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1.5 billion people around the world have no access to electricity; the majority of which (99.8%) live in developing countries. Coupled with the lack of electricity is a severe state of poverty with 40% of the world population earning less than $2.00 per day. Inhabitants of developing countries bear the brunt of these burdens and face daily challenges that limit their ability to evolve as a community. Essential tasks, such as obtaining clean water and collecting firewood for cooking, can be extremely time consuming, preventing inhabitants from pursuing progressive endeavors including higher education or an innovative career field. Basic amenities such as electricity are viewed as a luxury in impoverished communities. The people living in Nueva Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán (NSCI), Guatemala are among those living in poverty and do not have access to a reliable source of electricity. It is the goal of the Woven Wind team to work with the Guatemalan natives to create a sustainable source of clean, consistent energy for use throughout the country as well as initiate an entrepreneurial spirit among the Guatemalan women. This is being done by working with women in NSCI who are expert weavers to create a woven wind turbine blade.
After traveling to Guatemala last year to create an alpha prototype and learn about the local conditions, our team of students from the University of Michigan has evaluated and improved upon the initial idea. We have now designed a verticle axis wind turbine that aims to maximize the energy efficiency of the turbine when taking manufacturing capabilities and other local considerations into account. The materials being used to construct the turbine have been selected based on their availability in NSCI. The current prototype is meant to output approximately 50 Watts given average wind speeds of 6.5 meters per second. This source of electricity will allow residents to power laptops and cell phones while also providing additional light when necessary. Implementing a small scale device has the advantage of easier manufacturing and encourages the community spirit of those contributing. It is the goal of our team to turn the entire project over to the empowered local women and technicians once our role helping to set up a sustainable operation is complete. By using locally available materials and working with local technicians and weavers the project will be able to achieve local autonomy.