Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

Power in a Box: Shipping Sustainable Energy to Recovering and Off-the-Grid Communities

EPA Grant Number: SU835364
Title: Power in a Box: Shipping Sustainable Energy to Recovering and Off-the-Grid Communities
Investigators: Peters, Catherine A. , Bou-Zeid, Elie
Institution: Princeton University
EPA Project Officer: Lank, Gregory
Project Period: August 15, 2012 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $90,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2012) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability



We seek to develop a novel technology for portable sustainable power generation on the scale of 1kW that is reliable, cost-effective, and easily deployable. One kW of electricity is sufficient to power a small clinic, school, or library. Additional power can be stored or provided to local users in cell-phone charging stations.


Our design is called “Power in a Box”. It is a hybrid wind-solar electric power system, with battery storage, that can be transported in a shipping container and erected on site using only human power. The shipping container allows easy transport and serves as a base that adds stability and can house electrical components. A novel aspect of our design is the telescoping tower that puts the wind turbine at a high-wind elevation. The Phase I project included engineering design and analysis of a prototype model, construction and testing of a 500 W prototype system in a 20 ft shipping container, observation and analysis of an existing 200 W hybrid wind-solar power system, economic analysis of a micro-enterprise business model for financial security, and comparison with traditional portable diesel power systems. During phase II, a larger-scale 1 kW model will be built, additional design tasks related to the increased height and weight will be tackled, and a new deployment model will be adopted. In Phase II, we will focus on deployment in rural Africa. We will examine what it takes to construct wind-powered systems using local skills and resources in the developing world. To achieve this, we have established a partnership with access:energy, an African incubator and social venture that works with communities to increase energy production using clean energy solutions, while creating local jobs and manufacturing capacity.

Expected Results:

This project will result in a tested engineering design for a 1 kW hybrid wind-solar system that is portable and can be set up using only human power. Instructional and educational materials will be generated to enable others to build similar systems using local expertise and materials. By demonstrating this technology to several African communities, we will increase awareness of the potential for wind and solar power in Africa and foster an appreciation for the feasibility of local construction of wind turbines.

Supplemental Keywords:

renewable energy, microenterprise, wind turbine, solar panel, deployable energy

Relevant Websites:

Phase I abstract