A little wind power goes a long way

» By | Published 21 May 2013

By Fran Witt, Renewable World

One kilowatt may not seem like a lot – some heaters in the West use this much energy every hour. But in Songambele, Tanzania, comparatively little energy is going a long way.

Renewable World, the UK based charity who work to provide renewable energy to remote communities in the developing world, is helping the off-grid community of Songambele to power itself out of poverty.

Climate change has impacted its 21,000 inhabitants, with crops becoming increasingly difficult to grow, resulting in adults and children working longer hours for smaller wages. Today, power provided by a new wind turbine is being used to improve crop yields directly by pumping water for irrigation. This enables children to spend more time at school and provides both time and opportunities for adults to expand their skill-sets.

Together with Tanzanian partners ALIN, and local wind power firm Wind Power Serengeti, Renewable World has established a wind/solar hybrid system which powers a Maarifa (information technology) Centre.  In addition to solar panels, a 1kw wind turbine has been installed to power the Centre, to provide additional power for productive uses, such as access to modern information technology services. The 12 metre tall horizontal axis turbine is locally produced and is designed to cut in at low wind speeds. It produces an average of 3kwH of energy per day.

Engineer Arthur Karomba, from Wind Power Serengeti, installed the system’s wind turbine: ‘All that was needed here was a turbine. This part of Tanzania is excellent for wind power. It is also good for solar power, and we were able to combine the two. We have a battery, to which the turbine is connected, and between the wind and solar power there is enough for the Centre, and to be stored for use across the community.’

Local skills are used in the maintenance and management of the turbine, using and developing knowledge and experience which already exists, and which can be passed on through the community, and from generation to generation.

Mr Karomba said: ‘Because of its rotating blades, the turbine needs to be taken down once every six months for maintenance. It’s guaranteed for a year, but we are also training people to make and build turbines.”

The system is economically viable in the long-term for the community, and is resulting in an improvement in education and training, regular employment and income for families.  The Maarifa Centre provides ICT training and information about the latest crop-growing methods. Other activities and opportunities include a barber-shop, phone charging and a shop selling agricultural equipment.

Renewable World hopes that while the turbine quietly transforms people’s lives in Songambele, the community will noisily promote its effects.

Find out how you can support Renewable World’s Songambele project through the Global Wind Day action here: www.renewable-world.org/GlobalWindDay