Nov. 13, 2015

Schulich researchers expand rural hydro project to Ethiopia

After sucess in Nepal, David Wood and Ed Nowicki work to bring their small-scale power system to Ethiopia
David Wood (left), NSERC/Enmax Professor of Renewable Energy, and Ed Nowicki, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, have successfully created a hydro-electrical system in Nepal which they are now working to bring to Ethiopia.

David Wood and Ed Nowicki.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Two Schulich researchers have their sights set on bringing their small-scale power system to Ethiopia after successfully providing electricity to a rural village in Nepal.

David Wood and Ed Nowicki from the Schulich School of Engineering have both worked collaboratively with a Nepalese group to create a system that diverts water from a nearby river to generate electricity for local homes.

Before their efforts, residents were exposed to unhealthy smoke from the materials they were burning to heat food and light their homes. After talks with their partners, Wood and Nowicki created a controller for each home that could monitor energy use so that excess energy could be then be diverted to other needs, such as pasteurizing water and cooking food.

Extending power system project to remote villages and rivers in Ethiopia  

Wood is currently working with a PhD student from Nepal on improvements to the cross-flow turbine to facilitate manufacturing in the developing world.

"It can be used for things like powering computers at schools. It can be used to develop local craft industries. It means their kids or their grandkids can study properly because they have good light," says Wood, NSERC/Enmax Professor of Renewable Energy and professor of mechanical and manufacturing engineering.

The northern part of Ethiopia is mountainous with a lot of remote villages and rivers, which is a landscape very similar to the region of Nepal where the first pilot was launched. Nowicki and Wood are now in initial stages to see if their project can be extended to Ethiopia as well. Last year, both of them lectured in an Master of Science program on renewable energy in Addis Ababa.

Their project is just the latest example of efforts underway at the Schulich School to support research that makes a difference.

"The Schulich School of Engineering is a wonderful promoter of global engineering. I can come to the school and I can teach, and I can tinker knowing that what we're doing is something that is going to help people all over the world," says Nowicki, associate director of the Centre for Environmental Engineering Research and Education and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Research discoveries help people locally and internationally

Research that makes a difference is a key pillar in the Schulich School's five year strategic plan Energizing Engineering Leadership.

"The Schulich School is going to increase our focus on the impact of our discoveries, on measuring our research successes and on increasing our international leadership," says Bill Rosehart, dean of the Schulich School.

"We are going to create collaborative teams composed of faculty, staff, students and industry who will work together to meet some of the biggest challenges of our time. We are going to expand knowledge and understanding and we are going to share our discoveries and expand knowledge to ultimately help people down the street or around the globe," says Rosehart.

Working for a school so focused on using research to make a real, and lasting, impact on the lives of others has definitely helped motivate Wood and Nowicki.

"Projects like this one are inspiring me to carry on and keep doing this kind of work. As long as I can do this kind of work, I would stay at Schulich forever," says Nowicki.