Young Engineer & Off-Grid Electric Brings Electricity to Remote Areas of Africa

Harvard graduate Bethany Kanten talks about her new startup Off-Grid Electric, a company that leases solar panels to families living in remote regions of Tanzania.
SWE Leadership Summit Update

Recent Harvard Engineering Grad Works in East Africa

Barely a month after her graduation from Harvard, Bethany Kanten, S.B. ’15, was sitting on an airplane bound for East Africa. But Kanten, an electrical engineering concentrator, wasn’t headed to a summer internship or a post-graduation vacation; the Utah native was flying to her new home in Tanzania.

In July, she started working for Off-Grid Electric, a startup that leases solar panels to families living in some of the most remote regions of Tanzania, a nation of 50 million that is struggling to establish a reliable power grid.

“Looking back, I probably should have been a little more apprehensive than I was,” Kanten said. “This is definitely a different path than what I was expecting when I entered college.”

The seeds for her journey to Tanzania were planted while she was a student at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Kanten became engrossed in the energy challenges faced by developing countries, and how renewable energy could help create sustainable economic progress.

During two internships at solar power companies, Kanten saw the difficulties involved in maintaining reliable solar systems in developing nations. So for her senior project in the capstone course Engineering Sciences 100, Kanten developed a system that remotely monitors the energy generated by solar panels and transmits critical data via text message.

“Right now, companies have no way to tell if their solar system is broken, or if the batteries need to be replaced soon, or if part of the system has been stolen,” she said. “By monitoring what is happening with their solar systems, companies could perform maintenance faster and more efficiently so the solar panels have a greater impact on the people who rely on this electricity.”

Her internships also convinced Kanten that, to tackle renewable energy problems in developing countries, she would need to be “boots on the ground.”

Read more here.

Infographic data courtesy of a U.S. Energy Association report.

Reposted from Harvard.edu

Electricity in Africa

>
Scroll to Top