One of our final year product design technology students has been working on turning a concept into reality for his final major project on reducing the cost of wind turbines. Clive has provided us with an insight into his project and the progress he has made so far.
“I am working on reducing the cost of wind turbines in developing countries. This follows meeting with Practical Action and Engineers Without Borders at their “Small is Beautiful” festival of workshops and debates held last summer; thanks to Lara Lewington, the Engineers Without Borders representative who convinced me to attend.
I believe man made climate change is a very real problem; on top of this I know that masses of people have no access to electricity. The cost of turbines is prohibitive, and prevents people from using them, even where there are excellent wind resources. Instead the most common source of light is the paraffin lamp, but these result in many deaths and injuries from fire, and ingestion of paraffin. Paraffin is also very costly, especially in remote regions far from refineries, and this cost is yet another burden.
I have been inspired by a paper that was written in the eighties “crosswind kite power”, by Miles L. Loyd, of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California, a theory which has also been discussed by Makani Power. I am trying to design a machine that will be controlled by an operator; much like a power kite is controlled, by pulling on the tethers. The cost must be minimal; I am presently building a 2.5m2 prototype, the airframe of which will cost about £15 to build. I hope to have a complete system that will generate 1kW for less than £50.”