Young innovators on their way to revolutionize the renewable energy landscape in Bangladesh
Team BD Highway Turbine from Bangladesh among global winners of the Generation Unlimited imaGen Ventures Youth Challenge
Three bright minds from Bangladesh – Abdullah Al Araf (25), Johora Gulshan Ara (25), and Rahat Uddin (25) – stand tall among the champions of the 2022 Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge, a global competition challenging young minds across the world to tackle their community’s toughest problems, supporting them to translate their ideas into reality.
The idea of BD Highway Turbine emerged from a collective desire to combat the pressing issue of climate change and reduce dependency on non-renewable energy sources. One of the contributors to climate change is carbon emissions from power plants and the consequences ripple through communities, with far-reaching effects such as heightened vulnerability to natural disasters and increased susceptibility to disease outbreaks. Recognizing the urgent need for sustainable solutions, these innovators embarked on a mission to develop a new way to harness the power of renewable energy.
Pioneering change initiative for renewable energy
Bangladesh is heavily dependent on non-renewable energy sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas, which are decreasing with time. Although the country is working on becoming climate-neutral and has set up wind turbines, the popularity of the traditional wind turbines is still low, largely due to the noise pollution they cause along with adverse environmental impacts.
Designed for highways, coastal areas, and riverside, the BD Highway Turbine initiative introduces a vertical-axis wind turbine, transforming bustling highways and coastal zones into renewable energy hubs. Harnessing the kinetic energy generated by fast-moving vehicles and natural winds, this turbine is an eco-friendly alternative. Unlike its horizontal counterparts, these vertical-axis turbines pose no threat to avian life and are efficient even in densely populated urban landscapes.
"Our groundbreaking product is very efficient and has many aerodynamic characteristics. It gives full rated output within 4 to 5 hours a day, and the wind power harnessed through this method can be used for street lighting, traffic signal lighting, toll gates, etc. These turbines also match solar energy well because wind and solar have opposite panel patterns when they produce energy,” explained Rahat Uddin, the Chief Technology Officer at BD Highway Turbine.
Innovating for sustainability
Their innovative technology, equipped with built-in sensors and an advanced IoT platform, extends beyond energy generation by monitoring crucial city parameters such as temperature, humidity, wind, and CO2 levels. Additionally, a user-friendly mobile app will provide real-time data about the generated energy and measurements made by BD Highway Turbine.
This revolutionary idea developed into a scalable business solution through the team’s participation at the Generation Unlimited imaGen Ventures Youth Challenge 2022. All the milestones within this challenge, starting from bootcamps, mentoring from experts, getting seed fund for developing prototype which has been installed experimentally in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, further propelled their innovation forward.
In Bangladesh, the Generation Unlimited imaGen Ventures Youth Challenge is led by UNICEF in partnership with JAAGO Foundation Trust, Bangladesh Brand Forum, SIYB Bangladesh, Technovation, and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Empowering young trailblazers
In August 2023, two teams were selected by the jury at the national pitching event from the competing 19 teams to participate in the global phase of the challenge. Finally, in December 2023, BD Highway Turbine was declared as one of the 10 winning teams out of 40 teams from 20 participating countries in a surprise announcement at the UNICEF Bangladesh office. The team along with the other nine global winners will receive seed funding of USD 10,000 per team to directly invest in their ventures and access to global incubation opportunities.
“Team BD Highway Turbine has developed an amazing way to harness energy, to take full advantage of all the things that happen naturally and generate more electricity without any adverse effect on the environment. It is a great achievement for the youth, and a great achievement for Bangladesh. I am very proud of these young innovators,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh.
However, BD Highway Turbine still has a long way to go to reach their goal of making the wind turbines a global industry. “In our team, each of us is driven by a distinct passion – sustainability, technology innovation, and community impact. With this seed fund and access to mentorship, knowledge-sharing programmes, and incubation, we will be able to bring you smart and renewable cities of the future,” said Johora Gulshan Ara.
In the dynamic landscape of renewable energy, BD Highway Turbine stands as a beacon of hope. With each milestone achieved, the team edges closer to realizing their vision of ushering in a greener, cleaner tomorrow. UNICEF is committed to supporting these young visionaries, as they pave the way for a more sustainable future.