In a first for South Africa, the Masiphumelele Library in the Western Cape Province is pedalling its way toward resource sustainability.
Sinovuyo Mlabisa pedals for power at Masiphumelele Library
Sinovuyo Mlabisa pedals for power at Masiphumelele Library

A project installing pedal power stations at the library was launched on Thursday 2 June. The two stations use the kinetic energy exerted by the person pedalling to turn a generator.

This in turn creates electricity, which is fed through a power point to any appliance with a plug. The electricity created can be used to charge laptops and cellphones, lights and even boil a kettle.

Across continents

The product is based on a European model seen by Yasmina Morean Sabafini, a French national. This innovative product has been placed in public places in Europe and allows anyone to charge their phone or laptop using their own power.

Having visited and worked in South Africa for a short period, Morean Sabafini immediately decided that a similar product would be perfect as a local community project.

Teaming up with Immo Boehning, an engineering student at the University of Achtun in Germany, it has taken almost two years to have the prototypes developed and installed.

The project will be installed in three communities, of which the Masiphumelele Library was the first.

The library received a solar panel on Thursday, which will work in tandem with the pedal prototypes to boost the electricity output from human power, Morean Sabafini says.

Educating youth

The pedal power generators are also a way to educate the youth in the area on renewable energy alternatives and make them aware of their electricity consumption, Morean Sabafini says.

“Just charging a phone takes lots of energy in cycling,” she says.

[quote]The project also looks to promote awareness of health benefits of using bicycles as an alternative form of transport.

“Maybe we’ll soon be off the grid,” says head librarian Sue Alexander. “We’re delighted to have this in our library.”

Morean Sabafini and Boehning will return to Europe after installing another two pilot projects, and Morean Sabafini hopes the generators will be embraced by locals.

“They were paid for with European funding, but that isn’t really sustainable,” Morean Sabafini says.

“We have taken time off to come and install these, but we must return to Europe. We hope South Africans will now take this forward and develop a sustainable project.”

Original story written by Nicole McCain and republished with permission from the People’s Post. Slight edits have been made by ESI Africa.

Photo credit: Nicole McCain/People’s Post.