Wanna fund your own windmill? Got $100?

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Social entrepreneurship is our unofficial theme this week. If $400 is too much to pay for a laptop, a Guatemalan wind turbine might be more your speed.

I’ve recently had the pleasure of meeting the good folks at the San Francisco chapter of Engineers without Borders. Like other things-without-borders themed organizations, EWB is a non-profit professional association that donates its expertise to worthy projects in developing countries.

At any given time, EWB is helping out with numerous projects across the globe. One that caught my attention during our conversations is an effort to develop a low-cost wind turbine for use in off-grid Guatemalan villages. How low-cost? Hopefully about $100 or less, once production ramps up.

Needless to say, these are small turbines capable of putting out only a few watts, enough to charge LED lights or cell phones, among other possible uses. Access to artificial light and telecommunications are useful accelerants to economic development, and of course the electricity generated is carbon-free. Here’s a prototype of the turbine being tested in California:

There’s a lot more to tell about this project, but for now I’ll just end with a plug: if you’d like to help out, now is a particularly good time to donate. They’re just about wrapping up the prototype phase and getting ready for field testing in Guatemala. This is (hopefully) the final hurdle before the technology can be rolled out more broadly. It’s also a step that requires some cash.

To give online, go here. Select “ATDT: Guatemala Wind Turbine” from the first dropdown and click submit. Then select “ATDT: Guatemala Wind Turbine” from the second dropdown (confusing) and click “Make a Donation”.

Bonus photo: a borderless engineer creates the base for a prototype turbine. More photos available here.

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  1. Phoenix Woman - November 14, 2007

    Hey, looks like art to me! Put that on your condo balcony and the condo association would have no reason to beef. (If you can talk the association into using solar shingle strips next time they re-roof, that’s even better.)

  2. Hari Shankar sharma - November 14, 2007

    dear Sir,
    if you give details of $100 wind mill.
    We would try to reduce cost further but with out mentioning even the wind speed or the capacity ,how to proceed
    i saw a japanese machine for 10 kw with a screw type blades but costing a fortune
    please send ddetails to save the earth from Global warming-H.S.sharma,FAO(UNO) Consultant Ex
    M-9873020599/fax-0124-4078342/E

  3. Pete von Elling - November 14, 2007

    This is a another wind mill idea I would love to see in the industrial world — above highways!
    http://widedynamicrange.com/2007/04/30/us-interstate-system-massive-wind-farm/
    Putting all that space used for highways to good use and the harnessing the energy from the wind and turbulence is a fabulous idea.

  4. Aaron A. - November 14, 2007

    Hey, that’s neat. Even if the turbines provide nothing more than reading light, that’s enough to help kids get a better education and become more self-sufficient.

    Plus, it’s kind of cute. Reminds me of Aunt Meg’s yard in Twister.


    Raven

  5. michael - November 14, 2007

    Pete, you’re on to something here…a number of years ago I was experimenting with the idea of installing bollards along the shoulder of a highway. The purpose of these bollards, thru their specific design, layout and repetion, was to create a harmonic wave as cars past. The character of the wave would obviously become quite annoying to the human ear as certain speeds were exceeded.
    So, aside from some obvious property risk during an off-road excursion, cars can offer a boost to the windmills as they pass…why not?

  6. michael - November 14, 2007

    Pete, you’re on to something here…a number of years ago I was experimenting with the idea of installing bollards along the shoulder of a highway. The purpose of these bollards, thru their specific design, layout and repetion, was to create a harmonic wave as cars past. The character of the wave would obviously become quite annoying to the human ear as certain speeds were exceeded.
    So, aside from some obvious property risk during an off-road excursion, cars can offer a boost to the windmills as they pass…why not?

  7. Tim - November 14, 2007

    Great story that reminded me of a DIY turbine kit I played with a while ago. They have free plans if you want to try one yourself:

    http://www.picoturbine.com

    It’s another example of a Savoinus design that is easily implemented at a relatively low cost. Not the most efficient, but could come in handy. More on Savonius turbines:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savonius_wind_turbine

  8. Oliver - November 14, 2007

    If you know anyone with good renewable energy ideas on the highway or airports side i work for The Macquarie Group and have started a Climate Change Group. We own lots of roads like the Chicago Skyway, SR 125, 1/3 of the french toll system and lots of airports around the world and we are very keen to develop renewable energy projects.

    As we are a private operator we are very keen to work with teams who have ideas along these lines. We are looking at Carbon neutral concrete for example.

    Contact is Oliver.yates@macquarie.com

  9. Jim - November 15, 2007

    Great idea! I have been to Guatemala and actually sponsor a child there (Christian Institute of Children and Aging, $365 per year). Seems like a good idea and I am sure that thing could produce more than enough energy to push an LCD laptop.
    Good Job EWB!!!

  10. TravlinMo - November 24, 2007

    ON the Discovery Science show EcoTech, they covered versions of these going on building roofs and in large cities right now. Seems like a great way to take advantage of available winds and be in turbulent winds.

  11. Kristin - November 30, 2007

    Wow…what a great idea! Obviously another great idea would be next to other public transportation sources…i.e. the MARTA in Atlanta, or the L in Chicago…etc! So many sources…so little time!