Participatory Manufacture of Small Wind Turbines: A Case Study in Nicaragua

Small wind turbines can be manufactured locally in developing countries, creating local jobs, shortening the supply chain for spare parts, increasing local capacity and providing a low-cost solution for rural electrification initiatives. What is more, local manufacture presents the opportunity for community members to take part in the construction of the machine that will be installed in their community. This not only increases the sense of ownership of the technology, but also greatly improves knowledge transfer. Wind turbines are complex machines and are notoriously unreliable, therefore it is essential that somebody close to where the turbine is installed knows how to fix it. As the vast majority of unelectrified communities are located in remote regions, it is impractical for engineers to frequently travel long distances to maintain the technology. This study shows that participatory construction can reduce lifecycle costs by 43% (compared to an engineer driving a pickup to the community each time maintenance is required) as members of the community are capable of performing the vast majority of maintenance themselves. It is shown that where a suitable wind resource is available, the technology can be significantly cheaper than solar PV.

by J. Sumanik-Leary, L. Marandin, M. Craig, C. Casillas, A. While, R. Howell

Presented at the Engineers Without Borders UK & Engineers Against Poverty Research & Learning Conference (Going Global) at the University College London on the 12th of April 2013.

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