SA teen’s cheap energy plan


He was determined to make a positive contribution to SA so Rikus du Plessis (17) of Strand in the Western Cape devised a way to empower poor communities in his area. The result is the Think Green job-creation project.

It started with the energy balls – a cheap domestic fuel source – Rikus created for Eskom’s Expo for Young Scientists two years ago. They earned him a silver medal in the regional competition.

He hopes the balls – made from recycled waste such as newspapers, sawdust and candlewax – will help to prevent poor people from chopping down trees for fuel.

Rikus has a lot of compassion for people in difficulty, his mom, former teacher Elma du Plessis, says. ‘‘He doesn’t want new clothes. When I give him money for a cooldrink he says no thanks, he’d rather I put every cent into the project.’’

He spent months researching how to make the energy balls and another year testing them to perfect the process. He ended up with two kinds – one made of candlewax, the other made of sawdust. ‘‘I did everything in controlled circumstances in our indoor braai and gathered and measured the data in a scientific way,’’ says Rikus, who’s in Grade 11 at Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch.

It takes three to five days to make the balls and dry them properly. The candlewax balls burn longer but wax is scarcer. They cost about 60 cents each and one ball can cook noodles and boil two cups of water.

‘‘The sawdust balls cost about 40 cents and even though they don’t burn as long as the wax ones they’re still cheaper than paraffin,’’ he says.

‘‘With the energy balls experiment I also wanted to find out what the best potential energy source is other than coal.

The balls are really essential in our society where more and more trees are being cut down for firewood. The wood, coal and oil reserves of the world are diminishing.’’

Read the 13 May issue of YOU for more information on this project.

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