Uganda PEE POWER® Trial Success

Issue date: 04 September 2017

Uganda pee power project

The first field trial to test Pee Power in a remote rural location has started with a resounding success in Uganda.

Pee Power is a technology that generates electricity using urine as a fuel - amongst other types of wastewater - that has been developed by the Bristol BioEnergy Centre (BBiC), within the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).*

A research team from BBiC travelled to the Sesame Girls School in the small village of Kisoro in Uganda in July to install Pee Power and a lighting system for a toilet block.

The girls at the school study late in the evening when it is cooler. Their toilet block was unlit and difficult to access safely at night time.

The team adapted and retrofitted the toilet block with the Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) technology to enable access to the urine waste. With the help of local workers, they also constructed a small building (shown in the photo) to house the MFC stacks that generate the power from the urine.

The electricity generated from Pee Power is sufficient to light the outside of the building and the pathway leading to the block. Each toilet cubicle is now fitted with motion sensors to switch on the newly fitted light inside when needed.

The team, which consisted of Dr Tosin Obata, Patrick Brinson and Matt Rudd, said that it was actually easier than they had initially imagined to install the MFC technology and that the field work carried out at Glastonbury Festival in June had been extremely valuable.

The team said, “It was fantastic once we had finished the construction to see that the power worked brilliantly. We were staying at a guest house a kilometre away and the block was clearly visible at night time.

“There were some challenges. Simply getting the MFC stacks to such a remote location meant that our technology was transported to the location across dirt tracks on a bus shared with animals.

“We had to drill through reinforced concrete to create the access for the pipework that transported the urine to the newly constructed building that housed the MFC stacks. But despite a few logistical challenges, we were thrilled to see that the technology works.”

To make the project happen the team were supported at a local level by staff at the Sesame Girls School, led by Headmistress Ruzzaza Peace, and the Diocese of Muhabura, a part of the Church of Uganda. Bishop Cranmer Mugisha helped with organising the building of the MFC house, supply of a 4x4 vehicle and arranging local accommodation.

Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, Director of the BBiC at UWE Bristol, said, “It is simply wonderful that we can now demonstrate Pee Power working in a remote area of a developing country; this test is an important milestone in our work.

“Over the coming years we have plans to take Pee Power to various sites that present us with different challenges in countries such as India, Nepal, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso to bring power and sanitation treatment to places where it is most needed.

“A critical element of the field trials is longevity. By installing Pee Power and having it running in remote areas we can test its long term efficacy and fine tune it to different environments as we learn more about the technology's limits outside the lab.”

Pee Power is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as the 'Urine-tricity' project, which received Phase I funding in 2011. Now in Phase III, the Urine-tricity team at BBiC is moving towards developing a commercial 'Pee Power' product and setting up field trials for testing it in developing country locations.

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