The Off Grid Box allows remote villages access to renewable energy and safe water at low costs using just one shipping container per community.
The Director of the innovative start-up Off Grid Box is Troy Billett. The 25-year-old innovator has been working towards providing clean drinking water and renewable and affordable energy for rural communities as well as supporting local entrepreneurs.
Billett was a finalist for the Mohammed bin Rashid Initiative for Global Prosperity’s Sustainable Energy challenge. His aim is that his 6×6 foot Off Grid Boxes will light up rural, isolated villages the world over.
The box works inventively to pair up two major needs – clean water and renewable energy- with the goal of reaching over 1 billion people worldwide. The box is a small shipping container which contains water purification technology.
On the top is a solar panel for energy. Each box can provide safe water and affordable, renewable power to a rural village with up to 2,000 inhabitants.
The off-grid box brings power and water to people who either had no access or very little access before. The box is located in the center of the village where people can go and pick up around 10 liters of safe water and a battery which will provide power for lighting or charging a phone.
This will cost them 18c which is really great for people who often earn less than $2 a day. They can now opt to buy this daily or weekly without causing too much of a financial issue.
In order to decide where to place a box the company surveys and assesses their needs, involving the community so that they know exactly what their needs and wants are, rather than just making an assumption.
Once a need is established the box is dropped and takes a few hours to set up. The company makes sure it has permission from local community leaders to do this but there are always people arriving on site wanting to know what is going on.
This is a great way to get the local people on board. They get a battery and light kit too which they can use in their homes and a clean jerrycan for use when collecting water.
The main issue the company faces is that someone must be there who can run the system. To make sure there is someone there able to do this it works with a local co-op. The co-op hires local women entrepreneurs who will maintain the box in the long term and also take care of the efficient day-to-day running of the system.
In this way the local economy and community are empowered as well as being provided with the ability to generate renewable power and fresh water. There is usually 4 female entrepreneurs required for each box as well as a specialist technician who will oversee 10 boxes in an area in case there are more specific technical issues to be rectified.
One of the things that came to the fore when Off Grid Box started was that philanthropy alone is basically just a sticking plaster on a very large wound. Although sending thousands of water bottles over will fulfill an immediate need, ultimately it is not a long term solution.
What is needed is a variety of impactful and financially sustainable solutions of which Off Grid Box is just one.
The first box was given to a village containing 50 families in Rwanda. Since that point another 50 boxes have been deployed but of course, there is a lot of room for more across the country. If they dropped 1,000 boxes it would still only fulfill of 20% of the need across Rwanda.
The vision of Off Grid Box is to supply the entirety of those in need – around one billion people. This is a long way off but a good start has been made.
Hopefully more governments, aid organizations and corporations will start to collaborate to bring these kinds of initiatives into remote communities. It will be this kind of investment in technology, bringing facilities and financial empowerment that will benefit humanity on a wider scale.