Douglas man helps Cameroon get reliable electricity

A New Brunswick man is changing the way rural communities in Cameroon are powered.

Caleb Grove uses homemade wind turbines and solar panels to power medical clinic and homes

Caleb Grove finds innovative ways to provide electricity to people in Cameroon. 1:04

A New Brunswick man is changing the way rural communities in Cameroon are powered.

Caleb Grove from Douglas has spent months trying different methods to bring reliable electricity to different parts of the African country.

Caleb Grove of Douglas has been trying to use different methods to give different parts of Cameroon a reliable energy supply. (CBC)
"You can't use traditional methods like power-lines," said 24-year-old Grove. "First of all how are you going to afford it? You'd have to bring in big logs? Termites actually eat the logs. There are some power lines in similar communities to ours and the power goes out once a week because termites will take a pole out once a week." 

Grove is using a combination of homemade wind turbines and solar panels to bring electricity to communities, such as those situated on an island in the middle of Lake Bamendjing in rural Cameroon. So far he's powered a medical clinic and several residences, and built charging stations in community centres.  

Caleb Grove is the founder of Mbissa Energy Systems, and he has a pilot project using solar and wind to bring power to Bambalang. 12:50
"Because it's very expensive to built distribution lines, or a grid like in the west, we have to find answers that are culturally appropriate," said Grove. 

Grove has built a network of stations that charge motorcycle batteries while people shop at markets. Once batteries are charged residents take them home to power lights and charge cell-phones for a few days. Grove says that because people walk everywhere in the rural areas they have become the distribution model for electricity instead of poles and wires.

You can go anywhere in the world and they may not have clean water, or electricity, but they'll have cell-phones and Coca-Cola.- Caleb Grove

"They walk everywhere — especially on this island where it makes no sense to have a vehicle," said Grove. "They walk to get food, they walk to get water and they walk to talk to each other.

Grove says ever since he's brought power into some homes, it's given people more time to work during the day and to socialize after it gets dark after 6 p.m. 

"Cell phones are huge," said Grove. "You can go anywhere in the world and they may not have clean water, or electricity, but they'll have cell-phones and Coca-Cola."

"When you allow people to communicate, you change how people live and how they do business," said Grove. "Instead of walking an hour and half to another town, they just make a quick phone call and that really changes how people are able to work, how they move and how they use their time.

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