Bringing Wind Power to Off-Grid Guatemalan Villages

by , 05/07/08

Engineers Without Borders, San Francisco, small wind, renewable energy, Malcolm Knapp, Heather Fleming, Guatemala, vertical axis wind turbine, Appropriate Technology Design Team, D2M, Wired, ewbwind1.jpg

Wind power holds much promise but often meets obstacles in small-scale application. Enter Engineers Without Borders. Volunteers from this humanitarian group, including Malcolm Knapp and Heather Fleming pictured above, have developed a small wind turbine design that has the capacity to bring much needed electrical power to remote villages in Guatemala and provide an alternative to hazardous kerosene lighting.

A collective effort of donated time and donated lab space (from Knapp and Fleming’s daytime employer D2M) has resulted in a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) that is just two-feet-wide and three-foot-tall. With the capability to work well in a variety of multi-directional wind conditions, the turbine will produce 10-15 watts of electricity, creating enough power for small devices including LED lights.

Driven by a focus on real-world application, the turbine can be assembled from inexpensive and readily available materials. The team, Appropriate Technology Design Team of EWB’s San Francisco chapter, is hoping to bring the cost for each turbine in under $100, a reasonable goal according to team leader Matt McLean.

The project is in final design stages and poised to take flight this summer, bringing a sustainable opportunity for light and power to the remote villages. Realization of the project will happen with funding from the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group who have provided startup money to the Guatemalan manufacturing facility XelaTeco, the company who will produce the EWB team’s turbine design.

+ Engineers Without Borders Bring Tech to Villages Without Power at Wired

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  2. cat_laine May 7, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    To avoid having the turbine be called vaporware, I would say that it’s not quite in the final stages of development. Rather it’s still firmly in the prototyping stage.

    That said Heather Fleming, Tyler Valiquette and Jesse Wodin from EWB-SF’s Appropriate Technology Design Team came down to AIDG-Guatemala & XelaTeco this past April and built a mighty fine prototype. Here is an update of the Wired story on our NGO’s blog with photos and video:,com_jd-wp/Itemid,34/p,1048/

  3. Brian Lang May 7, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Now this looks interesting. Imagine lining the roof of every house in the world with a micro wind turbine like this. 10-15 watts per turbine, $100 per turbine, Let’s say 10 of these per house. For $1000, you could have 100-150 watts of extra power. Now that’s not a bad idea. And if they work even in light breezes, that would be better.

    My only concern is how well these turbines will hold up in high winds. It does look fairly flimsy.

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