Volunteer WindAid - Light Up A Life

Volunteer WindAid - Light Up A Life

$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Our focus is on the provision of wind turbines in order to provide an electricity supply to communities in Peru who currently have no access. Often these communities are in remote locations where the national electricity grid does not reach. We host volunteers who help finance and build each wind turbine such that we are able to offer the turbines to communities for no cost.

About You
Volunteer WindAid
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name




Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


Organization Name

Volunteer WindAid

Organization Phone

(Skype) windaid

Organization Address

Los Datiles 133, Urb. Fatima, Trujillo

Organization Country
How long has this organization been operating?

Less than a year

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, LD

What makes your innovation unique?

The wind turbine we build is both low-cost and reliable, making it perfect as an affordable energy source. It has only one moving component resulting in an almost zero requirement for maintenance. Being low-cost also has the benefit that the cost of the electricity generated by the wind turbine can fiercely compete (and often beat) the price of grid electricity, making wind energy a very attractive option for your electricity supply and also aiding a more conservative use of energy and reduction of harmful greenhouse gas emissions in Peru.

With exception for the magnets and carbon fibre, all the materials for the wind turbine can be purchased in Peru. Each wind turbine is also fully manufactured in Peru and this has created 6 new jobs so far.

Do you have a patent for this idea?


Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

Every project we implement will benefit a community, group of individuals or a business. The provision of light enables people to work late at night, enjoy the pleasures of the radio and television and gain access to computers and the internet which can facilitate a thirst for new information, education and greater awareness of the world.

Two wind turbines has been installed so far. The first for a small Scallop Farming business on the coast of Puerto Morin (near Trujillo). Their property is not connected to an electricity supply and so the wind turbine has allowed them to power computers, lights on phones required for an operating business. In the first year of the wind turbines use, the business saved over $6,000 on fuel costs (compared to using a diesel generator). The business is now thriving and has over 60 employees from the surrounding communities.

Three wind turbine installations are planned in 2010, providing electricity for schools in three different communities in the north of Peru. In 2011 we are planning to provide wind turbines to more than 10 communities.

Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

Primarily, our innovation (an affordable wind turbine) is addressing the need of electricity for communities across Peru who currently have no access to power. A wind turbine can be deployed in remote locations and act as a stand alone energy source. The national electricity grid cannot reach many of these remote locations and so our wind turbine offers an affordable solution.

However, more than just providing electricity, the wind turbine offers an affordable source of electricity. The cost per kWh of the wind turbine (0.10 $/kWh) can strongly compete with grid prices (0.115 $/kWh) and is significantly lower than the price of using a diesel generator (1.73 $/kWh). The financial payback of a wind turbine against a generator is less than 1 year (for a 20 year life span). This is also a very attractive solution for many businesses in Peru, who currently rely on generators as a power source. The ability to reduce your energy bills can significantly aid progress and expansion of a business and increase competitiveness (thus creating more jobs for local people).

The use of wind energy also plays its part in tackling climate change. Each installed wind turbine reduces carbon emissions by 20,884 kgCO2 in its life time (20 years). If each community used wind energy instead of generators, they would all be contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping conserve the local and global environment. The public also becomes more alert to the problem climate change poses to the country of Peru and helps improve awareness that affordable and readily available solutions (wind turbines) do exist in the market.

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?

To make the innovation and projects a success, we are working on two fronts. The first is community involvement in the project. Working with other NGOs in Peru we search for suitable communities in Peru. Once we find a community who has wind conditions sufficient for wind energy, a project can move ahead. The community are involved in every stage of the project, from what the turbine powers to where it is located. Members of the community are then involved in the manufacturing of the wind turbine with us and the volunteers in Trujillo. This gives them the opportunity to better understand how the wind turbine works and prepare them for any maintenance of the wind turbine in the future. It also gives the volunteers and the community member(s) a chance to get to know each other and learn more about different cultures.

As an organisation, we aim to provide a foundation for communities to improve their quality of life. We offer the service of electricity and with this the community can explore how to best use it to their benefit, whether that be computers and internet for the school (to also be used by the community) or possibly lights to work at night. We don't want to be the change but only provide a foundation for the opportunity to create change.

The second is the fabrication and further development of the wind turbine design. With every volunteer group we host, we challenge them to improve and advance the wind turbine design where they see an opportunity. Many of the volunteers are engineering or skilled students or professionals and so we are able to use their knowledge to work together and provide a better wind turbine design in the future.

Our business model is simple. Volunteers pay a fee to participate in our projects and inr eturn we host them in Peru and teach them how to build a wind turbine. Their fee pays for the wind turbine materials and other organisation cost such that we can afford to give each wind turbine to a community for free. The community is then responsible for preparing the foundations and helping with the installation.

The limiting factor on the success of the organisation is the number of volunteers we host. With projects being funded by the volunteers, the number of wind turbines we build and installations we complete is in correlation with how many volunteers we have. If the number of volunteers was to drop, so would the number of wind turbines we installed and so an outside funding or grant would be required for further projects to continue. However the organisation is run such that if volunteer numbers drop, no high fixed costs are in existence and the organisation can operate on a reduced basis until further funding is secured. Which means the organisation should not gain debt.

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

Year 1 (2010) - We aim to install 3 wind turbines this year, providing electricity to 3 communities. The total people to benefit from these projects in the communities is around 400 people. We are also working with a local school to explain wind energy and introduce ways to reduce your carbon footprint and live a more energy responsible life. This will reach around 1,000 school children in Peru. These projects will cut over 60,000 kgCO2 through the use of wind energy.

Year 2 (2011) - We plan to install more than 10 wind turbines this year in communities with no electricity, benefitting more than 1,300 people. We also plan to install 3 wind turbines for schools in Peru and along with educational presentations and workshops with the school children, we aim to reach more than 3,500 students and their parents. The carbon impact will be a reduction of over 260,000 kgCO2 directly from the installation of wind turbines, although the actual impact may be more due to the reduction of carbon footprints by the school children and their families.

Year 3 (2012) - We plan to install around 20 wind turbines for communities, benefitting more than 2,600 people. We will also continue to work with schools in Peru, aiming to reach over 5,000 students. This will equate to a carbon reduction of over 400,000 kgCO2, though the figure could be much higher as more of the population in Peru becomes aware of the work we are doing and changes their carbon lifestyle to reduce their emissions a little bit.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?


If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

We don't aim to seek impact on government or country wide policy, however we do wish to have some impact on the actions and lifestyle choices of Peruvians and our volunteers. Whether it be reducing your carbon footprint, thinking more about your waste, conserving your water use or just using less plastic carrier bags at the supermarket, our projects and information we give out aims to educate and provide people with choices on how to do their part in tackling climate change and protecting the environment.

What stage is your Social Enterprise in?

Operating for less than a year

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise

Access and contact to remote communities in Peru who have no access to electricity can be difficult for us and we often rely on a third party contact or other NGOs to find these communities and introduce us. We work extensively with other NGO's who have been involved in the community in the past and know the community members. Our work with these other NGOs helps our projects run more smoothly and become implemented with more success as the community are less skeptical and fearful of our involvement. This groundwork that has already been done in a community by other NGOs saves our projects time (since we can be introduced immediately and have the communities trust that the other NGO has gained. Our projects are all partnered with these other NGOs and the success of a project is also due to the hard work these other NGOS put into the project and community). This quicker introduction to new communities means we can implement each project on a faster timescale and install the wind turbines in a matter of months from first meeting the community.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

We rely solely on the fees our volunteers pay to participate. Currently, volunteers pay $1,100 for a 5-week volunteer program. During this time the group of 8-12 volunteers manufactures and installs one wind turbine for a community in Peru.

The income from the volunteers is split into 2 parts. 50% is used to pay for the wind turbine materials required to build one wind turbine, as well as covering the cost of the initial site visit to the community. The remaining 50% is used to cover the cost of the volunteers accommodation, food and travel whilst volunteering in Peru for 5 weeks.

Development and design improvements to the wind turbine are completed by volunteers and so improvements come at no cost to the organisation as we have skilled people to work with.

Although each project and community varies, the community does get involved to some extent. The wind turbine and electronics are provided by us for no cost to the community, however the community is responsible for preparing the foundations and helping with the installation. The foundations require the community to purchase concrete and sand and lay foundations in the design we provide them with. The extra man power of the community also makes manual installation of the wind turbine possible since we do not have to hire a truck or crane.

As the director, I do not take a wage and there are no full time employees. The cook for the volunteers works every time we host a group of volunteers, so if there is not a group to host, we have no costs associated with this. Likewise our volunteer coordinator is also a volunteer. Our only fixed cost is the volunteer house, so if we do not host many volunteers we have very little costs to cover. If we do host a group and run a project then the finance from the volunteers immediately covers all the extra costs.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

There was not one single moment but a succession of events. In 2009 I was traveling in South America and decided to take some time out and volunteer. Hearing of an organisation in Peru I came to meet Michael VerKamp (an American living in Peru) who planned to build wind turbines for social projects in Peru. With my engineering background I believed I would be a more useful volunteer in this area of work than other types. Upon coming to Peru in August 2009 I learned Michael was moving towards a for-profit organisation as his current business model was not sustainable. I spent a few months working with Michael and his company on designing the wind turbine and developing it to be ready for production and manufacture in Peru.

In November 2009 in the absence of a social project organisation with the wind turbines, I decided to present a new business model to Michael for me to use the wind turbine design for social projects in Peru. This lead to the creation of Volunteer WindAid where we now host volunteer groups who each help fund every project we undertake. Volunteer WindAid is now hosting volunteers and preparing for 3 new wind turbine installations this year, as well as continuing research and development for a low-cost wind turbine which can compete with fossil fuel generators and grid electricity.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

I (James Low) am a Mechanical Engineer by education from England. I spent 3 years working at an engineering consultancy in the UK before deciding to travel across South America and document my travels with photography. I have a passion for landscape photography, architecture, and almost all sports. My interest in engineering span from all type of appropriate, sustainable and renewable energy designs and I greatly enjoy innovation and the exploration of new ideas or the implementing of existing ideas in new and different areas of engineering.

Michael VerKamp is an American engineer and social entrepreneur. After working in the US Air Force and then the Hope Foundation in the US, he came to Peru to work for the NGO Bruce Peru before starting WindAid. Since 2008 Michael has been working on the development of an affordable wind turbine for use in Peru and other developing countries and is now managing the start-up company WindAid in Peru, with sales of his wind turbines steadily growing.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Friend or family member

If through another source, please provide the information