Field testing and demonstration in Bermuda …

Power-in-a-BoxTM was packed up and secured for overseas transport June 20, 2013.Destination: Bermuda.

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It was lifted by crane and placed onto a ground carrier truck that is certified for loading dock placements, and compliant with UIIA licensing. This type of truck does not pick up a container using a tilted truck bed. A Princeton University crane was used.


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On June 21st, 2013 the container was loaded onto the OLEANDER v1710 of Bermuda Container Lines.
BIOS, our first host in Bermuda, arranged for duty-free import of the container, classifying it as scientific research equipment.

In June 2013, three Princeton students plus a local high school student reconstructed the Power-in-a-BoxTM system upgrading it from the prototype of 2012 to a full hybrid system complete with a sensor system for power performance testing. They were greatly assisted by two local welders who installed the steel frame in the base of the container to hold the track. The also welded plates to which the electrical junction boxes were attached as well as the cable winches.
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The new system is constructed inside an open-top 20 foot standard cargo shipping container, unlike the prototype which was built inside a closed-top 20 foot container for which the top had been partially cut out, rendering it unfit for overseas transport. The original triangular truss telescoping tower, base and track were taken from the prototype and reused, as was the Whisper 100 wind turbine. The new system has a new six-panel solar array, a hybrid charge controller, and a 24 V bank of twelve deep cycle batteries.

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The new system has a new cable guy wire system with four-point connections to each of the container corners, a three-tiered guy wire system to each of the elements of the telescoping tower, and turnbuckles for tension adjustment. The sensor system is designed to collect power generation data for the wind turbine and solar panels, as well as battery discharge rates, wind speeds, and solar radiation intensity.

One of the objectives of the Power-in-a-BoxTM project in 2013 and 2014 was to deploy the system to a site for testing and demonstration. In April 2013, it was decided that Bermuda would be this site. Note that no EPA P3 grant funds were used to pay for sending the container or student interns to Bermuda. Support for this field work came from internal Princeton University grants.

The remote deployment goals were:

  • Goal 1: to test the technical performance of the Power-in-a-Box systemTM in an island setting. We originally designed this project for Haiti, so the harsh but windy conditions of an island setting are perfect for the technical testing. The testing will include: structural stability, power production, and durability (in corrosive salt mist).
  • Goal 2: to test the international shipping logistics. Shipping to an island location includes working with an international shipping company, and getting through customs in a foreign country.
  • Goal 3: to have impact by demonstrating renewable energy in an energy-impoverished nation.

Bermuda as a testing and demonstration site was a change in our original plans. The plan proposed in our Phase II grant was to deploy it in Africa, touring villages, demonstrating wind energy, and educating youths. It was originally planned in collaboration with our contacts in Kenya, access:Energy, an NGO advocating and enabling small-scale wind energy applications. That country was a good option because it is a nation in transition with respect to electric power. However, after much deliberation, we decided not to deploy to Kenya.  It was not a feasible option for us because of safety/security risks, the reported possibility of corruption in customs, and the lack of ministry support.

We started considering options other than developing nations, and through some useful contacts, the option of Bermuda arose. We were very fortunate to have established several good partnerships:

  1. Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS). BIOS has a long-standing relationship with Princeton University (in the area of marine science). BIOS expressed interest in testing our device to power its remote and mobile experiments and/or its remote weather stations. They are also the leading educational institution on the island and, to quote the COO, “just about every Bermudian from grade four to twelve comes through [their] doors.” A partnership with BIOS would allow us to use the device as an educational tool while testing its application at an off-the-grid BIOS research station. Also BIOS offered their assistance in helping us to navigate the international shipping logistics. Finally, scientists from all over the work visit BIOS, so there was potential to have broad international impact beyond Bermuda.
  2. Wadson Farms. Tom Wadson runs a sustainable organic farm, has lots of visibility, and is highly connected in local industry and the national government in Bermuda. On our behalf, he would help us pitch wind power to citizens as well as government officials. Furthermore, his farm provides an ideal testing site for novel off-grid applications of renewable energy in the context of small-scale organic farming. In March, he agreed to allow us to install a wind/solar monitoring system, from which we collected data to evaluate the power generation potential for that location.
  3. The National Museum of Bermuda. Dr. Edward Harris, the Executive Director of the museum, graciously gave us permission to locate the container on museum grounds. Being on the northwest tip of Bermuda, this site is very windy and would be an excellent place for testing structural stability and power generation. Furthermore, numerous tourists visit the museum, providing an opportunity for demonstration and broad outreach.


In recent years, the Bermudian government recognized that their dependence on fossil fuels is neither environmentally nor economically sustainable, and they described themselves as “a nation facing an energy crisis.” In 2008, the Department of Energy in Bermuda was created with the mandate to reduce fossil fuel dependency, maintain energy security and encourage greenhouse gas emissions reductions. In 2011, The Bermuda Department of Energy published a white paper, that is a roadmap for a national energy transition, and they see themselves as being a model for other small-island nations. Among other things, they encourage adoption of wind and solar technologies, and they have reduced import fees for these renewable energy devices.  At Princeton, we recognized that the Power-in-a-BoxTM project would serve to demonstrate small-scale wind and solar energy in Bermuda and could foster Bermuda’s adoption of renewable energy and this could serve as a model transition for other island nations.


For all of these reasons, we decided on Bermuda as our first overseas deployment.

A multidisciplinary team of Princeton students designed, built and tested new technology for shipping a sustainable electric power generator to recovering and off-the-grid communities, serving to replace diesel generators.

The 1 kW system includes a wind turbine that can be transported in a shipping container, and erected to 40 ft in about 45 minutes using only human power. Last weekend the students brought their “Power-in-a-Box” system to Washington DC to compete in the EPA P3 National Sustainable Design EXPO, winning a grant of $90,000. They will use the Phase II grant to further develop the technology and test its deployment in rural communities. Team member Emily Moder ‘13 said “After all the time we had spent on this project, looking at every way it could be improved and examining every design feature from a multidisciplinary perspective, I knew that our project had the potential to make a huge difference in the world – but it was nice to hear it from the judges too!”

The student team was led by Profs. Peters and Bou-Zeid in an EPICS course. A conceptual model by architecture professor Jane Harrison and her associates at ATOPIA was the original inspiration for the Power-in-a-Box design.

Link to Princeton University news article