14 Jul 2014

Flat-Pack Wind Turbines: We’re big Fans

By Lily

A guest blog from our new team Kutoa.

 

Hi, we’re Kutoa, and our aim is to provide locally generated, clean energy for off-grid communities in developing countries. We’re currently designing and plan to build easy-to-transport and easy-to-deploy flat-pack wind turbines: essentially IKEA-style wind turbines.

We’re a group of 4 engineering students from Imperial College, London, the University of Oxford, and RWTH Aachen. Kutoa grew out of a ‘Design Make and Test’ group project at Imperial, for which we won a £4000 social enterprise award from the Imperial College Venture Catalyst Challenge. Our success in this challenge, and our belief in our product motivated us to take the project a step further and start Kutoa Ltd.

With access rates to electricity as low as 4% in some of sub-saharan Africa, there is lots of room for expansion. Expanding access to electricity in remote communities can have huge beneficial effects on health, education, and potential for economic output, with benefits including the ability refrigerate, cook, read after dusk, and to use electrical machinery.

The main difficulty in bringing electricity to remote communities is the high cost of distributing centrally generated electricity. We think that this can be avoided by small-scale local power generation. We believe that if local power generation methods can be implemented without the need for trained engineers, and without large up-front costs, this could cause a rapid burst of sustainable development in the developing world. And this is what we hope to achieve.

By building wind turbines that can be flat-packed, we allow for easy and cheap transportation to remote communities. In addition, our turbines will be easy to assemble by following a few simple steps, similar to furniture from IKEA. We intend to design the turbines in such a way that the assembly requires no heavy tools or machinery, and only a small amount of manpower. We’re also aiming to keep the deployment time to as little as 2 hours.

So far, we have built a 1.5m prototype (approx 1:6 scale) and tested it on a London rooftop – admittedly not quite the target environment. We now intend to begin working on components for a full-scale prototype, which will allow us to do further testing and to learn about the challenges of building a strong, deployable structure and durable, resilient power generation.