Empower Guatemalan Women With Woven Windmills

by Appropriate Technology Collaborative
Jun 21, 2011

Women Wind Weavers Project Update

Learning to Weave
Learning to Weave

Thanks to your generous support this summer the Guatemalan Woven Wind project is moving forward.  We at The Appropriate Technology Collaborative are making a new form to stretch fabric over.  (See Photo Attached)  We are using simple objects like a 5 gallon bucket - the type commonly used in construction in Guatemala and a piece of plastic pipe.  Right now we are using "zip ties" to hold the fabric in place but when we get to a more permanent solution we don't want to use disposable hardware.  The final shape of the blade will be cut out from the form you see in the photo.  The final curvature of the turbine blade will be different based on aerodynamics and the need to make the blades rigid. 

Executive Director John Barrie will be in Guatemala in August to start the search for a new Guatemala Lab space for ATC.  John will be in the village where we are working on the wind turbines to check in on the weavers and get their feedback on the process so far. 

The University of Michigan made a short video of the Woven Wind project from the student point of view:


Project History:

The Appropriate Technology Collaborative has been working in the village of Nueva Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, Guatemala for several years.  We have projects to improve the water supply (with Engineers Without Borders, Rutgers University) and we have had a successful solar lighting project in the surrounding hills where people live without access to electricity.  We have been working with the NSCI Development Committee to discuss how we could help create new economic opportunity.  At the end of one very long discussion we had identified two possible technologies to pursue.  One was to help them sell their weaving and handicrafts directly to the consumer on EBay and the other was to create several low cost renewable energy options.  Someone said we should do both and collectively we came up with the idea to weave wind turbines. 

While not necessarily intuitive, we looked into the idea and found that it is possible to make pretty nice turbine blades by weaving fabric, warping it over a frame and coating the fabric with a varnish or hardener to make a strong turbine blade.  The maximum size for the woven wind turbine is limited but for our purposes we can make low cost and functional turbines that suit the needs of schools, street lighting or several households.  We can even make a simple very low cost wind generator that is equivalent to a 20 watt solar panel, and we can make it in Guatemala out of locally available parts. 

We learned a lot during our Lighting Guatemala campaign.  The most important lesson learned is that a small amount of electricity makes a big difference for people living off the grid.   A small solar panel or wind turbine generator can provide enough power to run 2 - 4 bright lights + a small radio + charge a cell phone! 

ATC will be demonstrating our new solar home energy systems and a mock up of the woven wind turbine blade at the Detroit Maker Faire, July 30 and 31.  Please come out and visit us!

Proof of Concept Wind Turbine Blade
Proof of Concept Wind Turbine Blade



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Organization Information

Appropriate Technology Collaborative

Location: Ann Arbor, MI - USA
Website: http:/​/​apptechdesign.org
Project Leader:
John Barrie
Ann Arbor, MI United States

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