Sierra Leone to this day, still has one of the least established and unreliable energy grids in the world, with only 26% of the population being able to completely access power. The power to enhance a neighbours quality of life however, is very much established in the country, and is most recently displayed by young man Jeremiah Thoronka. A young man who looked around and saw his country rampant with deforestation from people needing to burn firewood for heat and light, a health crisis that requires a larger energy funnel to draw from and many students his age or younger falling behind on their schooling without appropriate lighting in their homes to see their work. He put his mind to work and did something about it.
At a remarkable 17 years of age, Jeremiah launched Optim Energy. His company startup converts heat, pressure, and movement into electricity from a machine implemented under the earth’s surface. This means that the device can absorb the vibrations from overhead traffic such as vehicles and people passing over the ground, giving us a result that sees people being able to generate electricity for each other without even realising it, without needing a battery operator, any external power fundamentals as well as zero emissions being released during the public supply regeneration. “The Sun is not always shining, water is drying up, fossil fuels are not always going to be used, but people are always moving,” says Thoronka
Mr Thoronka told the BBC in a feature piece,
“I wanted to develop a more sustainable energy system, educate people about energy efficiency and stop their overuse of natural resources.”
Thoronka ran a pilot programme in his hometown of Kuntoluh where he was able to power 150 homes (covering 1,500 people) and 15 schools (over 9,000 students) all absolutely free of charge. The community accepted the option right away and saw huge performance improvement in schools, deforestation levels and health now that hokes didn’t have to be smoked out with constant firewood for light.
Since then, Jeremiah and Optim Energy have received an abundance of international praise. In March last year, he won the Commonwealth youth Award which is given 5 times per year to people who are transforming lives in their communities and helping the United Nations meet sustainable development goals. A spokesperson from the award ceremony was quoted saying,
“The start-up’s use of piezoelectric technology to generate clean, affordable energy, and smart digital communication demonstrates an impressive display of innovation, creativity and thought leadership. Optim Energy offers an unprecedented opportunity to both tackle growing environmental and economic issues, and move the energy sector to an era of efficiency and reliability if it continues to scale.”
Now that some power is established and growing, Jeremiah has been on a new quest to educate his country as far and wide as possible about the benefits of clean energy, efficient energy and how to calculate your usage properly between peak and off peak times. Now 20, he has received his second prize from the commonwealth for regional top student, with the award being virtually recognised and delivered by Hugh Jackman.
“You’ve made an enormous difference to your community and far beyond. I’m sure that you will now use this incredible platform to make an even bigger impact.”
Mr Thoronka goes on to say, “The Commonwealth award goes beyond recognition. It gave Optim Energy a stamp of approval and has opened new doors.The company is just starting a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme on an energy project on the busy coastline of Sierra Leone.”
Mr Thoronka also hopes to provide power to health clinics in Sierra Leone. “The health sector is struggling with energy poverty. In the long term, we are planning on using Optim Energy for hospitals in busy areas.”
Perhaps a conversation could be had between Jeremiah and Mr Musk seeing as they both seem to be working as ethically as possible to a similar cause, Elon who already has some tunnel (or rather, large pit) digging experience could possibly consider installing these devices in between the roof of the tunnel and the soles of our feet knocking off a few birds with a very big stone? Who knows what the future holds!