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Jeremiah Thoronka lights up Sierra Leone with kinetic energy

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Jeremiah Thoronka lights up Sierra Leone with kinetic energy

Energy poverty is deeply-rooted in Africa, with some countries accounting for lesser electricity access than others. One such country is Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone suffers acute energy poverty – estimated at about 90% – and has one of the lowest electricity access rates across the globe.

According to the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), only about 26 percent of the overall population in the country has access to electricity and just 6% of those people in live rural areas.

For a majority of the people in the country, their source of energy comes from solar lanterns and dry-cell batteries because they are either not connected to the national grid or experience erratic power supply due to the outdated grids.

To put an end to the energy crisis in Sierra Leone, Jeremiah Thoronka invented a device that uses kinetic energy from vehicular and pedestrian traffic to generate clean energy.

Using his skills in science and being inspired by the energy deficiency in his country, Serra Leone, Thoronka developed Optim Energy, a start-up that utilizes kinetic energy (the energy objects have when in motion), to produce affordable, accessible, and clean electricity.

To capture kinetic energy, Thoronka developed a piezoelectric device that, when placed under roads, soccer pitches, and other surfaces, harnesses energy from heat, vibrations, pressure, and weather and converts it into electric current without the need for battery storage.

With only two devices, Optim Energy ran a successful pilot program in Thoronka’s neighborhoods (Makawo in the northern part of Sierra Leone and Kuntoluh, east of Freetown), where free electricity was provided to 15 schools attended by over 9,000 students, as well as 150 households which comprised about 1,500 people.

Since he built Optim Energy in 2017 at the age of 17, Thoronka has grown the invention into a larger initiative with the aim of building a sustainable energy sector in the country, diminishing greenhouse gas emissions, and educating citizens on climate change.

According to him, kinetic energy is limitless because people are always going to move and there aren’t any emissions released in the process unlike other forms of energy – the sun won’t always shine, fossil fuels are gradually going out of use, water is drying up.

His passion for providing clean and cheap energy stems from his experiences while growing up. The lack of electricity in his town meant that they could only prepare food using firewood or charcoal and the process of getting firewood wasn’t a palatable one for him.

In addition to making energy more accessible, Thoronka seeks to educate people in Sierra Leone about the environmental impacts of energy use so that they can use their power efficiently and conservatively. He also educates local students about the need to take responsibility for the environment and change their consumption behavior.

He believes air, thermal, water pollution, and solid waste disposal are ecological issues directly related to energy production. To him, energy and environmental problems are closely related since it is nearly impossible to produce energy without it having a significant environmental impact, maintaining that emissions from fossil fuel combustion are the primary cause of urban air pollution and global warming.

He is one of the World Wildlife Fund’s top 100 Young African Conservation Leaders and passionate renewable energy and climate change advocate.

Thoronka’s invention has not only made him an international news item but also brought rewards and global recognition to him.

He was announced 2021 winner of the Chegg.org Global Student Prize, a prize given to one exceptional student who has made a real impact on learning, the lives of their peers, and on the society and beyond.

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