Testing turbines in the tropics
Industrial-sized turbines in Europe undergo rigorous testing in carefully monitored conditions to ensure they are as reliable as possible. For small wind turbines being built in a workshop in the second poorest country in the Americas, the latest scientific equipment is harder to come by and the conditions very different, but the dedication to optimising the technology is the same.
In the small town of Bluefields on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, the company BlueEnergy builds 1 kW turbines which are used to bring electricity to isolated local communities. Although BlueEnergy used a classic small wind turbine design, it was necessary to make some adjustments for the near-tropical Nicaraguan climate.
“The original design uses a plywood tail vane, but we found that with the high levels of humidity out here, it absorbed too much water and became heavy. So instead we use fibreglass,” Guillaume Craig, Director of BlueEnergy, told Wind Directions.
Another issue concerned the turbine blades. Ronaldo Quintano, who heads BlueEnergy’s workshop, explains that they were originally in mahogany, but the use of the precious wood was made illegal. “So now, we use layers of cedarwood that we glue together and laminate,” explains Quintano. The reason for the layers is to allow the wood, gathered in nearby forests, to dry out more quickly.
For more on BlueEnergy and the use of small wind turbines in Nicaragua, read the latest Wind Directions, p. 35-39.