OKdo ROCK Challenge: Interview with Promise Okwuchukwu. Bringing energy storage to Africa

author avatar

21 Nov, 2023

Render of the Mijolnia product. Image: Mijolnia

Render of the Mijolnia product. Image: Mijolnia

In response to the OKDo Engineering Challenge provocation, the CEO of Mijolnia, Promise Okwuchukwu, submitted a proposal to use the ROCK SBC in their Mijolnia Prime 1, a rechargeable battery system designed to store solar charge and provide energy to households and businesses.

The ROCK Engineering Challenge invited engineers, entrepreneurs, inventors, and developers to submit an idea for a part, product, or system that took advantage of the ROCK single-board computers. The challenge received a significant number of submissions from across the globe, impressing the judging panel with cutting-edge applications of single-board computers. In a new series, we are speaking with entrants from the challenge to learn more about their innovative ideas. 

Our first interview is with Promise Okwuchukwu from the company Mijolnia. Mijolnia designs, manufactures and deploys battery storage systems in Africa. The judges were impressed with his proposed solution using the ROCK 4C+ to optimize energy storage and distribution.

Wevolver writer Lori Baldwin, interviewed Promise to learn more about his company, what motivated him to enter the challenge, and the plans for his product.

Lori Baldwin: Hi Promise, It's lovely to meet you. I’m very curious to hear how things are going with your project, but let's start first with what motivated you to build the Mijolnia Prime 1. Can you describe the primary problem that it aims to address?

Promise Okwuchukwu: Africa has a significant energy crisis, with an energy deficit of around 28 gigawatts. This deficit is due to the lack of energy infrastructure. Our project aims to address this issue by creating a battery storage system that can be applied to a wide range of applications in Africa. We intend to store energy from various sources like solar and wind and deploy it when needed, ensuring a diverse set of energy sources for the continent. 

Lori Baldwin: Why did you choose to work on this problem?

Promise Okwuchukwu: We believe that Africa's future depends on diversifying its energy sources and moving toward a carbon-neutral economy. We see the world shifting towards carbon neutrality, and we want to be part of that change. This project was born out of a desire to tackle the energy crisis using modern tools and expertise.

Lori Baldwin: What are the potential implications if this problem remains unsolved?

Promise Okwuchukwu: If the energy crisis remains unsolved, Africa's energy deficit will persist, potentially leading to a critical energy crisis situation. We don't want it to continue to escalate. We hope to find support from the government or investors who recognize the importance of our vision and provide the necessary resources to address this critical issue.

Lori Baldwin: It's certainly important to address this issue before it becomes a crisis. Have you encountered any challenges during your work?

Promise Okwuchukwu: Yes, there have been challenges, especially in terms of resources. We've had to work with limited equipment, making it necessary to do a lot of manual work. However, this experience has given us in-depth knowledge and we’ve managed to find solutions. We've also faced challenges in terms of government engagement and financial support, which we hope to overcome in the future.

Lori Baldwin: Working with limited resources can be a significant challenge. Can you tell me about your solution and the key considerations that guided your design?

Promise Okwuchukwu: Our solution is a battery storage system that can withstand the African climate and provide energy for various applications. We've taken into account factors like extreme temperatures and the need for remote monitoring. We're also looking at adopting single-board computers to enhance the system's efficiency and adaptability. This will help us remotely monitor and manage the system, making it more reliable.

Lori Baldwin: How are single-board computers utilized in your project, and what tasks do they handle?

Promise Okwuchukwu: Single-board computers play a crucial role in our project. They enable us to manipulate and communicate with embedded systems and IO devices. They help us remotely monitor the system and provide data on various parameters. These computers are essential for the efficient operation of our battery storage system.

Currently, Mijolnia’s Powerwalls rely on basic 16-bit and 32-bit microcontrollers that lack the necessary processing power to interface with different modules and perform sophisticated algorithms. The ROCK 4C+ 4GB, on the other hand, is embedded with an Arm® DynamIQ™ Quad Cortex® A76, Quad Cortex® A55 CPU, and Arm Mali™ G610MC4 GPU, providing exceptional processing power, while the 8GB 64-bit RAM, and the eMMC socket provides ample storage space. 

With the ROCK 4C+ 4GB's inbuilt Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, Mijolnia could customize its Power System to include key features such as the Energy Management System (EMS) algorithm, Time-of-Use (TOU) Optimization algorithm, Solar Energy Optimization algorithm, Grid-scale Services, and Scalable Designs. 

Lori Baldwin: Can you share any measurable impacts or results achieved through your project?

Promise Okwuchukwu: We've measured a significant reduction in grid dependency by more than 75%. Our system can address up to 70% of the energy demands of our clients. We see a clear market for our solution, and we aim to expand our impact further by scaling our production and reaching more users.

Lori Baldwin: And how does your work contribute to broader societal goals?

Promise Okwuchukwu: Our work aligns with the goal of achieving net zero emissions by providing a renewable energy storage solution. It can significantly reduce carbon emissions and contribute to a cleaner environment. Additionally, it has the potential to boost Nigeria's digital economy by driving the manufacturing of laptops, mobile phones, and other technology products.

Lori Baldwin: What feedback have you received from stakeholders?

Promise OkwuchukwuWe've had discussions with potential investors and distribution partners. While these discussions are still in the early stages, there's a lot of interest in our project. We're excited about the possibilities and hope to secure partnerships that will help us bring our solution to the market.

Lori Baldwin: What are your next steps? 

Promise Okwuchukwu: We've made significant progress in testing, stress-testing, and developing the system. We're also looking into patents and standardization tests. Our focus now is on expanding our production capacity and finding manufacturing partners. We're working on building a team of skilled individuals who believe in our vision and can help us achieve our goals.

Lori Baldwin: How do you see the evolution of single-board computers influencing future projects in your field?

Promise OkwuchukwuSBCs offer energy-efficient solutions and can be adapted to a wide range of applications. In Nigeria, they have the potential to drive the digital economy and manufacturing of technology products. 

Lori Baldwin: Thank you for sharing your insights. Do you have any final thoughts?

Promise Okwuchukwu: We're excited about the future of our project and the potential impact it can have on addressing Africa's energy crisis. We're open to collaboration and partnerships to help us achieve our goals. Thank you for this opportunity to share our vision.

Using the ROCK 4C+ in battery storage systems

Promise Okwuchukwu proposed to use the ROCK 4C+ in his solution. This is a robust and powerful single-board computer that can be used for various applications thanks to its valuable features, including: 

Temperature Resistant: The ROCK 4C+ is designed to handle a wide range of operating temperatures, making it suitable for deployment in regions with extreme weather conditions. It can withstand both high and low temperatures, ensuring reliable operation even in harsh environments.

Heat Sink and Fan: The starter kit for the ROCK 4C+ includes a heat sink and fan, which helps dissipate heat generated during operation. This cooling system ensures the board remains within optimal temperature ranges, preventing overheating and maintaining performance.

Remote Monitoring: The ROCK 4C+ supports multiple connectivity options, including Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. This allows for seamless remote monitoring and control of the battery management system. Through remote access, users can monitor battery performance, energy consumption, and system health from anywhere, enabling proactive maintenance and troubleshooting.

IoT Integration: The ROCK 4C+ can be easily integrated into an IoT ecosystem for comprehensive battery management. It can communicate with other IoT devices and systems, such as energy meters, smart grids, and renewable energy sources. This integration enables efficient energy management, load balancing, and optimization of the battery storage system.

Customization and Software Development: The ROCK 4C+ offers a flexible platform for software development. It supports a wide range of software operating systems and programming languages, allowing developers to create custom monitoring and control applications tailored to the specific needs of the battery management system.

OKdo Support: OKdo supports engineers with a range of resources, including getting-started guides, data sheets, and reference projects. 

By combining its resilience to extreme temperatures and its support for remote monitoring and customization, the OKdo ROCK 4C+ provides a reliable and adaptable solution for battery management systems in challenging environments. It enables efficient monitoring, control, and optimization of energy storage, contributing to the stability and effectiveness of battery storage systems. 

Learn more about the ROCK range of SBCs here