PowerWells Update 1: Community Consultation Trip Powered By GEM Energy
Getting busy in Bali
For the first leg of their community consultation trip, PowerWells co-founders Brad and Nick have set up their base of operations in Denpasar and travelled around the island to network and meet the who’s who of Balinese recycling, start-up and maker culture. They have sourced an abundance of parts locally and applied a learn by doing approach, assembling several PowerWells microsystems to be installed as trials in remote villages to gather more data on what is needed to make their mission a success.
For those who are playing catch up, the PowerWells journey began late last year at a Hackathon at Logan’s e-waste recycling facility Substation 33. Three guys, all from from very different backgrounds, came up with a plan to combat energy poverty by bringing small-scale, off-grid and upcycled solar and battery-powered energy stations to remote villages in Indonesia and West Papua. The guys worked hard and the concept developed quickly – within three months, a fully recycled power generation kit was designed and tested in an Indonesian village, and $12 000 was raised through their crowdfunding campaign. GEM Energy came on board as major sponsor in February to facilitate the entrepreneurs’ trip to Bali to test the microgeneration power units further and gather more data on how the technology can best serve local communities.
Just two weeks ago, the PowerWells team touched down in Bali to begin their mission. Brad and Nick’s first introduction to the Indonesian start-up scene took place at the start-up coworking space Dojo Bali, where they were warmly welcomed by Brisbane legend Scott Rogers and a bunch of other expats and locals. Their first few days comprised of presenting their mission during one of the “Startups + Social Impact” nights, dealing with flat tyres, celebrating new friendships and local partnerships, as well as gaining insights on local knowledge and street smarts (“how not to be a bad foreigner” and “how not to end up in hospital/jail.”)
Community Consultation Trip Powered by GEM Energy!! Update ONE (by Nick)
Community Consultation Trip Powered by GEM Energy!! Update ONE (by Nick)Monday 26 FebFirst setback - Brad was already on island-time so ‘accidentally’ booked a flight leaving Wednesday instead of Monday. After prepping all night Sunday and getting zero-minutes sleep, there was a flight delay at the airport but thankfully it wasn’t volcano-related. A full-row to myself? Yes please (Zzzz)The airport transfer arranged by the hotel was veeeerrryyyyyy welcome. Very nice not having to pick the ‘best’ of the accosting taxi drivers who’s fare meters are ‘broken’Promptly met up with Brisbane legend – Scott Rogers at the awesome local start-up coworking space Dojo Bali (highly recommend). He’d been around for about a month but seemed so comfortable in the space it seemed like he’d been there a year. He introduced me to ‘everyone I needed to know’ and showed me around all the good spots in Echo Beach. Tuesday 27 FebStarted with a very welcoming ‘welcome new members’ breakfast at Dojo, staff are amazing and the other people who’d just arrived were just as great. Great tips on how not to be a bad foreigner and how to ahhh not end up in hospital and/or jail. Side note, a bit concerned about how we’ll be shipping half-empty paint tins around.Spent most of the day prepping for the presentation Scott and I were doing that night at Dojo on “Startups + Social Impact”. That night, Scott nailed his presentation and my bit was received really well but didn’t get through everything so we’ve been asked to do another talk later on. I did get time to throw Brad under the bus for not being there soooooo I’m a bit concerned about what he’s planning in retaliation.Tuesday night was spent with a few froffies and yarns to see Scott off and thank him for all the groundwork he’s laid here for PowerWells.. planning for a bit of a “you set ‘em up, and I’ll knock ‘em down”Wednesday 28 FebI arrange an airport pickup for Brad and go along for the ride. Brad fiiiiiinally arrives, get’s set up at Dojo and we waste no time in getting down to work. By the end of Wednesday, we had everything planned out for the next…. day? Haha nah we made a few tweaks to the plan for the whole trip and we’re very much navigating this with a compass, rather than with a map. Current mood: Positive. Current outlook: Let’s fucking do this. In a word: GoGEM Energy Substation 33 YFS Advance Queensland Logan City Council River City Labs Logan Startup Hub StartSomeGood.com Techstars#PowerWells #EverydayElon #0to1 #SWLogan17Nai-post ni PowerWells noong Huwebes, Marso 1, 2018
To find a cheap, local e-waste source for laptop batteries took some sniffing around, including a visit to Denpasar’s main garbage dump – which was a total reality check. Landfill is, of course, a ubiquitous issue, but developing countries cast a special light on the dire situation of people (and animals) living in dumps. Plastic is the scavenged resource of choice at Denpasar’s dump, worth 40c per large bag. The PowerWells team found no e-waste there, and generally, it seems that Balinese recycling culture is coming along quite healthily with several recycling stations for different materials spread around – great news for this gorgeous island and its gorgeous people!
Brad and Nick finally hit the jackpot after digging through a shopping mall full of second-hand electronics – they found their supplier for large quantities (3000!) of old laptop batteries, for 5000 rupiah (or 50 cents AUD) each.
PowerWells found a home at Bisamake Makerspace, Bali’s newest maker space with an impressive array of machinery including 3D printers and all kinds of tools. There is also a well-stocked retail section with loads of spare parts for the guys to rely on. Brad and Nick are assembling the first lot of PowerWells units for the trial here (as well as in their hotel room). To assemble the second lot of PowerWells units, the rest of the 100 units they have crowdfunded, they are looking to rent a shop next door later in the year.
Community Consultation Trip Powered by GEM Energy!! Update TWO (by Nick)
Community Consultation Trip Powered by GEM Energy!! Update TWO (by Nick)Thursday 1 MarStarted the morning by renting a scooter and heading to Seminyak to meet with Tony Wheeler’s mate Gary, who has been living in a fairly remote part of Bali for the past five or so years. Gary has great insight into the social structures of the communities we’re planning to go into and had some great suggestions on where we might be able to find electronic waste. We’re thinking of putting some PowerWells in the villages near his place.We headed over to Bali’s new maker space – Bisamake. Great group of people there that are doing interesting things (and have big plans that align with what PowerWells is doing). Their machinery is very impressive and the retail section has lots of the spare parts needed for PowerWells so it’s a big relief that we now know where to get spares locally. We’re going to make this round of PowerWells there at Bisamake with them and when we return to do the rest of the 100, we may rent out a shop next door. The next stop was the main garbage dump in Denpasar. It’s an imposing scale and a very confronting sight. We rode right into the thick of it and were quite filthy by the end. There were about 100 people there scavenging for plastic that we later found out to be worth only 40c for a large bag full. We joked around a bit to try to get through it but the dire situation for the people and the environment really weighed heavy on our minds during our time there and for a long while after. There was zero e-waste there, which means that it must be somewhere else, right?On the ride home, we were pretty silent until we got a flat tyre. It happened on the last trip too, flat tyres and PowerWells seem to go together. Both times it’s been right after doing fairly stupid shit with the vehicle that probably deserved at least a flat tyre. We were quite close to crashing and slowly came to a stop in front of an ice-tea factory. A guy who was leaving the factory on his scooter pulled over to help us, he just so happened to be the mechanic who works on the fleet of delivery vehicles. He went down the road, got a tube for the tyre and fixed it for us right there. A result that’s about as good as you could hope for.Friday 2 MarWe spent the morning at Dojo Bali, including revisiting our list of assumptions and things that were critical to the success of this trip. Right at the top, underlined and circled, was that we needed a large, cheap supply of old laptop batteries. We went to a shopping mall that was full of second-hand electronics, much like Glodok in Jakarta, where we found laptop batteries on the last trip. After Brad recovered from accidentally eating a chilli, we set off around the mall looking for laptop batteries. The bottom level was all nice computers and cameras, the level up was slightly less nice computers and cameras, the top level was mostly repair shops. There were about 5 shops that visibly had separate laptop batteries, the third one we went to was where we struck gold. They had about 50 there, said they could get another box from their friend (unsure how big that box would be). The price would be 5000 rupiah each (about 50c). We tentatively asked if they could get a huge quantity, like 3000, which was received as us trying to haggle the price as it was hard to say 3000 units, not 3000 rupiah. Eventually we got to an understanding that we wanted a large quantity and he said, “ahhh, ummmm, ahhhhhhhhhhhh, maybe three days or up to a week to get that many” and with that, we were a HUGE step toward ticking of our biggest, hairiest, most critical assumption, being that we’d be able to get enough batteries. We were elated and it was perfect timing as Dojo was throwing a big party that night that we’d been tentative about as we’re not here to party buttt it was a huge win so we ahh.. partied a fair bit that night.GEM Energy Substation 33 YFS Advance Queensland Logan City Council River City Labs Logan Startup Hub StartSomeGood.com #PowerWells #EverydayElon #0to1 #SWLogan17Nai-post ni PowerWells noong Linggo, Marso 4, 2018
It seems like some great new partnerships were born for PowerWells over the last week, and Brad and Nick have found plenty of support and helping hands wherever their travels and scooter rides have taken them. One of the most fortuitous connections occurred near Ubud at the amazing eco-village, Sundaya, a showcase for sustainable building and living. One of the residents, Petra, has been providing small solar systems for remote local communities for many years – so there was a lot of common ground to be covered!
Petra put the guys in touch with several people that are now supporting them on their various missions – it’s beautiful how things fall into place when your mission is just.
PowerWells secured help for fieldwork and filming through the IDEP Foundation who do amazing work in environmental education and emergency assistance throughout Indonesia. The other exciting connection is with a local recycling specialist who has been using e-waste for years for solar projects and developing Eco-bricks, which are a brick-like construction material made from waste plastics.
And then Brad and Nick found their plastic bucket supplier from Bali Recycling – another promising contact for future recycling projects! The plastic buckets hold all the PowerWell electronics perfectly.
Community Consultation Trip Powered by GEM Energy!! Update THREE (by Nick)
Community Consultation Trip Powered by GEM Energy!! Update THREE (by Nick)It’s been a good week, we’ve done a heap of travel, planned a lot of the community consultation field work, sourced a lot of components and built a few PowerWells, but it all really rolled together so there’s no day by day breakdown for this update.We went up to near Ubud to meet with Petra from Sundaya who has been providing small solar systems to remote communities for many years. She lives in an amazing eco-village that’s achieved a lot of sustainable outcomes and the liveability is on point. Great visit and we’ll be doing a lot together in the future.Petra put us on to Shirley from IDEP Foundation who do amazing work in environmental education and emergency assistance throughout Indonesia and will be helping us with field work and filming. Petra also introduced us to Russel who’s been using e-waste for many years on many educational solar projects and has a massive impact on construction throughout Indonesian communities with Ecobricks, which are a brick-like construction material made from waste plastics. Petra alssooo put us in contact with Olivier from Bali Recycling who really came through with the plastic buckets to house the electronics (and ensured that we didn't pay exorbitant foreigner rates. Really looking forward to working with him and the Bali Recycling team in the future.Thanks, David from Agunity for putting us in touch with Petra!!We’ve broken down over a hundred laptop batteries, both In Bisamake Makerspace and at our hotel. We’ve put together a few PowerWells already and have most of the materials to do a few more so we’ve made the call to spread the community consultation a little bit wider than the three we were planning to do so we’ll hopefully get a bit more quantitative data to make better-informed decisions on how to refine the design and functionality of future PowerWells. Current mood: Patient. Current outlook: Worth it for improved qual and quant info. In a word: MakeGEM Energy Substation 33 YFS Advance Queensland Logan City Council River City Labs Logan Startup Hub StartSomeGood.com Techstars #PowerWells #EverydayElon #0to1 #SWLogan17Nai-post ni PowerWells noong Lunes, Marso 12, 2018
By now the guys have broken down over 100 laptop batteries and have assembled a number of PowerWells units. They are increasing their initial target of three to spread the community consultation a little wider and get more quantitative data. Key to the success of the whole trip is to gather as much information as possible so they can make well-informed decisions on the design and functionality of the PowerWells units. Plus they might as well use up the components they have on hand!
GEM Energy is excited to follow and champion the PowerWells mission and journey as their official sponsor. We would like to congratulate the guys on their progress so far and wish them all the best for the coming weeks! On ya guys, great work!