Monday, January 23, 2017

Bringing Electricity to Pibor

         Pibor, South Sudan is a small town with a population of less than 1,000 people. It lies among the Pibor River, and is no exception to the terrible conditions that reside in the country. Approximately 4-5% of South Sudan’s people have access to a form of electricity; the citizens of Pibor are not included in that minority (Countries With The...). With over 800 million living in Sub-Saharan Africa, and around 625 million without power, this comes as no surprise (Parke). All of Sub-Saharan Africa produces about the same amount of electricity as the entire country of Spain, which only has around 45 million people. Also, taking into consideration the current civil war in South Sudan, regarded by the UN as reaching Rwandan levels during their genocide, the people there are in desperate need of assistance. Pibor suffered an attack in the past year as backlash from the war, leaving the town looted and the population in ruin. Doctors Without Borders has set up a center there, but they still live in terrible conditions with no electricity (A Week of...).
         Hydroelectric energy is one of the most cost-efficient and renewable forms of electricity out there. My plan is to utilize the Pibor River’s hydroelectric potential in bringing power to the town. Using this plan, there is a cheap, easily-producible way to do so. Using a normal system, water flows through the generator. This spins the turbines, which in turn power the generator and make a source of electricity available. However, this only offers enough electric input for small electric appliances such as light bulbs, radios, etc; but considering the trouble that Pibor has gone through and still currently is in, even the smallest forms of help will come in handy. Very few towns or cities in South Sudan have electricity, so connecting from another town is out of the question. Realistically, I plan on distributing 60 Watt bulbs to houses in Pibor and connecting them to the generators in the river using copper wires.
          There are many crucial scientific factors to take into account when taking on this project. The head, or distance falling, and flow, volume taken in, of the Pibor River are needed values in calculating how much electricity can be produced and how fast. Unfortunately, due to limitations on the internet and available resources, these could not be found; while this may be a deciding factor, the generator that I chose can produce enough electricity for a small bulb with only running water from a sink. Considering images of the river and a comparison between the sizes of both sources of water, it is safe to assume that the river would provide the needed amount. The Pibor River has a low head, but a high flow (as long as one aspect is high, the power can still be high. The formula is Flow • Head • Gravity.). Hydroelectric generators are never 100% efficient; however, these generators will provide enough for the cause that I seek to support and the small appliances that they need ( . This also serves to remind just how important this project is, as the lack of information provides insight in how off-the-grid and harsh of a life these people live. Most of all, the most crucial is the kind of wire to use. I initially debated between copper and aluminum; both used in houses everywhere, but each having their own strong qualities. The town lies right next to the river, so around 2 kilometers is a generous amount of wire needed for the project; any gone to waste can be applied to fixing the cables if and when they stop working. Here is a table to show what I have found.

Cost per Pound: $2.18
- Much more expensive
Cost per Pound: $0.85
- Significantly cheaper
Resistivity(20 C): 1.68 x 10^-8
- Less resistance, easier electrical transfer
Resistivity(20 C): 2.65 x 10^-8
- Higher resistance, harder electrical transfer
Density: 8.96 g/cm^3
- Higher density, weighs significantly more
Density: 2.70 g/cm^3
- Lower density, weighs significantly less
Ex. Resistance in a 1 km long wire with a diameter of 2.588 mm (Voltage [120 V], Current [½ I]) connected to a 60 Watt bulb:

Cross Sectional Area (pi • r^2): 5.26 mm^2
Resistance (Length • Resistivity • Area):
  1. ((2.588/1000)/2)^2 • 3.14 = 0.00000526 m^2
  2. 1000/0.00000526= 190,114,068
  3. 190,114,068 • 1.68x10^-8 = 3.232 Ω

Ex. Resistance in a 1 km long wire with a diameter of 2.588 mm (Voltage [120 V], Current [½ I]) connected to a 60 Watt bulb:

Cross Sectional Area (pi • r^2): 5.26 mm^2
Resistance (Length • Resistivity • Area):
  1. ((2.588/1000)/2)^2 • 3.14 = 0.00000526 m^2
  2. 1000/0.00000526= 190,114,068
  3. 190,114,068 • 2.65x10^-8 = 5.038 Ω

Ex. Mass in kg of a 1 km long wire with a diameter of 2.588 mm (Voltage [120 V], Current [½ I]) connected to a 60 Watt bulb:

Volume (Length • Area):
  1. 0.00000526 • 1000 = 0.00526 m^3
  2. 0.00526 • 8960 = 47.13 kg

Ex. Mass in kg of a 1 km long wire with a diameter of 2.588 mm (Voltage [120 V], Current [½ I]) connected to a 60 Watt bulb:

Volume (Length • Area):
  1. 0.00000526 • 1000 = 0.00526 m^3
  2. 0.00526 • 2700 = 14.20 kg

(Density of metals...)
(Resistivity and Temp...)

While copper offers less resistance than aluminum, the weight and price are much larger. It costs well over twice for copper for the same amount of aluminum, and weighs over 3 times more. While aluminum can cover longer distances and is more malleable, the chance of the wire value degrading is very high, especially when exposed to weather conditions (Copper vs. Aluminum) . Also, since the electrical input isn't that large in the first place, a particularly conductive wire is not necessarily required. I could not provide an actual example of voltage or current due to lack of resources on the internet about the Pibor River, so only examples could provide the evidence to distinguish between the two materials. Copper would be preferable in this project, as it is the most conductive material out of all the non-precious metals; considering the cheap prices of the actual turbines and generators, spending more for higher quality wires is definitely a worthy tradeoff investment.
Helping Pibor during this time of war is my goal. The positive impacts are a) providing electrical power to a village that needs it b) in a cheap, reliable way with c) no negative environmental impacts. However, there are still possible negative effects on Pibor Post as well. There can be a) hazard risks if the wires are left unattended to, b) they can be made targets in the war for having electricity, and c) they may not even have the electrical appliances that the generators work for. In that case, buying bulbs, radios, and electrical tools is crucial as well (even though it will cost more).
This project starts off as cheap, but can become more expensive depending on how reinforced we want the electrical system in Pibor to be (i.e. 60 watt bulbs, copper wire, etc.). I have found a cheap and easily producible method of hydroelectricity that can bring small amounts of power to a village that needs it in a time of civil war and brutality. However, it is not as easy as that; resistance, head, flow, weather conditions, and location of the generator all factor into the electrical output of the generators. A lot of care, attention, and research must be made into this project still, but it can be made into a possibility.

Works Cited
A Week of Extraordinary Violence in Pibor, South Sudan. (2016, March 04). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from
Copper vs. Aluminum Wiring: Which to Use? (2015, December 31). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from
Countries With The Lowest Access To Electricity. (2016, March 04). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from
Density of metals. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2017, from
Parke, P. (n.d.). Why are 600m Africans still without power? Retrieved January 22, 2017, from
Resistivity and Temperature Coefficient at 20 C. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2017, from (n.d.). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from

1 comment:

  1. Hey Griffin,
    I like your blog post a lot. It is packed with information about getting electricity to Pibor, and it's packed with facts and sources. I really like your use of in text referencing and the table you added to the blog. The table clearly shows your calculations and which is the superior metal to use to transport the electricity. To improve you could add some more Images to your blog. Comments on your presentation are that it was really well informed and factually based, but maybe a bit too many words on each slide.