Children seem to be a source of never ending energy, exhausting parents and teachers alike. Now a non-profit organization, Empower Playgrounds, is harnessing children’s energy in order to generate electrical charge to bring light to rural communities in Ghana.
Sitting on the equator, Ghana receives relatively equal sunlight all year round – 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness, but when the sun goes down that means permanent darkness for many communities who do not have electricity. Empower Playgrounds – founded by a former ExxonMobil executive Ben Markham – creates special merry-go-rounds that generate and store electricity when played upon. ‘A healthy 8- to 12-year-old generates about 150 watts of energy per hour’ according to Fast Company. This energy is stored in battery packs and then used in portable LED lanterns given to the children to take home and use after dark. Lanterns are given out dependent on where children live, with clusters of six students sharing one light source. Says Markham:
In Ghana, all the school buildings I saw were dark, poorly equipped, with no electricity … and no playground equipment. As an engineer, what I wanted to know is if you can make a real amount of electricity from kids playing?
Markham has found a positive answer to his question and with a sponsorship from Energizer, Empower Playground has been able to provide schools with merry-go-rounds that can generate reusable power for 50 lanterns that will each last 50 hours before needing to be recharged.