WE is a global practitioners’ network which draws together the collaborative efforts of over 40 member organisations and 1,000+ individual participants on the development of locally manufactured small wind turbines for sustainable rural electrification. 2015 has been a productive year for the network, riding largely on the success of the association’s second global conference, WEAthens2014.
The association’s six Working Groups (WGs) have made significant progress in the following areas:
- Technical WG: MPPT project approved, modular power electronics proposal under review.
- Measurement WG: Development Week for open-source datalogger hosted by Tripalium in Toulouse.
- Maintenance WG: 1st edition of Maintenance Manual available on WE.org, funding for member survey for 2nd edition developed during 1 month placement hosted by Loughborough University, UK, approved.
- Market Assessment (MA) WG: Ethiopia MA completed, Malawi MA set up for early 2016.
- Delivery Models WG: Projects database launched on WE.org, Master’s thesis on the maintenance aspect of SWT delivery models under way.
- Education WG: Digital training materials file sharing set up, Education WG gathering to be hosted by Wind Mobile in Luxembourg in March 2016.
Additionally, two development projects have been carried out with the collaboration of 6 WE members:
- Ethiopia market assessment and pilot projects: in partnership with MercyCorps Ethiopia, 3 STWs manufactured at technical schools and 2 installed at small businesses, market assessment shows SWTs have potential in southeast of the Somali region.
- Malawi market assessment: team of 5 recruited for capacity building and market assessment for SWTs in partnership with Community Energy Malawi.
These projects have been invaluable in incentivising collaboration and knowledge sharing between WE members, as a shared interest alone is rarely enough. As a result, the focus in 2016 will be on carrying out more collaborative projects, both within the WGs and as broader development and consultancy projects.
During 2014/15, WE earned an income from both grant funding and consultancy, which totalled £60,706. This was spent on the coordination of the association, carrying out the Ethiopia project, running the 2nd global conference, WEAthens2014, the rennovation of WE.org and WG projects. In 2016, we plan to raise funds for the coordination of the association, the WGs and the 2016 conference. One key difference from our previous fundraising efforts is that we are now actively seeking funding for the time that we put into the association, both for administration and for specific projects. Whilst the network was created on volunteer labour, we feel that this is now a limitation to its further growth. Funding obtained from external sources for specific projects is expected to make up an even greater share of WE’s income in 2016, which will greatly increase the ability of the network to make a direct impact around the world.
The association’s newly renovated digital platform, WindEmpowerment.org, was launched in late 2014 and has seen significant growth and refinement in 2015. New features include the projects, product and vendor databases, the mapping feature that links posts to places and a new events calendar. Further work is needed in 2016 to showcase these tools to the membership and encourage members to both use and contribute to them. The Google Groups used by the Executive Board and the WGs have proven to be an invaluable communication tool for collaboration between network partners who live in different timezones, speak different languages and have different working schedules. In 2015, WE hosted 6 webinars, the recordings of which are available on WE.org and although live participation has been a major issue, these recordings have received up to 67 views each.
2016 will see our third global conference, which will unfortunately no longer be hosted in Palestine. Fortunately, we have been invited to Argentina by our members INTI, 500rpm, APN & Eolocal, which is very exciting news, as the windswept Patagonian desert is as close as you can get to the ideal context for SWTs. The event is scheduled for the last week in October and a proposal is currently under development.
2016 will also hopefully see WE finally complete its registration as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) in the UK. However, further investigation is needed into how restrictive this structure will be for the association and whether an alternative structure is needed to include our profit-making members and activities. Various members of the association were able to present the activities of the network at external events in 2015 in order to raise the profile of the association and it is hoped that this will be even more widespread in 2016.