Picking up the pieces in Los Gigantes

I visited Los Gigantes back in May, when we installed a 2.4kW Piggott turbine that had been built at a training course run in nearby Córdoba. We also installed an arduino based datalogger – see previous post.

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Unfortunately, the tower of the turbine that our sensors were installed on fell down a few weeks ago, so I arrived to find the anemometers and wind vane broken beyond repair. What is more, the new wifi enabled logger and extra current sensor failed to arrive in time before I left, so the planned upgrade also wasn’t possible. However, all was not lost and we were able to cannibalise one of the wind resource measurement kits that Matt Little had built for me and install a new anemometer on the tower of the new Piggott turbine, “El Pampero”. As a result, we were able to leave the system logging everything apart from wind direction.

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El gran viaje patagónico

Today I begin my seven week journey through Patagonia to continue my case study research into the electrification of rural areas with small wind turbines.

Why Patagonia? The map bellow answers this question perfectly – the wind resource is simply incredible. After seeing so many small wind turbines installed in places that simply don’t have enough wind in other parts of the world, I really want to see what factors influence the viability of the technology in a place where the wind resource is not in question.

3tier_5km_global_wind_speed PATAGONIA-01

Here are some of the things I’ll be up to over the next seven weeks:

6th-8th August – Los Gigantes, Córdoba, Argentina. During my previous visit to Patagonia in May, we installed an Arduino-based logger at the Los Gigantes rural school, at the same time as a 2.4m Piggott turbine. The logger is currently recording to an SD card, but we will be upgrading it to send data wirelessly over the internet. We decided to mount the anemometer and wind vane on the taller tower of the wind turbine that was already installed here, however this tower decided to fall down a few weeks ago. So, along with the upgrade, we’ll also be picking up the pieces of the sensors.

9th-23rd August – The Falkland Islands, also known as Las Malvinas. Although the environmental conditions are very similar to much of Southern Patagonia, the war between Argentina and the UK in the 1980s created a political barrier between the islands and the rest of the continent, meaning that the social and political factors that enable and constrain the development of small wind power are very different here than on the mainland.

24th-27th August – UNPA, Argentina and UMAG, Chile. Two of the most active universities in the development of small scale wind power in Southern Patagonia.

29th August – 3rd Sept (TBC) – Cerro Gorro Frigio, Chubut, Argentina. A rural community with links to EWB/ISF (Engineers Without Borders/Ingeniería Sin Fronteras) Patagonia. Small wind turbines were installed here by a government programme, but have since fallen into disrepair.

Patagonia map

4th-6th Sept (TBC) – CREE (Regional Centre for Wind Power), Rawson, Chubut, Argentina. CREE has been instrumental in the establishement of wind power a key player in the installation of over 1,500 small wind turbines in the Argentinian province of Chubut.

7th-13th September – Cholila, Chubut, Argentina. Wind Empowerment members, 500rpm, will be running a participatory wind turbine construction course at a rural school set up by the foundation Cruzada Patagonica. The school was set up to provide education to the children of the sheep farmers who live out in the desert to the East of the Andes. Many of the sheep farmers already have small wind turbines installed at their homes by a government programme, however the vast majority are out of service as access to maintenance services is simply not available in many places. 500rpm hope that this course will help the pupils understand the technology better, so that they can fix simple failures themselves and ultimately build replacements using the Piggott design, which offers users the opportunity to perform almost all maintenance themselves.

14th-21st September – Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentina. 500rpm are running a follow-up to their extremely popular theory/practical course at the National Parks HQ. During my previous visit to Patagonia, we installed a 2.4m Piggott turbine and during this week, we will install a prototype Arduino based datalogger to measure its performance. There is the potential of installing further turbines at park ranger cabins in National Parks across Argentina, as well as the homes of the people living within the National Park boundaries, many of whom are from the Mapuche first nation and either live without electricity or occasionally make use of a petrol/diesel generator when funds are available for fuel.

22nd-26th September – Buenos Aires, Argentina. Interviews with wind power experts and running a session on establishing infrastructure for maintenance services in the National Industrial Technology Institute’s (INTI) annual small wind manufacturers’ workshop (TBC).