Researchers from the University of Sheffield are delivering affordable, clean energy to remote communities in Sierra Leone as part of a pioneering new project. 

The collaboration, led by Mobile Power Ltd in partnership with Professor Dan Gladwin from the University’s Energy Institute and Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, has already developed pay-per-charge smart battery packs to address the lack of grid electricity in the country. 

The pay-as-you-go smart battery rental system, supplies affordable, clean energy to poor households and enterprises in off-grid communities. The batteries are charged at solar charging stations before being delivered to customers, thereby removing the need for dangerous traditional petrol generators and reducing energy costs by up to 75 per cent.

A second project will now work with Professor Dan Gladwin and other battery storage experts from the University to develop significantly larger lithium-ion battery packs that can store energy as part of a mini-grid and will be ‘hot swappable’ – meaning they can be rented out for household, transport and commercial use, such as to run fridges for medicines in hospitals, then returned back to the micro-grid to be recharged.

Professor Dan Gladwin, Professor in Electrical and Control System Engineering at the University of Sheffield, said: “These new battery packs can be swapped in or out of the micro-grid without shutting down the power system and are designed to maximise the life of the battery cells under different applications. They can one day be providing power to a whole village and the next day be swapped out to drive the motor of an electric KeKes (auto rickshaw). For households where the cost of connection to the mini-grid is prohibitively high, these packs are easily carried to the home and are capable of powering multiple devices for long durations.”