03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Post Copenhagen: Is Innovation the Solution?

Copenhagen has demonstrated the challenge of reaching world consensus on climate change. Despite acceptance that there is no Planet B, the rift between rich and poor countries is vast. It's useful to remember that innovation may be what saves the planet, not worldwide treaties.

At the Tech Awards Gala in Silicon Valley last month, innovation came in abundance. A project called Cows to Kilowatts created a lot of buzz. Its goal? Converting effluent from cows into fuel for low-income communities in Africa. The catchy title certainly won the attention of the crowds, but the project won accolades for more than mere words. In an exclusive Fresh Dialogues interview, Dr. Joseph Adelegan, an Ashoka Fellow explained the inspiration for his project and his ultimate vision for Cows to Kilowatts.

Adelegan is a charismatic engineer who has found an effective way to harness the energy from animal waste and won the $50,000 Intel Environment Award which will allow him to develop the technology further. He and his team at the Nigeria based Global Network for Environment and Economic Development Research, are creating cooking gas and electricity from slaughterhouse effluent that might otherwise lead to harmful pollution.

Adelegan's project alone will not stop global warming, but is an excellent example of innovation where rich and poor nations are working together to create a greener future.

Here are some highlights from the Fresh Dialogues interview

What does the Tech Award mean to Dr. Adelegan?

"We've received several awards... so it's not really receiving the award... but the opportunity to network, to meet great minds in Silicon Valley... see people who've gone through the same as you've gone through...We've seen scientists and inventors, visited Microsoft and Intel..we've seen people doing some encouraging things...Sometimes you think you are crazy doing this type of stuff, but you see that people are as crazy as you. You have to be crazy to be creative...." (We agreed there were LOTS of crazy creative people in Silicon Valley)

Why does Al Gore inspire him?

"To me, he's a motivator and like a mentor. If someone like him can stand up and fight the cause of climate change and global warming and win the Nobel Prize, I think there's a future for some of us, because we see him up there. What we are doing is also combating climate change... water pollution, so we think, in years to come we have a future."

What is the ultimate vision for Cows to Kilowatts?

"To spread this innovation across Nigeria, most parts of Africa and other developing countries...The big innovation we have is to apply this technology to other types of waste, any organic waste...two years ago, we won an award from the World Bank. Currently we're talking to breweries, dairy product companies so that their waste can be converted to electricity."

For more information on the Tech Awards, and interviews with other green innovators go to Fresh Dialogues.


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