What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?
We do not anticipate financial barriers because this project is designed based on our successful Guatemala solar lighting project.
We have a solid design and our prototypes are close to being ready for market. The W3 project will be self-sustaining within three years, during which we can boot-strap the project selling small low cost turbines to rural households that lack electricity. A small turbine, battery and high efficiency lights cost less than what people are currently spending on kerosene and candles to light their homes. The lights are much brighter and they don’t emit toxic fumes.
By 2013 the first micro-business will begin turning a profit. The turbines are made with local, affordable materials, and will soon pay for themselves because energy costs 2-3 times as much as it does here.
Our largest potential barrier is cultural, but we have a long record of success on projects in the village (water, LED lights, and now wind turbine design). We are aware that, by working primarily with the women weavers, we are subverting traditional gender roles. But we have built up a reservoir of good will, trust, communication, and mutual respect with the village over 3 years, and we also will be working with men on establishing microbusiness. We meet regularly and often with the Development Committee to get their input, advice, ideas, approval, and we know this project has their enthusiastic support, as do the women weavers.
Tell us about your partnerships
Our main partner for this project is the weavers cooperative of NSCI. We have been working with them since summer 2010.
ATC has been working with the NSCI Development Committee since 2007. We began working with them on establishing a system to deliver potable water after ATC Director John Barrie heard of the villages needs and hardships from K’Che language instructor Don Victoranio Guachiac. ATC made a long-term commitment to the village and we monitor our projects at least once a year. This year our partner, Engineers Without Borders, Rutgers University, will install new pumps and pipe to supply water to the village.
As mentioned earlier, we also designed LED lights and a solar home lighting system with the people of NSCI and Guatemalan engineering firm Xela Teco. We are currently developing potential business models for the people of NSCI to consider in order to establish a micro-business or businesses to distribute the lights.
Xela Teco focuses on clean energy and clean technology in Guatemala. ATC will again work with Xela Teco on the electronic design for the W3 project.
ATC is working with a team of 10 - 15 volunteer engineering students from the University of Michigan BLUELab on the W3 project. BLUELab will be returning to Guatemala Spring 2012 to work with the women wind weavers to create new turbine blades and install two demonstration wind turbines.
Explain your selections
We have received support to start this project from an Ann Arbor-based Foundation. We have also had a successful Global Giving campaign to fund additional research, install wind data loggers and gather performance data on our demonstration turbines.
The W3 project is an extension of our previous work on small scale solar home lighting systems which received funding from the Lindbergh Foundation, Rotary International and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Foundation. From our work on small scale home energy systems we derived the price point for home energy systems and best practices for providing renewable energy in rural Latin America.
ATC is fortunate to have dozens of individuals who support our design and development of new technologies for people in low income countries.
The primary source of funding for this project will come from the business we (the weaving cooperative and ATC) create to sell wind turbines, efficient lighting and related hardware. We have a solid business model based on our successful Guatemala solar lighting project where we out competed kerosene lamps and candles to light people’s homes and small businesses.
How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?
ATC is assembling an advisory board of high-profile businessmen, academics, and environmentalists, and they will be using their networks, knowledge, and experience to ensure the success of W3 in Guatemala, and help us distribute the design worldwide. Our development committee will make W3 a priority so W3 can become self-sufficient within 3 years.
John Barrie will work in NSCI at least twice a year to advance both the technical and business aspects of this project. In order to ensure the full benefit of introducing this technology, Barrie will work with schools to incorporate demonstration turbines into their science curriculum; students will take data on efficiency; and the school will be paid for maintenance and testing for a year. We will provide an instruction book in Spanish that features many diagrams and illustrations. The women weavers will have the skills to make repairs to turbines they sell, with assistance from our local staff person.
We will continue to strengthen consensus through regular communication with the women weavers and the people of NSCI and lots of listening. If enthusiasm for this technology continues to grow in the region, we will join forces with other nonprofits working in the area like AIDG to ensure that people who need and want a W3 turbine can obtain a low- or no-interest loan to buy one. We will hold workshops at least annually to train women involved in microbusinesses on the technical and business of W3, and eventually we expect them to lead the workshops and teach us quite a few things!