During the 21st UN Climate summit, the UN General secretary Ban Ki Moon said " We have only one planet. There is no plan B because there is no planet B." This quotation takes all its sense when you apply it to emergency situations such as refugees camps. According to the World Bank, in 2016, one person over seven does not have access to electricity. In addition, the international organization takes a census of refugees. It estimates this proportion to more than 17 million people all over the world in situation of energetic precarity and more than 450 refugees camps are located essentially in the MENA region and Africa.
This statement highlights four main problems of different natures.
First, this is a humanitarian emergency problem. NGOs need energy and more especially electricity to take quick and early action to the field and to insure fundamentals needs such as find the survivors, give cares through makeshift hospitals, get light in order to secure common life spaces, restore telecommunication systems for emergency transports and in order to people get in touch with their families.
Second, this is a problem of energetic precarity generating health disasters and non-respect of human dignity. The problem with this kind of situation it that people cannot use the light, cook or have access to water. This problem attempts directly on one hand to human rights as it is defined by the UN; on the other hand also to population health because it can be an epidemics factor (tuberculosis, cholera, ebola cases...).
Third, this is a political problem at the local, national and international scales. At the local and national scales, these situations are thorny because they create fights within camps, fights between camps and also fights and hate with local population that can sometimes open to civil wars. At the international scale, these situations favoured massive migrations, new camps in a post-crisis context (Italy, Calais's jungle) that is not solving the problem but worsen it as it is the case, for example, with climate refugees that do not have a well-defined status by international organizations. In addition to that, at the local scale authorities have to buy lands to open a camp. The property is generally negotiated by entities such as the UNHCR.
Fourth, this is a financial issue. At the local, national and international scales, these kinds of situations cost a lot of money to states, international organizations and associations without solving the root of the problem.
Following that, one of the 21st century challenge that has to be accomplished in short and middle term is: the electrification of disasters areas and more especially refugees camps.
Today, NGO's use what is called thermal electrogene group. This engine is very efficient but the problem is that it has a high level of energy fuel consumption. This is an issue in terms of costs but also in terms of international geopolitics (example: out of stock). NGO's use also photovoltaic panels that are not contributing to global warming, but they have a heavy weight and requires a long installation time.
Knowing that, in the energy sector, few companies work on this situation and there's some product innovation to solve this complex case. One of them wants to turn at the same time climate and everyday life dilemma into an innovation that can completely change the future of our planet: the photovoltaic balloon.
Based on a humanitarian, social and eco-responsible vision, the French start-up Zéphyr Solar founded by two industrial designers develops an efficient and easy-to-use power electricity kit. It is an aerial system taking the shape of a captive photovoltaic balloon providing the exposition of a large surface of photovoltaic panels in the air without any infrastructure on the ground long and complex to build . It allows a production of an important electricity power (> 3 KW) thanks to a large exposure of the surface to sun rays. The photovoltaic surface was calculated to provide the same efficiency as a thermal electrogene group.
This solution saves space which is rare in these situations. The balloon itself allows to free photovoltaic panels shadows from building and vegetation and also to include additional functionalities as relay antenna, balloon networking, telecommunication support or visual landmark.
The photovoltaic balloon is transported by cargo, trucks or vehicles to the damaged region with all the necessary tools and materials for its functioning. Installed at the same time as the camp or within the existing camp, the balloon is inflated with helium. Anchored to the floor and linked to the technical box to the ground by an electrical cable, it produces electricity that will be normalized, stocked and distributed by the technical box.
Nowadays, these kind of innovations needs support of several partners as international organizations and associations, governments, or financial partners... Zéphyr Solar is one of the precursor on this field. Currently, the French start-up is building its first prototype that is coming soon. Next step to follow for our planet... Be brief, be bright, be gone!