By Prarthana Mitra
Rainwater harvesting as a means to conserve natural resources predates modern civilisation. But harnessing the energy of raindrops to produce electric power—that’s an innovation.
15-year-old Reyhan Jamalova from Azerbaijan has done just that. She has recently developed a device that can tap into the enormous potential of rainfall to generate electricity; the very same rain that floods the streets of Mumbai every year.
All you need to know about Rainergy
Ninth grader Jamalova studying at Istek Lyceum in Baku, Azerbaijan, started mulling over the idea after her father mused aloud one day, “If you can make energy from wind, why not from rain?” Along with science lab partner Zahra Gasimzade and physics tutors at school, Jamalova’s kicked off her project after receiving $20,000 in seed funding from the government of Azerbaijan. After four months of calculation, they figured out a way to answer her father’s question.
— Azerbaijan-in-Greece-and-Albania (@AzembassyGreece) March 27, 2018
The 9-meter-high device, christened Rainergy, consists of a rainwater collector, a water tank, an electric generator and a battery. Following the basic principles of hydroelectricity and thermodynamics, the tank filled with rainwater is made to flow through the generator at high speed, which generates electricity that is either supplied directly to the powerlines or stored in batteries for later usage.
Turning precipitation to power
“We designed Rainergy to produce electricity from the rain, and to solve the problem of energy deficiency in rainy and low-income countries,” Jamalova told Haaretz, adding that her motto is to “light up one house at a time”.
The low-cost prototype can light up nearly 22 LED lamps on an average, generating roughly 3,626 kWH of electricity in a year; that’s enough power to light up a small household. At a time when developing countries are facing acute power crises, Rainergy, if optimised and implemented properly, can relieve pressure on the local power grid besides acting as a backup power source.
A prevalent problem in the case of home-based generation of renewable energy, is the absence of a battery attached to apparatus like the solar panel. However, Rainergy comes with a battery storage which enables it to work even through dry seasons.
Like most alternative energy sources, Jamalova’s device is eco-friendly, emitting only about 10g/kWh of carbon dioxide during electricity production.
What it means for Jamalova and the world
The idea itself led Jamalova to earn a place in the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia List this year, the first person from her country to make the list. She also made an appearance at the Global Summit of Entrepreneurship held in India last November, after receiving an honourable mention at the Model UN Conference in Azerbaijan. Rainergy also made it to the final rounds of the competition at ClimateLaunchpad, Europe’s largest green business idea competition.
We caught up w/15-year old Reyhan Camalova of Azerbaijan, founder of Rainergy, a startup aimed at harvesting energy from rainwater. #GES2017 #entrepreneurs #creatives#startups #renewableenergy #creativestartups pic.twitter.com/IKuGsRXzqb
— Creative Startups (@createstartups) November 29, 2017
The immense potential of this invention, once harnessed, can improve access to cheap environment-friendly alternative energy in tropical developing countries that naturally receive a lot of rain. As for Jamalova, she is now facing a shower of enquiries from interested investors, especially from India, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.