Appropriate Technology: Solar Water in Poor Cairo Neighborhoods

Posted on September 7, 2009  Comments (8)

Cairo Slums Get Energy Makeover

Since 2003 the nonprofit Solar CITIES project has installed 34 solar-powered hot water systems and 5 biogas reactors in Cairo’s poor Coptic Christian and Islamic neighborhoods.

Solar CITIES’ hot water systems are constructed from recycled materials and are uniquely tailored to the parts of a city where water and electricity availability are often sporadic. “The problem with professional solar hot water systems is that they’re made for cities with continuous water,” Culhane said. By contrast, Solar CITIES’s water heaters use a city’s water when it’s available but draw from a backup storage tank when it’s not.

The setup consists of an insulated rectangular box covered in clear glass or plastic on one side. Inside the box are copper tubes wrapped in sheets of aluminum, which are painted black. Sunlight striking the darkened aluminum is converted to heat, which is then used to warm water flowing through the pipes. The glass sheet on top of the box prevents the heat from being carried away by wind.

Solar CITIES also installs biogas reactors, which are based on designs Culhane saw while working in India. The reactors use microbes harvested from animal guts to break down food wastes into flammable gas that can be used for cooking and heating. If necessary, the reactors can draw hot water from the solar water heaters to maintain the warm temperatures the bacteria need to survive.

By attaching a simple plastic tube to the reactors, gas can be piped down several stories for residents to use. “In 24 hours, you’ve got 2 hours of cooking gas from yesterday’s cooking garbage,” Culhane said. The biogas reactors provide a more reliable supply of cooking gas than most residents currently have.

Awesome, I love to see people using engineering to make life better for those that can truly use help.

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8 Responses to “Appropriate Technology: Solar Water in Poor Cairo Neighborhoods”

  1. Appropriate Technology » Blog Archive
    September 10th, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

    […] Curious Cat: The setup consists of an insulated rectangular box covered in clear glass or plastic on one side. […]

  2. Bob Beckett
    September 14th, 2009 @ 12:30 am

    The Hand Made Solar Water System Rocks. Thanks for lovely post.

  3. Anonymous
    August 5th, 2010 @ 2:46 am

    This idea I could say is a very good solution for water system problems especially in Cairo. As for the future of solar energy, it seems even today that the overall opinion of the masses is that solar power is something that we all could be using in the future, as technology on it improves but the true fact of the matter is that it already has vastly improved over the past couple of decades. Thank you for the very scientific information.

  4. Will
    August 30th, 2010 @ 1:56 am

    It still suprises me that solar products arent more widespread, especially since it can save you, literally hundreds of dollars a month. Also, magnetic generators can power an entire household. But does anyone think or know, of any places in the world where solar energy would not work? Alaska maybe? since theres very long periods of darkness? Certain parts of Europe? because its so cloudy?

  5. Jr
    October 24th, 2010 @ 2:10 am

    I encountered an idea like this. It seems so cool to me, to use natural resource for something you badly needed. I don’t think we have that now in our country.

  6. Steven Barnes
    January 25th, 2012 @ 6:24 am

    We tried solar power in my place on the South Coast near to Brighton. It’s meant to have a bit of a micro climate down there, but none the less we struggled to get any energy generated. However, there is a very strong tidal pull in the local bay, so we campaigned and had a hydro-turbine installed. It’s great, because if you install one privately and generate electricity, the national grid have to buy it from you by law. It doesn’t earn a lot, and has no where near covered the cost but maybe in the long term!

  7. Solar Power Market Solutions For Hundreds of Millions Without Electricity at Curious Cat Investing and Economics Blog
    March 4th, 2012 @ 7:56 pm

    400 million people in India and 1.2 billion people worldwide do not have electric power at home. Mera Gao Power provides a wonderful market solution. Mera Gao Power can install solar power systems at a low cost that can be paid back in just 2 years by charging only 50 cents a month to users…

  8. Pay as You Go Solar in India » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    April 12th, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

    […] Solar Power Market Solutions For Hundreds of Millions Without Electricity – Appropriate Technology: Solar Hot Water in Poor Cairo Neighborhoods – Engineering a Better World: Bike Corn-Sheller – Water Pump Merry-go-Round […]

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