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Create Your Own Electricity: Could This One Invention Solve The World’s Energy Problem?

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By Shruti Aurangabadkar

The issue with existing batteries, is that they suck,” said Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, of the electric car fame, in the grand unveiling of Tesla’s new home battery system on the 30th of April. Called ‘Powerwall‘, the futuristic-looking units are intended to serve as a storage for renewable energy. Tesla’s pitch is that solar panels can be used to charge the batteries during the day, and be used at night. According to Musk, this means one could theoretically live without the electrical grid.

tesla-sign

This development can serve to silence one of the biggest criticisms against renewable energy sources such as solar and wind – their irregularity. Instead of the most common policies used to encourage the use of renewable energy (which are yet to hit India), feed-in tariffs will allow you to sell the power you generate to the grid, and then buy it back at night. Solar panel users can now rely on their own power, deciding which to use at which point – Tesla batteries have a control system you can configure through the Internet.

The ‘Powerwall‘ is a wall-mounted energy storage device that comes in two configurations – with a capacity of 10 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy (priced at $3,500), or 7 kWh ($3,000), the former for weekly cycles and the latter for daily. They can be installed together with up to nine batteries, with a total capacity of 90 kWh or 63 kWh respectively, and have a 10 year warranty. Their continuous electricity supply as announced at around 2kW, is not stellar though, it is just enough electricity to power two small AC units.

The large scale version offered for commercial needs, the ‘Powerpack‘, offers a minimum 500kWh capacity, and is designed to scale infinitely. Basically lithium-ion batteries at core, similar to the ones in your phone and your laptop, these batteries will help in the easy harness of solar power in addition to giving a more reliable backup system in case of power failure.

There is already discussion about how this will affect oil-based economies if solar power suddenly becomes a lot more viable. An easier and comparatively cheaper form of using renewable energy means lesser reliance on fossil fuels, greener generation of electricity, lesser carbon emissions, and reduced damage to the environment. It is also possible that this will be a roadblock for proponents of nuclear energy. While also a clean source of energy, the potential risks, and the dumping of waste are both still unsolved questions. Another aspect that will be affected by this is a higher number of investors and a resultant overall price drop for the renewable energy sector.

At an immediate level, the Tesla CEO himself talked about the potential of reaching remote locations. Setting up a solar panel-Powercell combination in less accessible places in developing nations will altogether alleviate the need for a connection to the electricity grid.

This by no means is the first such product to offer a way to store renewable energy; the key difference is the existing infrastructure, Tesla’s Gigafactory is already in place and testing has already been conducted on their electric car. Which should mean a more reliable, and a lot cheaper supply. An $18,300 version of the Tesla home battery has already been tested as part of a pilot program in 300 houses in California. “Our goal here is to fundamentally change the way the world uses energy,” said Musk during the Energy event, “at the extreme scale.” It seems like an encouraging start.

While the batteries aren’t suitable for regular domestic use just yet, the 10kWh version is meant to go through only around 50 charge cycles per year, according to the spokesperson of Musk’s sister-initiative SolarCity, a provider of energy services, the 7kWh version, “doesn’t make financial sense in the US” with the buy-back schemes. Current economic viability aside, this might be the ‘Next Big Thing’ in energy. Musk talks about the world eventually transitioning away from fossil fuels to a more sustainable-energy future. As of now, the Powerwall starts shipping in US this summer, and plans to deliver internationally are already in motion. There has been an announcement of approximately 38,000 pre-orders, which means Tesla is “basically sold out through the first half of next year.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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