Future of Health: Off The Grid Energy

Future of Health: Off The Grid Energy

The development of human scale technologies that can to tap into and harness alternative sources of energy is yielding new solutions for powering peoples lives off the grid.

Scott Mioduszewski
  • 2 august 2010

Off The Grid Energy

This post is part of a PSFK Consulting project aimed at providing insight into the Future of Health. Off The Grid Energy is one trend of fifteen that appears in our exploration of  how technology and access to information play a vital role in the ways that people will understand, manage and receive care whether that’s at home, in hospitals and clinics or in doctor’s offices.


The development of human scale technologies that can to tap into and harness alternative sources of energy is yielding new solutions for powering peoples lives off the grid. Without requiring a costly infrastructure to deliver energy, these innovations address the need for access to basic services, providing a level of autonomy, sustainability and comfort that can be readily deployed in virtually any situation.


  • Reducing Power Load – Self-generated power ensures communication lines remain open regardless of time of day or conditions, providing reliable connections for electronics.
  • Capturing Energy Exhaust – Innovative design can work to capture energy from existing activities that would otherwise go to waste.
  • Self-Sustaining Individuals – By generating their own sources of energy, users can alleviate some of the concerns around the reliability of utilities.
  • Energy Commodities – By harnessing energy from existing activities and storing it, communities resell can harvest energy to resell.

Supporting Examples For Off The Grid Energy


Bike Powered Phone Charger
The Nokia Bicycle Charger Kit can be attached to any bicycle to power up devices from the pedaling motion of the bike’s rider. The electricity generator is powered by the front bicycle wheel as a rider pedals and transfers electricity to a charger attached to the handlebar, which plugs into a phone. A 10-minute journey at six miles per hour produces around 28 minutes of talk time or 37 hours of standby time.


Cooking Stove Stores Excess Energy For Charging
The BioLite portable cooking stove is a working prototype that is designed to revolutionize cooking for the nearly 3 billion people who cook with wood or other solid fuels. As the fuel burns, a fraction of the thermal energy produced is harvested, converted to electricity, and used to power a small fan that aids combustion efficiency. Excess electricity is made available to users for charging small electronic devices such as cell phones and LED lights.


Solar Refrigeration For Vaccines
The Appropriate Technology Collaborative, in partnership with engineering students and professors at Michigan State University, has developed a refrigeration technology that requires no moving parts and receives its power from solar energy. The Solar Vaccine refrigerator uses the heat from the sun to create condensation within the unit, which in turn creates a cooling effect. The design is easy to maintain, uses basic materials and can be assembled in the country or region where it is to be used.


Subscription Model For Supplying Home Energy
Created by a team from MIT and Harvard, Egg Energy uses a subscription model approach to supplying energy to populations in developing countries. For a $27 first-year subscription, customers will get their home wired for electricity and receive a fully-charged, relatively compact battery. This power supply can be swapped out for a fresh one whenever necessary at a cost of 40 cents, bringing an estimated savings of $31 per year to average homes.


Soccer Ball Generates And Stores Electricity
The Soccket is a prototype soccer ball design that captures the energy generated during game play using an inductive coil mechanism at its core. After playing with the ball, a child can return home and use the ball to power an LED lamp or plug in batteries in need of a charge. Currently, 15 minutes of play can provide 3 hours of LED light.


Low-Cost Solar Concentrator
Solupower is a patent-pending solar concentrator designed by D-Rev for use in the developing world, intended to provide electricity for cell phone chargers, batteries, or other devices. Costing $50, the modular system can be tailored for various end-uses and multiple units can be linked together to create a larger generation array.

About PSFK’s Future Of Health Report


PSFK’s Future of Health Report details 15 trends that will impact health and wellness around the world. Simple advances such as off-the-grid energy and the introduction of gaming into healthcare service offerings sit alongside more future-forward developments such as bio-medical printing. The report includes concepts for UNICEF based on the trends provided by the world’s leading advertising and design agencies. It is our hope that this report will inspire your thinking and lead to services, applications and technologies which will allow for more available, quality healthcare.


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