Review: Wind Empowerment's 2018 Conference In Chennai, India

The 4th Wind Empowerment International Conference, WEIndia2018, recently took place in Chennai, India. The coordinators have now published a detailed review of their experiences – read it here!

For the first time, before the actual conference, Wind Empowerment organised an 8-day series of hands-on manufacturing workshops with more than 100 participants from around the world. During the workshops hosted at NIWE’s warehouse and conference areas, the participants were instructed by Wind Empowerment trainers to construct all parts of a wind turbine, from blades and generator to tower and electronics. The non-patented designs by small wind expert Hugh Piggott were used to manufacture two wind turbines (800W and 500W), and open designs, developed by practitioners within the Wind Empowerment network, to construct a wooden tower, fiberglass blades, a water pumping system, a charge controller, a datalogger and modular power electronics. The constructed equipment was then assembled, bench tested, installed and field tested at NIWE’s Wind Turbine Test Station.

After the workshops, three days of conference and roundtables allowed representatives of wind energy from around the world to exchange their knowledge and delve deeper into technical and methodological discussions. This has been an opportunity to focus on technical details with major importance such as the height of the mast and the placement of the system and discuss a wide variety of topics: Standards, Testing and Quality Control, Micro-Grid opportunities, Distributed power electronics, Productive uses, Market Assessment and Sustainability Assessment of small wind turbines for rural development amongst others. On this occasion, international projects were also presented, such as experiences from Nepal, France, Tanzania, Peru and Argentina.

International interest

The workshops and conference were attended by more than 150 participants from 40 different countries. Many of them were foreign government representatives, from each country’s Ministry of Energy or National Electrification Agency, who were invited by the Secretary of the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to participate, as well as representatives from NGOs, universities, entrepreneurs, students from the renewable energy sector and enthusiasts.

The different rates of access to electrification between countries generate different interests for participation in these conferences. For countries with high electrification, it is an environmental issue to develop or initiate renewable energies.

The stakes are different for countries with low electrification rates. The small wind turbine represents a solution for isolated sites on the one hand for its relatively simple implementation, on the other hand because it is a source of clean energy. The participants from these countries have a strong interest in wind energy and this workshop and conference has only increased the desire to get started, but several obstacles have been highlighted. Apart from the economic brakes, the wind is still unknown in comparison to solar energy and the lack of expertise is a problem for the installation and maintenance. Moreover, it is necessary to make a preliminary study of places where small wind can be installed, to have a map of the winds of the country, all this requires time. The conference has contributed to the improvement of knowledge in the wind field for each country and also made for exchanges between the different countries and also with the Wind Empowerment network.

Future partnerships

These two intense weeks have been rich in information, generating great interest and momentum among participants. Nehemia Rong, tomato and pepper producer from Manipur (North East India), leaves with the idea of installing a wind turbine for his farm. José Armando Gastelo-Roque from Peru does research at the university and works at WAIRA (which means “wind” in Quechua), a company working on renewable energies. Sebastian Ochoa from Colombia works in a company generating energy from biogas. Both would like to set up a Wind Empowerment project in their respective countries.

From India alone, four organisations have become members of Wind Empowerment: KCG College of Technology, Revayu Systems, Gramin Tantradyan Sanstha and KAC Fibres.

Wind Empowerment coordinator Jessica Rivas hopes that these events will be the first step on a positive direction moving small wind forward in India and across the world. “Tools, knowledge and expertise has been shared with an international audience, now it is time to transfer and spread what was learnt in Chennai with the people back home.” The wind rises!

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