What luck: both the organisations that I had wanted to work with in Nepal, Practical Action and KAPEG, had teamed up to host this workshop the day after the IEEE conference finished! It was quite the contrast to the IEEE’s event and I was pleased to see that other than Peter Freere, who ran the morning session, then I was the only non-Nepali there. Fortunately the whole event was in English, which did feel quite strange as after Peter had gone, I was left wondering whether the afternoon’s discussion would have been much easier for everybody else if it had been in Nepali.
Peter is a very interesting fellow, who worked at Monash University in Australia before transferring to Kathmandu University for 4 years. Whilst there, he founded KUPEG (the Kathmandu University Power and Energy Group) and successfully trained many students to an international standard. When he left Kathmandu University, KUPEG became KAPEG (the Kathmandu Alternative Power and Energy Group) and continued much as it had done before. Peter’s excellent tuition allowed many of KAPEG’s staff to obtain prestigious scholarships to study overseas, which although great for them has made it very difficult for the organisation to make progress with such high staff turnover. As I mentioned in my previous post, I hope some of them come back to KAPEG after their studies as their new skills will be invaluable to the organisation.
The highlight of the day for me was the round table discussion at the end of the day on wind power in Nepal. Important issues that came up were:
- Practical Action and KAPEG had both had particular problems with Hugh Piggott-style axial flux permanent magnet generators and were now considering importing wind turbine generators from China. The blades, tower and tail could be made in Nepal, as it is cheaper to do so. However, the magnets must be imported from China and the cost of the magnets alone for a 300W Hugh Piggott alternator is higher than importing a prefabricated 1kW wind turbine generator.
- Government subsidies for PV and micro-hydro are significant (over 50%), however only certified products qualify for the subsidy. As wind power has yet to establish itself in the country, nobody is actually aware of how you would even go about getting the government to certify a particular wind turbine.
- Previously unsuccessful wind power projects have given the technology a bad reputation. Given the phenomenal success of both micro-hydro and solar in the country, then many people question why wind is even needed. However wind must be seen as complementary to both micro-hydro and PV, as not every community is lucky enough to have a suitable stream running nearby and PV is still prohibitively expensive for many people. Micro-hydro generally works best near the bottoms of hills where there are many streams, however the tops of hills are usually the windiest.