Description of Challenge
Conventional energy sources are contaminating, depleting, and a pretext of geopolitical conflicts, and a third of humanity has no access to electricity. The challenge is to develop appropriate and clean energy solutions, harnessing local resources and talent, particularly in remote areas where grid extension and access to spare parts are difficult; to be independent not only from fossil fuels but also from industrial manufacturers who are often distant from the needs of the local population.
The Piggott Small Wind Turbine (SWT) is an open-source technology developed by Hugh Piggott, international expert in small wind energy with worldwide experience in building wind turbines and sharing his skills for 20 years. It is a solid, simple and efficient technology that has the advantage of being self-built, self-installed and self-maintained. It is therefore a reliable off-grid solution for electrification of rural areas that has been successfully used and replicated around the world. It can also be grid-tied. The Piggott wind turbine has been designed to be locally produced using accessible low-tech materials and tools. The system can be appropriated and improved by people according to local factors such as availability of materials, climate, etc. Everything is built from scratch (wooden blades, alternator made from copper wire and magnets, metal frame and tower) and the turbine is mounted on a tower and erected with a manual rope system, which facilitates maintenance operations. Plans for 6 different turbine sizes are available in the Hugh Piggott recipe book.
The Piggott wind turbine is a sustainable solution for ecovillages, from both an environmental and economic perspective, because it uses a free, local and natural resource: wind, and it involves lower cost and lower embodied energy compared to buying a commercial turbine. It works particularly well as part of a mixed renewable energy system (combined with solar photovoltaics, and/or hydroelectricity) to provide a more continuous flow of electricity, for example supplementing solar panels in periods when it is not sunny. Users can repair and maintain their wind turbine easily in situ and the system lifespan is estimated at 20 years, if regular preventive maintenance is undertaken.
As an open-source concept, there are dozens of organisations (NGOs, associations, universities, local companies) and more than 1000 individuals (experts, students, enthusiasts) all over the world who are continuing to share the technology, and support the development of locally manufactured SWT. They are connected through an international platform called WindEmpowerment. This network is active in providing electricity in rural areas, especially in developing countries, in order to democratise access to energy and improve conditions for local populations in: health care, education, water supply system, food storage, etc.
The act of building a wind turbine is not only about producing a product but also undertaking a participatory process of sharing experience and skills, supporting and teaching each other in the different aspects involved such as woodwork, electricity, metalwork, mechanics, chemistry, etc. A SWT is also an enjoyable and interactive pedagogical tool that can be used in education of both children and adults.
A collective wind turbine building experience also contributes to empower and unify people, increasing self-confidence and self-esteem, bringing a lot of pleasure, especially when we see the first blade revolutions on top of the tower and the first kWh produced!