Reaping the wind at the Schumacher Centre
Practical Action UK's wind turbine demonstrates the potential of renewable energy
The working wind turbine at the Schumacher Centre for Technology & Development, Bourton Hall
Two billion people in the world currently have no access to electricity or other forms of modern fuels. Practical Action has been working with remote communities in developing countries to harness the natural power of the wind.
To demonstrate its work in countries such as Peru and Sri Lanka, Practical Action UK has a fully functional wind turbine on the front lawn of its head office at Bourton on Dunsmore, near Rugby. The electricity produced is used to charge a battery to provide light for Practical Action's cyclists. A display board explains what the turbine is and how it relates to Practical Action's work.
In developing countries wind turbines such as these can produce enough power to meet the needs of one or two households by charging batteries which supply power for lighting and radios. Similar turbines now in use in Sri Lanka and Peru show the benefits of wind power for poor households in remote rural communities. Access to electricity improves the standard of living for the poorest and allows children to study after dark. In Sri Lanka, outside lights powered by wind-charged batteries have helped to keep elephants off valuable crops at night.
Moulds for blade manufacture in Peru
The innovative aspect of this turbine is that it is suitable for manufacture in developing countries and may be used at sites with relatively low wind speeds. End users were involved in development of the design and local manufacturers in Peru and Sri Lanka have been trained to make them.
The turbine's design has been developed over two years with funding from the UK Department for International Development, in partnership between the Practical Action Offices in Sri Lanka and Peru, Practical Action UK and Hugh Piggott of Scoraig Wind Electric in Scotland.
Lack of access to energy services is a key constraint to development. Practical Action calls on western governments to facilitate access to improved energy services that are appropriate and affordable for developing countries.
Erecting the wind turbine. The design of the tower means that this lifting can be done by one person in 10 minutes without too much exertion, and in safety
The turbine was erected on 15th March 2002.
The construction of the turbine, which was developed under a project led by Smail Khennas in UK, was organised by Stephen Ward, outgoing Energy Projects Manager of Practical Action Consulting (then ITC).
Hugh Piggott from Scoraig Wind Electric supervised erection of the turbine mast, and carried out electro-mechanical installation. One of the country's leading experts on small-scale wind power, Hugh was the technical consultant on the Practical Action Small Wind Systems project in Sri Lanka and Peru, and he designed the permanent magnet generator for the system.
A set of manuals have been produced that will enable anyone who wishes to, to make and install the wind turbine. The blades for this turbine have been made in Peru, and the alternator, although made in the UK, is the same design as that used in Peru and Sri Lanka. The rest of the components have been sourced locally.
Currently in Sri Lanka a typical household will spend between 6-8% of household income on kerosene and dry-cell batteries in a month. Wind systems (in common with other renewable energies) have high capital costs but with appropriate financial mechanisms the existing monthly expenditure can make these schemes viable and sustainable. In addition there can be some income generated from charging neighbours' batteries.
A demonstration wind project in rural Sri Lanka
Due to the high costs of extending the electricity grid, there are many, more remote, communities in developing countries who do not have access to grid electricity. In fact, the World Bank estimates that 2 billion people, a third of the World's population, do not have access to electricity at all.
Enabling these communities to gain access to electricity, in order to improve their quality of life, is a major objective of Practical Action's energy work, and harnessing different forms of renewable energy is seen as a key way of doing this.