Startup charges ahead in remote communities

A Queensland startup is combining recycled laptop batteries and waste products to create solar-powered kits that provide off-grid electricity to remote communities.

Powerwells, which has developed a solar-powered battery pack from e-waste, was one of 10 startups from Redland and Logan, south of Brisbane, to participate at Myriad earlier this year, through the Queensland Government’s Advancing Regional Innovation Program (ARIP).

Queensland Innovation Minister Kate Jones said economic development initiatives like ARIP were helping regional startups like Powerwells make global connections and secure supporters and investors for their innovations.

“Powerwells has found a terrific use for electronic waste that reduces landfill and could be a game changer for people in isolated communities around the globe,” she said.

“Not only will the innovation make the world a better place, this concept has huge commercial potential.

“That’s why we’re investing in companies like Powerwells – to create sustainable jobs in places like Logan.

“We’re committed to giving innovative regional businesses opportunities to build connections and strengthen their capabilities.”

Powerwells co-founder Nick Kamols welcomed the government’s support and the introductions and advice they have received.

“Through events like Myriad and startup weekends, we’ve been refining our business ideas and getting our story out to hundreds of people, and we’ve gained some terrific leads that are starting to benefit us,” Mr Kamols said.

“We started only six months ago and without the help of Queensland businesses to fund our recent community engagement trip, our product might not be what people living in remote areas actually need.

“Our power-generation kit is installed in 11 Indonesian villages but there are thousands of others across Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands without reliable electricity that would benefit from our work.

“We believe we can help people living in very remote parts of Queensland too, and by ramping up local production we will create jobs in the Logan area.”

Mr Kamols said laptop batteries that still had a lot of life get tossed away unnecessarily, and that is mainly what they were salvaging.

Everything except the solar panel is packed into old, 20L paint or cooking oil tins.

The kit can be assembled quickly to provide a small, off-grid energy supply system for a local community and it costs as little as $200.

Mr Kamols said villagers use the power for lighting and for staying connected to the outside world.

Under ARIP, 12 regions each receive $500,000 over three years to encourage collaborative region-wide projects that support the local economy and create jobs.

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