Rainergy: A story of determination, success and sustainable energy

How one girl from a small village in Azerbaijan created a device that generates electricity from raindrops

Reyhan Jamalova
Reyhan Jamalova
UNICEF
10 February 2020

About the author

Reyhan Jamalova is a 16 year-old student and entrepreneur from Azerbaijan. She is the founder and CEO of Rainergy, a company that harvests energy from rainwater through a device she developed. The device works by collecting rainwater and then sending it through a high speed generator which produces energy. The energy can then be stored, which relieves pressure on the local power grid by providing communities with an additional source of electricity.

 

At the age of 5, I first heard about children in Somalia when my mom talked about a fundraising campaign to assist them. I learned how limited their access to education, food, and water was. I decided to create an initiative together with my best friend. We brought all our toys, colorful pencils and sweets to the yard, and started to sell them to our parents since there was nobody else living there apart from our families.

At the end of the day, we were proud of ourselves as we collected $10, "a great amount of money" for us at that time. When I gave the money to my mom to donate it to the charity which helps children in Somalia, she burst into tears, hugged, and thanked me. It was the first time I discovered the happiness of helping others.

Reyhan and her team
UNICEF

I was born in a small village in northern Azerbaijan, where access to education is very limited. There are no science, technology, engineering and mathematics (called STEM) opportunities for girls. Girls are also expected to get married by 17 and to dedicate the rest of their lives to serve the family. Being born in such a place inspired me to be an advocate for girls' rights and a voice for youngsters in my country.

As a 12-year-old village girl I had already broken some stereotypes about girls' capabilities in my community by receiving the highest score on the entrance exam for a famous school in Baku and then moving away from my family to attend that school to get a better education.

The Rainergy project, which I founded at the age of 14, is the greatest tool that helped me motivate hundreds of youngsters, especially girls, in my country.

Having witnessed temporary blackouts caused by strong rains in my rural village, I often thought about how hard it is for people to live in a permanent power outage due to unimaginable heavy rains throughout the year. This is what led me to the idea of harnessing energy from rainwater.

As a 14-year-old girl with ambitions to contribute to a global solution of the world’s energy problem, I set on the long and arduous journey of transforming my raw idea into a grand project.

Although at first the entrepreneurial community in Azerbaijan laughed at my idea and I was confronted with several obstacles, I successfully grew Rainergy from a concept proposed at the 2017 ClimateLaunchpad pre-accelerator program to being a Forbes 30 under 30 startup in 2018.

Rainergy presentation
UNICEF

"The Rainergy project, which I founded at the age of 14, is the greatest tool that helped me motivate hundreds of youngsters, especially girls, in my country"

I remember the time when the generator I had been building with my team for 3 sleepless months burned to ashes in front of my eyes just 4 days before the ClimatelaunchPad national final. At that time, the engineering consultant mentoring us suddenly decided to quit calling our idea ‘a product of hideous idealism’ that is ‘bound to fail’.

Two of the country’s leading engineers to whom we turned to for help to rebuild the prototype in four days rejected us saying ‘the impossibility of undertaking’ as the reason. The only option we had was to redesign the generator model from scratch - which meant doing three months’ worth of work in four days. I simply wanted to quit.

However, I realized that the decision I would make would not only decide whether our team’s hard work would mean something in the end but also whether I will ever be an entrepreneur or not. There, filled with emotions, I gave the most effective speech of my life in front of my teammates. I was very lucky that everyone in my team decided to continue rebuilding the prototype model from scratch and work sleeplessly to produce the best model ever that could be built in four days.

In the national final, we won the “Audience Favorite Startup” Award, which also marked the start of my journey to contribute to a global solution of the world’s energy problem.

Although I have not yet achieved my goal of assisting communities living in rural parts of rainy countries to have access to electricity, my motivation should not be underestimated.

"I try my best to motivate girls to pursue their passions by sharing my story of turning a simple raw idea that nobody believed in into a sustainable business model"

Forbes
UNICEF

I now promote talented young people with innovative ideas by acting as a speaker in many youth-related events, meeting with young people, and encouraging them to innovate. I try my best to motivate girls to pursue their passions by sharing my story of turning a simple raw idea that nobody believed in into a sustainable business model.

I know that I am helping to benefit society when students come to me after my presentations and tell me that I gave them hope. I know that I am on the right path - just like the five-year-old me once dreamed about.

In my opinion, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science breaks the stereotypes of girls' capabilities and potential by promoting successful women worldwide, thus inspiring girls to believe in themselves and pursue their passion in a particular branch of science.

Our world’s future, the betterment of our lives and future generations depend on youth, both boys and girls; therefore, let’s believe in ourselves and our capabilities, work hard, never give up, and immerse in science to tackle our global problems!