Sumanik-Leary, J., 2013. Small wind turbines for decentralised rural electrification: case studies in Peru, Nicaragua and Scotland (PhD Thesis). University of Sheffield.

This thesis began as an engineering optimisation of Small Wind Turbine (SWT) blades for hand
manufacture in developing countries. However, it soon became apparent that many of the SWTs
installed in rural communities across the global south were not even in operation, let alone operating
efficiently. This thesis reconceptualises SWTs as more than just a piece of technology that exists
independent of the people that construct, install, operate and maintain it. The fundamental argument
put forward is that in order to truly understand the reasons why so many SWTs are failing to provide
the energy services for which they were designed, a holistic viewpoint must be taken that
encompasses both social and technical issues.
Case studies in Peru, Nicaragua and Scotland were undertaken to determine the key factors that have
led to the success or failure of SWTs in each particular local context. From this evidence, a framework
was developed to break down the socio-technical system that exists in each place into its component
parts and the interactions between them, facilitating comparison between cases and the identification
of the critical factors in wind-based decentralised rural electrification.
The case study evidence has shown that taking this socio-technical perspective is in fact even more
important for SWTs than for solar photovoltaics (PV), as almost every stage in the technology life cycle
requires more support. Most notably, the wind resource is highly variable in both space and time
(making resource assessment particularly difficult and limiting the scalability of the technology) and
maintenance requirements are high (making technical support after installation from a service
network and the empowerment of community technicians/end-users essential). SWTs have not been
as successful as either solar PV or micro-hydro and nor do they have the potential to be. However,
they do provide a third option for rural electrification in windy regions where neither solar nor hydro
can provide sufficient electrical power throughout the year.

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