Notre Dame Program Aims to Bridge Energy Gap

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Abigail Mechtenberg is the founder of Energy E3. (photo courtesy of the University of Notre Dame) Abigail Mechtenberg is the founder of Energy E3. (photo courtesy of the University of Notre Dame)
SOUTH BEND -

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame are teaming up with counterparts in Africa to launch an energy innovation center in Uganda. The university is part of a program called Energy E3 - Empowering Nations to Power Their Nation, which seeks to bring electricity to low- and middle-income countries.

Notre Dame says Energy E3 "enables education, engineering design and entrepreneurship by teaching local technicians and engineers how to prototype, design, build, install, maintain and create a business venture for renewable energy devices using local materials and resident technical expertise."

Researchers have already developed wind turbines, hydroelectric generators, and biogas cooking devices with thermal electric generators, as well as hand-crank and table generators at multiple sites in Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria. Abigail Mechtenberg, international sustainable development researcher in the Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame, says if they can combine three or four systems at a site, that creates a microgrid.

"We work with experts using an asset-based international development paradigm in-country to identify solutions that make sense depending on the specific needs of each site including resource availability for devices that provide energy that’s sustainable and market-viable," Mechtenberg said. "It’s essential to sustainability that these solutions are designed, built and maintained using readily available materials in each location to promote interdependency and replace dependency-based energy models."

Mechtenberg says the goal is to establish multiple energy innovation centers in every region and implement the Energy E3 curriculum in high schools, technical institutes, business colleges and universities. She says they are looking to eliminate a site's dependency on third parties for local and sustainable energy solutions.

You can read more about some of the team's efforts in Africa by clicking here.

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