WEOnline2020 – Paving the way for our digital community

WEOnline2020 - Paving the way for our digital community !

WE2020 was a fantastic success, the spirit of collaboration alive and well with some inspirational projects and work on display. In spite of the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19, our international community came together to collaborate on a jam-packed conference

Split over two weekends, the primary goal of the conference was to create a space and ample time for the Wind Empowerment community to share their news and interact. It was brilliant to see so many participants spanning the globe, coming together during the event but also reaching in to the future. We were aiming at a convivial conference rather than a formal scientific one, and we felt that we achieved that. Although as you shall see in the videos below, the Scientists certainly shone brightly! 

Conference was formed of a series of webinar sessions, categorised by our working groups themes: Education, Measurements, Technology, Market Assessment, Delivery Models and Maintenance. Moreover, it was important for us to dedicate specific time to association-focused discussions, to talk about who we are and reinforce the link between members. Such a time has been taken at the end of each working group session to discuss the working group state and directions. An open discussion was also held on the last day of the conference to review the association’s activities during the last two years, and discuss the forthcoming board and trustees elections and potential future operating models.

This work is now taking shape through our strategy development, as we look towards the next term and put into action all of the fantastic work done over conference. Wind Empowerment are formalising strategic focus for 21-22 to incorporate the tremendous ideation from all of the friends of Wind Empowerment. We will keep you updated but in the meantime, please have a look at the resources below. As ever, open source and free to share, enjoy!


Developing small wind through education and education through small wind
by Jay Hudnall founder of Ti’éole, co-founder of Tripalium and EolEcole, France

Jay’s pedagogy for teaching how to build a small wind turbine could be summarized in few words : “I explain, I show you, You do it with my help, I watch you and correct you if necessary, You explain what you did to the other students”.

It became apparent that on his small wind courses in France, around one or two people out of ten taking the course are going to install a SWT, whilst the others, are curious, there to learn how to do a little bit of everything, (woodwork, metalwork, electronics…) and above all to have a good time.

However, conditions are different in other parts of the world. The underlying question behind Jay’s presentation is in fact about the enabling environment of locally manufactured small wind turbines (LMSWT) in a country or a region. Amongst others, he identifies two main factors: 1) the proximity with a partner that has know-how with design, construction and maintenance of LMSWT. This could be a technical school for instance, and 2) having a shop gathering specific material that is difficult to find locally. Indeed, especially for the generator part, ingredients like resin or magnets might be hard to find if at all possible.

Practical education tailored to pupil interaction across all societal bounds
by Nick Warren, executive director of Windaid Institute, Peru

Nick is co-founder of Windaid, an NGO doing sustainable, rural electrification in Peru. The particularity of this organization is it’s functioning with a lot of volunteers, and the strong diversity amongst them. Indeed, the challenge is to facilitate interactions between rural Peruvian community members, grade school students, university scholars and international professionals. 

A key factor in the success of such a melting pot recipe seems to be the created collaborative environment, reflecting inclusivity of all kinds, getting everyone hands on to prove that all can be useful to the community.

Nick concludes that “practical education overlapping all levels of society empowers those involved to create a positive impact via the tools, insight and connections to do so.


Energy-in-a-box Solutions – promoting small wind technology from local materials
by Karana Olivier, founder of KOC Bridges to Peace, Ivory Coast

Karana is an expert in conflict mediation in Ivory Coast, and organizer of the free “build a wind turbine in one day” courses. He faced 3 main realities during his courses 1) wind energy is a mystery to far too many, 2) the most popular models are inaccessible to most of the world’s population, and 3) most wind turbine classes available teach a standard that is not adapted to the energy consumption levels of most people in the world (ie. More that is needed). 

From these realities, keeping in mind SDG7, Karana built a course, giving people the keys to design a machine at the intersection of their means and their needs. These people are often earning less than a dollar a day, which makes access to materials a crucial challenge but also an incredible demonstration of sustainability: every material comes from the city dump. These constraints lead to 100% recycled material wind turbines. In terms of education, the challenge is to teach to people with very asymmetric background. However, from the local carpenter who wants to electrify his shop, to the university student that needs to put their theory into practice, the same tools/formulas and tricks are given, and everyone manages to build a turbine adapted to their needs.

Small wind turbine online courses – teaching and having positive impact on local Argentinian communities.
by Manuel Perez, member of 500RPM, Argentina

500RPM teaches an educative project on small wind energy with an aim to achieve a societal project: provision of clean energy, inclusion of rural areas, solutions to fix the energy access problem, with the concern of having a continuity in the time across the projects. There is no choice of abandoning the projects and construction courses, even in the face of a worldwide pandemic, and 500RPM therefore adapted its practices by creating an online teaching platform and offering remote learning and interaction. This enabled them to continue courses on theory and maintain contact with the students by providing personalized support and succeeding in its project aims.

Wind turbines 3D kits as a pedagogical support
by Damian Planes, member of 500RPM, Argentina

Damian is a technical teacher and designed a CAD model of a small wind turbine kit that aims to be assembled by teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 for educational purposes. The kit is mainly constituted of laser cut wooden pieces, pvc pipes, threaded rod and bolts ; the rotor is 65cm diameter. It could be used to popularize wind energy for teens in big cities that could not play in the fields but could install a small wind kit on their rooftop of balconies. Moreover, by being distributed in schools, this wind kit could overcome the lack of pedagogic material on renewable energy.


The session started with an introduction where Manuel Pérez Larraburu (the WG coordinator) explained the objectives of the WG and particulars of the online session. Then, he presented the work done thus far (focused on the data logger developed by Tripalium) and made a brief presentation about the following 3 speakers. 

Anik Lehmann was the first to speak. She is a French electronic engineer and she worked on Tripalium during the last 2 years, developing the software of their data logger (with the hardware already finished). Her work is not completed at time of presentaiton, so she explained the advances and then resumed the next steps. She remarked the need of the definition of the main parameter to be measured. 

Matthew Little came next, he is an electronic engineer from the UK, and he has been working in the development of a data logger (hardware + firmware + software) in solar and wind projects. He presented his work, and explained the main component of the hardware and the main functions designed. Then, he focused on the need for a better software as the next step.

Guillermos Catuogno was the final panelist. He is an electronic engineer from Argentina, and works as a scientist at CONICET, specialized on power electronics for renewable energies. He presented the results of a data logger system installed in San Luis, where he explained the main components of the hardware, the software used, and the result obtained. That particular project was also useful to test the charge controller designed by Tripalium, so the results were presented.

The session finalised with an open discussion about the next steps for the group, and the conclusion was to define the main parameters for the software design, and to continue designing a software that can be useful for the 3 hardwares that already exist.


A special emphasis has been given to topics that foster multiple members’ efforts of development. As such, the session was organized with three different panels. 

The first panel gave an overview of the state of development for locally manufactured charge controllers, with multiple perspectives from the user, in this case Hugh Piggott, the commissioner and maintainer, in this case Jonathan Shreiber, and two power electronics designers, Sergio Ruppel from Argentina, and Adrien Prévost, from France. This panel gave precious insights on what remains to be done regarding charge control, paving a way to better collaboration on making improved technology, enhancing the energy management for off grid installations.

Following on from this discussion, the second panel was focused on power electronics, it highlighted the advance made on open hardware power converters permitting to maximize efficiency of the LMSWT. Martin Jäger was our guest to present LibreSolar, and the possible way their products can be adapted to cover wind applications. Adrien Prévost spoke on the advance made on active rectification, which gave promising results on the bench. Luiz Villa covered the concept of Software Defined Power converters, which could bring a solution to the wide variety of power conversion needs expressed from the field. 

To conclude, the last panel was addressing water pumping and productive uses applications. Ludwig from Erni kollektiv presented their hybrid Solar and Wind system powering the pumping system of tomato greenhouse in Germany. Loic Quéval presented a methodology to include societal considerations and long term impact at the design stage to optimize the impact of a water pumping project through a practical use case in Burkina. Finally, Esteban Van Dam spoke about the advances of the wind powered productive uses pilot project in Argentina.


The maintenance session was hosted by Damian Planes-Jaluff, from 500RPM, who presented work done for maintaining the organisations multiple turbine installations. A robust discussion followed, with questions and debate surrounding best practice for preventative and restorative maintenance for small wind turbines. Many members exchanged lessons from their own contexts in the open forum for mutual learning.

Market Assessment

Kimon Silwal and Alfie Alsop presented a history of the group, including the methodological evolution of the Wind Empowerment Market Assessment Methodology (WEMAM) as well as discussion of the critical factors for successful small wind installations.
Luis Arribas, from CIEMAT, Spain, gave a presentation on the SWTOMP Project, an international market analysis of small wind turbines by a partnership of universities

Jose Armando Gastelo-Roque gave a presentation on a market assessment for off-grid energy solutions in the Peruvian Amazon. A discussion session followed, and was picked up again as part of the delivery models session. A key outcome was the conclusion that Market Assessment methodologies need to account for more than just the cost of energy, but also the potential impact (positive, negative, social, environmental) that a small wind project might have. The Market Assessment and Delivery Models groups will collaborate to define the feedback loop between the two sets of tools and methodologies, to enrich the work of both.

Delivery Models

This session brought together topics related to delivery models (DMs), socio-technical system design and sustainability of locally manufactured small wind turbines (LMSWTs): from conceptual works on classifying and mapping delivery models for SWT systems; to experiences from WE members on the delivery models applied in different contexts to enhance the energy system’s sustainability; and assessments of SWT impacts on global and local sustainability issues.

Katerina Troullaki introduced the scope of the working group as linking topics related to both the practical sustainability of the energy service, as well as its impacts and contribution to global sustainability issues.

Guillermo Pleitavino classified the delivery models that WE members adopt in three types, based on variables characterizing a project, such as the time horizon, purpose, role of external actors and end-user participation in the project. The three types of DMs are: i) One-way project model, ii) Local/External development co-management model, and iii) Community management model.

Wanda Klemm presented a systematization of DMs for LMSWTs into a dynamic DM map that makes visible the variables related to different phases of a LMSWT lifecycle, as well as the interrelations between variables and emerging risks or favourable conditions arising from the combination of specific variables. Gandhi Alva introduced us into WindAid’s Community Aid strategy to implement projects with LMSWTs in Peru. The strategy develops in four basic phases: Diagnostic of the community, Execution of the project (including creation of a ‘wind board’, designated technicians, maintenance fund, basic training, and, finally, installation), Follow up with the wind board and users, and Impact evaluation of the project. Jon Leary presented an ethnographic study of the Scoraig peninsula in Scotland, trying to answer why small wind power has been so successful in this context. The answer seems to be a mix of favourable environmental conditions, low cost of LMSWTs, and hybridization of energy systems, but above all, Hugh Piggott’s capability and eternal motivation to be the community’s small wind local champion that supports most of the necessary functions to sustainably deliver energy to the community.

Guillermo Pleitavino presented the DM approach employed by 500RPM in Argentina -and more recently in other Latin American countries- with an emphasis on the productive uses of electricity. Through a systematic identification of actors and local economic activities, they are linking generation of electricity with productive activities of the end-users (such as horticulture, egg production and rural tourism), thus strengthening the sustainability of the SWT system.

Larissa Zajicek introduced aspects of environmental sustainability in the discussion, by presenting the results of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for a 2F16P Piggott SWT. Through the analysis of Energy demand and Global Warming impacts throughout the turbine’s lifecycle, Larissa answered several questions, such as: Is the turbine producing more energy than it consumes? Is it reducing GHG emissions compared to the Austrian electricity production mix? Which components of the SWT are hotspots of environmental impacts? Which design adaptations may reduce energy demand and GHG emissions?

Katerina Troullaki presented results from a Life Cycle Assessment of a 3m Piggott turbine, and from an integrated sustainability assessment (including environmental and socio-economic impacts) of a locally manufactured and a commercial SWT. Highlighting weak points of LCA methods, Katerina emphasized the need to complement them with other methods when assessing the sustainability of LMSWTs.
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