One of the biggest challenges to economic growth in the hood and emerging nations is access to energy resources. The problem with the hood is many of the residential and commercial buildings are from the 1800s and have those old power line wires strewn about and cannot scale to meet 21st century energy consumption demands. The problem with emerging countries is simple – they don’t have lights and electricity and at best, have car batteries and unreliable energy sources that can go dark for days and weeks. We would like to discuss the solutions addressing energy concerns in the hood and in emerging nations through the use of off-grid renewal energy. On-Grid and Off-Grid Renewal Energy There are two types of setups I know when it comes to renewal energy, particularly here in America. These are on-grid where your renewal energy setup is connected to the utility company and off-grid where your renewal energy setup is connected to your own power reservoir that you created. The difference between on-grid and off-grid depends on if you are using renewal energy because you think it is cute or you are using it to establish true independence from monopolizing energy companies. On-Grid solutions is basically where you host a solar setup or windmills and you pump electricity back into the monopoly utility company backbone. In exchange for your contribution, you are given a renewal energy credit or REC and I don’t care what you do with a REC after that point. What bothers me with the on-grid solution is cats are generating renewal energy and giving it back to a monopoly faceless energy company and think they are “green” or whatever. No offense, but this setup sounds stupid and backward to me. Off-Grid is what you want and what the African Diaspora wants – you don’t want a damn thing to do with any utility company and your energy is generated by you and consumed by you and the community. You setup your own power collection and storage and you use your own energy and don’t want to worry about an electric bill or threats to cut off your lights. With off-grid solutions, we have real independence and can use power any way we need to improve the hood. Overview of Battery Bank A battery bank is where you store the energy created by renewal energy generators such as windmills, solar panels and hydro systems. Many setups use car batteries but there are other batteries on the market that are specifically designed to establish a battery bank. Then you connect an inverter that turns AC power from the car battery to DC power that is used in your home outlets. Here is a video of a nice battery bank powering a home in Pakistan and they break down all the components: On a small scale, you can have an array of car batteries in the basement to power the home and on a large scale setup, use special high-capacity batteries to power a small village or a large urban infrastructure building. Now the key here is to think of the things we can power and make happen. In the hood, we can put a battery bank in the basement and run new wiring throughout key elements of an old greystone or brownstone building and have our own electricity up and running and not worry about a utility bill ever again. In the commercial zone, we can run digital signage and bright signage and provide street light for safety at night using high capacity battery banks. We can transform a small village in Africa and help develop a small economic center to run manufacturing plants, aquaponic fisheries and organic gardening as well as create a night life scene and give the village people the ability to access a satellite feed to watch a soccer game. In addition, we can setup these off-grid villages to be places we African-Americans can run off to get away from America and have a real homeland vacation in rural Africa. While many of these efforts are already occurring throughout the world, African-Americans have plenty of opportunities we can start in our own communities and use our knowledge and access to resources to help make moves to better other people worldwide with providing off-grid renewal energy. Now that we covered battery banking to store energy, let’s cover the methods to collect energy to create off-grid power solutions. We going to focus on solar power, wind power and hydro in this article. Solar Power Solar power can be installed on rooftops or as an array in an open field collecting sunlight during the day to charge up a battery bank that can contain enough power to last into the night. In urban areas, solar arrays can be established on rooftops while in rural areas, an array grid of solar panels can be created as a farm to collectively generate energy to be stored in a battery bank. In America, we can use solar panels for powering lights in alleys and create passive lights to make street safer in parts of our community. Another good use of solar panels in urban areas is to help provide power to empty lots in the hood to accommodate business operations. We can provide clean energy to power food truck parks and provide night lights for table vendors to sell through the night and process credit transactions powered by the battery banks. In Africa, the solar industry is creating economic boom and rapid GDP growth by putting many African communities online with power. It is also creating jobs and opportunities for young brothas to do something for their community and with a sense of purpose and value: The biggest advantage of solar power is the price is coming down and making it economically feasible to create a power source for plenty of off-grid solutions. The disadvantage is the inclement weather such as cloudy skies that can last for days in some areas like winter season up North. So solar power can only be a real optimal benefit in Sun Belt and equatorial regions where sunlight is more likely. Wind Power In this discussion, we are talking about the smaller wind turbines that can fit on a rooftop or be on a small scaffold to collect energy from wind. Wind power generators are now very advanced and can start creating energy on as low as 20mph wind. One thing to note is that in many urban areas, the high buildings make great wind tunnels and these can be taken advantage of with many wind generators in an urban rooftop setting. In rural settings, it is possible to create an array of wind farms. I like the water-front wind farms near a body of lake or ocean where the wind is always blowing and producing energy constantly. In America, we can use wind energy to pretty much power maybe a battery or two, I cannot see unless I’m wrong a huge battery bank being powered solely on wind power in an urban area. Wind farms are being criticized for being over-hyped in terms of not producing the return of investment such as solar farms. A battery being powered by one wind generator is good enough to run things like an aquaponic tank or operate a bar with low lights and led strips serving drinks to patrons. Actually, that’s a serious profit margin right there having a renewable energy bar where you serving hard liquor anyway and you can use an ice container to store ice. In Africa, there are regions such as higher elevation and bodies of water and ocean fronts that can take advantage of wind farms as well to power a sizable batter bank. In addition to solar power, wind generator turbines on rooftops can be a great backup source of power generation when the sun is not available or during the night, keeping a battery bank maintaining a charge above 80% for example. Hydro Power Hydro power is my favorite because it is really based on a practice that goes back to over 1000 years of diverting water flow to harness as power. Hydro power uses a water flow to spin a turbine that generate energy and produce a huge consistent amount of power to a community. That is the clear cut advantage of hydro is the consistency of the energy generation. From what we seen, mini-hydro plants as an off-grid solution is the best way to create a self-sustaining community. While a huge dam like the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead can power a huge part of southern Nevada and California, it takes only a downward river flow to harness enough power to a village of 500 to 5,000. Not a lot of options in the hood for hydro power setups but who cares? Because the real reason I would love for African Americans to care about hydro power is to help build self-sustaining off-grid communities around the world especially in Africa. We already know there are a lot of projects going on but there is still opportunity for brothas and sistas to finance or help engineer the creation of mini-hydro plants to power up villages that will in turn, help that village create businesses and products to export. Check out how a mini-hydro plant was able to help a lady start her own bakery business in Rwanda to support herself. Now as an African-American, wouldn’t it be a wonderful story to hear about the importing of $350 belts and $2500 purses handmade in the mountains by African artesians in a remote off-grid villagea? Or buying men clothing made in a remote hillside town full of beautiful African women? Hell yeah I’ll buy that product and will pay $350 for a belt if that is where it came from. These remote areas in Africa are great opportunities to do business with and sell their products worldwide creating economic opportunity in our hoods and in their villages. What American Brothas and Sistas Can Do The first thing brothas and sistas can do is imagine their future having an off-grid modern luxury home built in Africa with their children to grow up and play in and come back to America once in a while. Understand that our children will be the first generation to go back to the motherland like it is their country and we will see the African Diaspora family united. That’s the first thing brothas and sistas can do is realize the vision of where all of this is going. Besides, the USA kinda sucks with bitter racists doing nothing but blaming Blacks and Hispanics while going broke under their own debt from fighting wars all the time instead of investing in innovation and STEM-based education. The second thing brothas and sistas can do is buy the hobby energy kits that can be found on Amazon such as a $25 hydro energy generator or small solar panel and show their kids and children how to use this technology to charge up a small battery or charge their cell phone. Set up small renewable energy products for example, I had a solar powered hydroponic setup that grew vegetables and produced bubbles to oxygenate the roots. Actually I did that for Dream and Hustle and posted pictures and wrote an article on that solar power hydroponic project now that I remember. The third thing is to establish local think-tanks in our hoods and establish what we can build with off-grid renewable energy solutions. We can take a large lot or a patch of land down here in Georgia and create a boot sale gathering or a place to setup vendor tables and food trucks or throw a mini house music festival. We can create a house music park that plays house music constantly and the system is powered by solar panels. We can light up our commercial zones at night to attract people to shop creating a second shift for jobs in the hood, creating more economic activity. Then let’s look at solutions we can do in Africa. Right now, the African family is already getting help from big guys from China to the UN to President Obama with the new Power Africa initiative: So they doing the big moves for Africans to supply them with power with huge grid and mini-grid solutions. What we African-Americans can contribute is helping harness business models and technologies. Our advantage is having the best interest of our African brothas and sistas in mind when we create solutions, not trying to exploit them but work with our family of the Diaspora. For example, help create self-sustaining fisheries that can reside in these villages where fish can be grown and sold and feed a nation. Help define demands where we can replace our love for $350 belts made in Italian and sold at Barneys to $100 belts made by the best leather makers in a mountain village in Africa. Back in the hood, we can create off-grid hood businesses that create electricity for fixed income older Blacks who don’t have to worry about paying a bill and getting their lights cut off and their medical equipment and diabetes insulin unusable. Over in Africa, we can help finance the creation of bakeries and other products that can be sold throughout the African Diaspora and America and we can create hood retailing businesses selling products made in Africa from many of these off-grid villages. It’s time to go beyond just saying Black power and learn to harness renewable off-grid power, real independent power to empower the lives of our communities, our culture, our global family and our future.