Flatpack wind turbine invented by 15-year-old set to help communities in Kenya


A flat wind turbine invented by a 15-year-old Scottish student is to be used to provide electricity to communities in Kenya.

Douglas Macartney, now 19, designed the turbine for a competition in 2018 and it has since been developed into a viable prototype by several teams of undergraduate engineers from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU).

The students worked for several years to create the prototype, their contribution including the addition of two solar panels.

The device, which can be assembled without any specialized training, is intended for use in helping areas recovering from natural disasters and in rural settlements far from grid connection.

The wind turbine was designed to generate enough electricity to power a light and two USB outlets in a relief area or refugee camp

Andrew Cowell, Glasgow Caledonian University

GCU is now working with other partners to bring the turbine to Kenya, where it will help rural communities.

Mr Macartney, now 19, designed the turbine when he was a pupil at the Royal High School in Edinburgh.

He said: “Ikea built a flat-packed refugee shelter and I liked how simple it was. I thought of doing the same thing but with something that would have energy consumption in a refugee camp.

“Working with the GCU team has been great. It was amazing to see how my idea on paper turned into a working prototype.

“I found it interesting to see how it evolved over time and the process involved in working on a project like this.

“It has been developed far beyond what I would have thought possible when I came up with the design.”

The GCU project is one of 64 to share £26 million in funding from the UK government’s Innovate UK Energy Catalyst programme.

GCU will partner with DeCourcy Alexander, a London-based sustainable innovation consultancy, and E-Safiri Charging Limited, a Kenyan company that focuses on research and innovative solutions to provide sustainable energy access.

The funding will enable the three partners to link UK universities and small rural industry in Kenya, where it is hoped the turbine will help create sustainable economic growth and education that will transform lives.

Andrew Cowell, Senior Lecturer at GCU and Principal Investigator of the project, said: “The wind turbine was designed to generate enough electricity to power a light and two USB outlets in a disaster relief area or camp. of refugees.

“The addition of solar panels was inspired partly by Douglas’ original idea and partly by feedback from an Innovate UK research partner. All our calculations show that the concept is viable.

“Technology would be able to improve access to energy by making it affordable, reliable and low-carbon. Our portable, flatbed system is easier to deploy in rural areas and could reduce installation and transportation costs – and energy prices in general – compared to a conventional system, as it is self-contained and off network, making it accessible to everyone.

“The local community will be trained in the assembly and use of the device and eventually there are plans to try to manufacture it in Kenya.”

The project is due to start on March 1 and will run for 12 months, including field trials in suitable locations in Scotland and Kenya.

The project will be called Angaza Africa – Angaza being the Swahili word meaning “to give light, to illuminate, to shine”.

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