Engineers Without Borders Bring Tech to Villages Without Power
Monday, March 24, 2008
A group of volunteer engineers are finishing the design for a home-brewed wind turbine that will bring electricity to off-the-grid Guatemalan villages by this summer.
After the U.S. engineers finish the design, local workers in the town of Quetzaltenango will manufacture the small-scale turbine. It will produce 10-15 watts of electricity, enough to charge a 12-volt battery that can power simple devices like LED lights.”They’re replacing kerosene lamps, if anything at all,” said Matt McLean, a mechanical engineer by day and leader of the wind-turbine project by night. “The biggest driver is just keeping the cost way down. We’re shooting for under $100, which is a challenge, but we’re in that range.”
The effort comes amidst recent efforts to bring new light and power to small towns in the developing world. An estimated 1.6 billion people worldwide are without electricity, and many of them are forced to light their homes with kerosene. Using one of these lamps is like smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, says the World Bank, and the lamps present a significant fire risk. That’s why many startup companies, such as d.Light, are trying to bring cheaper LED lights to homes, but they still need a solution for producing power locally.
That’s where organizations like Engineers Without Borders come in. Founded in 2002 by Bernard Amadie, a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder, it has grown to more than 10,000 members in over 250 chapters. According to Cathy Leslie, the executive director of the U.S. organization, 340 projects are underway.