particular challenge and contributes to the problems faced by many rural African schools, hospitals and institutions.

HydroTrailer is designed as an adaptable and practical way to help tackle these challenges. Our target trial site lay beyond the reach of any tarmac road making access a challenge however the mobility and durability of HydroTrailer allowed us to reach the village without an issue. Upon reaching the site HydroTrailer was set up and lights and sockets were provided to four houses. Basic lighting to a village without power in Sub Saharan Africa can make a huge of difference to education and economic opportunity. It also takes away the need for other expensive or dangerous forms of lighting such as candles and kerosene lamps. HydroTrailer has inbuilt battery storage allowing it to deliver peak outputs of 3kW, enough to power 100-150 basic lights. The inbuilt power management system meanwhile ensures the batteries cannot be mismanaged and prolongs the life of the system and makes it user friendly.

Lack of access to clean water is likewise a key challenge for much of Sub Saharan Africa. Within the region over 300 million people do not have access to clean water. This makes the transmission of water-borne diseases, such as Cholera a serious problem as well as the subsequent effects of disease on education, healthcare as well as day to day life and activity.

The trials demonstrated the practicality of HydroTrailers ability to provide both clean water and power. Having completed primary filtration at the intake, water can be taken prior to contact with the turbine and passed through a finer filtration and UV treatment unit bolted onto the trailer. This two bird one stone approach tackles both of these problems which are recognised as two issues in the developing world that are often related and intertwined. In Sub Saharan Africa we have the understanding and the technology to provide clean water and deliver its benefits to those currently in need, however without application the problem remains.

HydroTrailer providing clean water to the local community

During the trial it also became clear that Hydrotrailer’s water filtration system held another advantage. With the water being abstracted and receiving primary filtration upstream, the local community were able to take the water directly from the trailer within the village saving them time and energy. This can be a major saving within a rural village as many spend a significant part of the day in the task of fetching water for cooking and cleaning.

If you would like to know more about Hydrotrailer, the trials, or how it might be applied to your project or site please contact us. We would be delighted to hear from you.

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