STEVE: I’d like to introduce Matthias Craig. He went to Brooklyn MIT with me, and it’s my pleasure to welcome him to Google. And let’s just talk about Blue Energy. MATHIAS CRAIG: Thanks, Steve. Can everybody hear me? I just want to thank Steve for inviting me here today and thank Google, and welcome you all for coming, and also like to welcome my friend Bailey who’s in Seattle or Kirkland, for teleconferencing in.
First of all, I just want to ask you all a question. How many talks about wind power you guys had here last year? You had a few? Couple? None? AUDIENCE: . MATHIAS CRAIG: Not about wind. OK. It’s a pretty hot topic right now, so I was just wondering how many people know about it and how many people have seen other talks on it. I thought I’d start by just jumping the gun, and answering the question why most of the wind turbines the Altamont Pass don’t turn. Because that is invariably– for people in California within like five minutes of my talk– the question comes up right away. That those things don’t ever seem to work. They never spin. Even when it’s very windy, I drive through there all the time on 588 and they never work. So the short answer that question is that most of those wind turbines– and this is unrelated to this talk, really, but I thought I’d just start with it. Most of those wind turbines were put in around 1980, when there was a tax structure that was heavily in favor of wind power, so a lot of people invested in wind power.
The technology was not mature at all. In fact, some people compare to it to just taking helicopter blades off a helicopter and slapping it on a generator and seeing if it would work as a wind turbine. That technology didn’t work very well. Most of those wind turbines never worked more than a month or two in the first place. And the companies went bankrupt. And the turbines have stood there ever since. So it’s not really a reflection of wind power as a viable technology, and that should be just kept in mind, that the new wind turbines are working much, much better. Anyway, it’s on to what I’m here to talk to you about, which is blueEnergy a nonprofit organization that I started in 2003, focusing on microwind. So it’s nothing like what you see in the Altimonte Pass. These are wind turbines or currently building between a twelve foot diameter rotors here this is an eight foot model right here This is about 500 watts. The twelve foot model is about one kilowatt machine.
The project that we’re doing is actually in Nicaragua. We’re a very dispersed organization. We’re headquartered here in San Francisco. We also have a sister organization in France called or blueEnergy France, and all of our project work is in Nicaragua. Not only is it in Nicaragua, but we’re on or even in the remote side of Nicaragua which is the Caribbean side. The country is, in terms of civil infrastructure, culture and everything, is very different from the Pacific to the Caribbean side. We’re on the Caribbean side, very remote. Now what blueEnergy does is provide a low cost, sustainable solution to the energy needs of marginalized communities, through the construction, installation and maintenance of hybrid wind solar energy systems. We build the systems locally in Blue Fields, Nicaragua, on the Caribbean coast in order to be able to work building local capacity to maintain the systems.
If you can build it, you can maintain it. Also it’s a social effort, so there’s an element of economic development, providing jobs to people in an area where it’s desperately needed. The reason why we’re in Nicaragua, and what brings us to one of the most remote places in the world is family history. My mother is a linguist working on an indigenous language on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, the Brahma language. She documents dying languages, and is a specialist in Amerindian languages.
So we used to travel there pretty frequently when we were young, my brother and I. So that’s how we got to know the area. Because it’s not so obvious how somebody from Oregon who lives in California would have any relationship with the Caribbean coast. My interest in wind power started when I was an undergraduate student at Berkeley. I was civil engineering major, but I spent a lot of my time studying and working with the energy and resource group, headed by Dan Kammen and Dick Norgaard among other people. As Steve said, I went on to MIT and did graduate work. My studies were never actually in wind power specifically. That was always more of a hobby on the side.
But I was studying engineering, and learning a lot of relevant stuff. When I was at MIT, that’s where the idea for blueEnergy came. There was a class in the Media Lab called Developmental Entrepreneurship, taught by Sandy Pentland founder of Digital Nations and former head of the media lab at MIT. And that class, the whole concept was to develop business plans to deliver products or services to the world’s two billion poorest instead of products for the top of the pyramid, as most consumer products are. The deliverable for this class was a business plan to be submitted to the MIT 50K entrepreneurship competition. We entered in the fall in the warm-up competition in the 1K warm-up competition, and we won in the global markets category, which came as a surprise to us. We were very excited. Everybody around us was huge biotech companies and all these other things, so we sort of slid in there and won the global markets category. That was a small prize in terms of money, just $1,000. You can’t do anything with that. But just in terms of momentum, that was a big push for us, to get us out the door, out of school.
So then when I graduated I went on to incorporate blueEnergy as a 501C(30 public charity, tax exempt organization, and the reason for that because I say, with a twist, because we’re not like most nonprofit organizations. We’re into manufacturing, So we’re into hardware, and that’s a pretty rare domain for nonprofit organizations. And people look at us, here we are building energy systems, installing energy systems, why can’t you make a profit doing that? So why wouldn’t you incorporate as a for profit? And the answer to that question is that we chose to be committed to Nicaragua at the beginning of the project, in one of the most remote places in the world. It’s a very difficult business environment. It’s not a great market. It’s not where you would go if you were for profit. And if we had shareholders, they would force us to go to Mexico or some other place where these systems would be applicable, and where there is a lot more money for people to buy them commercially. So that’s why I say public charity with a twist. The original business plan competition that was submitted to the MIT competition was actually a for profit model, but after more groundwork in Nicaragua, studying the market.
And talking with some potential investors, basically it came up that the project was just too high-risk, from a social perspective, political perspective, technological perspective. Pretty much no private investment would come in. Where we stand today is that we have four energy systems in communities on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. We’re also conducting an ongoing market study, and environmental impact study and also, very importantly, a wind resource study, to see what the energy production potential is in the region for small scale wind power. There have been industrial scale studies done by SWERA of the United Nations and ENREL here in the United States, of Nicaragua, but as usually the case, the Caribbean coast was almost completely ignored, and where they did actually study it, they were only studying things at 150, 200 feet.
Today, we’re a pretty small organization. But I think we’re on the verge of something big. We’ve finally gotten the interest and the attention of the government of Nicaragua. We got to Nicaragua in June, 2004. So we’ve just been sort of plodding along. With the government change, at the end of 2006, with the Sandinistas coming back into power, they have a much stronger interest in rural development. And we’re all of a sudden being invited to meetings to the Ministry of Energy and everything, so I think, and also the United Nations, and the World Health Organization is starting to take note.
Pretty much everybody who has a development project they want to do in that region, but very few of them have any experience with energy. So you want to build a rural health clinic out in the middle of nowhere, the first thing you have to ask is how are you going to get clean water and how are you going to get power. So what makes us different from other energy development projects? I would say the number one thing it is our commitment to a lasting, long term solution. It’s not that there hasn’t been any energy development work in this region. In fact there’s been quite a bit, like solar power development, diesel power for isolated minigrids, et cetera, but almost without exception, they failed. And the question is, why? You know, we had one community we work with over the last fifteen years, they’ve received four diesel generators and none of them has grown to run for more than six months. Why? Because the cost of fuel is so high with diesel at $a gallon, in a region where GDP per capita is $450 or $500.
I mean, that’s a decent salary for year. Who can afford fuel at $a gallon? No local capacity to maintain the systems. Nobody there has been trained on– nobody there would have the first idea of how to build a diesel generator, let along– and you have to have some knowledge of how to build it if you ever need to take it apart to fix something and put it back together. So what makes up, what are the components of building a lasting and sustainable solution? First thing is, use appropriate technology. Diesel power in that region– it’s not that diesel powers is a bad technology. It’s a great technology. But is it appropriate for an area where there aren’t any big diesel shops, and nobody’s been trained on diesel manufacturing and maintenance? You know, the answer. History’s shown the answer is no. What we provide is, and I’ll get into more detail about turbine itself, is an appropriate energy source for that area. Second thing is building local capacity. We spend a lot of our time and effort training people. So we do workshops at Blue Fields. We go out into the community to work with the system operators.
And then we also do a lot of sort of social institution building around the energy system. You can’t just go put an energy system in the community and just let it be expected to run. We work with communities to form energy commissions, which have operators to do sort of the technical operations of the system, and the treasurer to collect say, charging fees. A lot of times, that infrastructure isn’t in place in these rural communities. There aren’t any banks. There aren’t any– so, who’s going to take records who’s charging their battery when? Who’s paying? Who’s collecting? All the management that surrounds an energy system. and thirdly, is our long term commitment. Most energy development projects are pretty fleeting. It’s either the government. Or it’s oftentimes, in this region, it’s a church in the United States, you know, well intentioned, but they raise $5,000 from the members of the church. They go down on them one week mission of goodwill buy a bunch of equipment, go install it out in the jungle and then they’re disappointed when they come back six months later and none of its working.
So, we’ve had a long term commitment to that area over the last twenty years, and we’ve been now in Blue Fields permanently for the last three years, and we plan on blueEnergy being there forever, whether it’s us or not remains to be seen, but the institution will remain. Second, is understanding and respecting the local way of life. It’s the Caribbean. It’s a different business climate. Everything is different. And to be successful takes a very delicate balance of persistence and patience. If you don’t follow up, and if you don’t push people, then nothing ever gets done. But if you push too hard, you end up frustrating people and frustrating yourself, and things just come to a grinding halt also.
So, it’s a very delicate balance. It’s sort of a hurry up and wait philosophy. Where you always have to be ready, you always have to be following up. That’s not always reciprocated. But it’s sort of a gentle push. And thirdly is that we’re keenly aware that it’s not a one size fits all. For small renewable energy systems, the key is understanding each particular case, whether the community whose getting a system, or an individual or an institution. You know, what are their needs? What’s the level of their technical capacity? What’s their ability to pay? How much energy they need? When they need it? Why? Et cetera. So each time we look at doing an energy projects, there are different variables we look at. The location, the physical location of the system, who’s going to be served. Is this for household electrifiation? Is this for private use? Or is it a public school or a clinic? Who is going to own equipment after it’s installed? Management and operation? How much of this is being delegated to the community? How much is blueEnergy doing? How much is an institution handling themselves? And physical configuration? We’ll see a little bit more about that later as we get into different types of systems that we build.
So the core of what we do– actually one more fact that I think it’s important to mention is the state of electrification in Nicaragua today. Fifty percent of the people in Nicaragua overall don’t have access to electricity. And on the Caribbean coast, where we work, a very isolated region, 80% don’t have access to electricity. So pretty much everyone who lives outside of Blue Fields, or outside of Pearl Lagoon, which I’ll show in more detail on a map in a little bit– outside of those two towns on the Caribbean coast, don’t have electricity.
And there are several reasons for that. Partly because they’ve tried with diesel and that just hasn’t worked because of the high cost of petroleum. But also there’s essentially no civil infrastructure of any kind on the Caribbean coast. There are no roads going in or out of Blue Fields, for example. you have to either fly in or go in by boat. All of our work that we do up and down the coast, we have to– it’s all boat transportation, by sea. 25, 35 foot pangas or slow diesel boats for moving heavy materials. So, there are no roads up or down the coast. There’s no electric grid on the coast outside of Blue Fields. There’s no running water. So, it’s difficult for a project to sort of succeed in isolation when you don’t have all these thing supporting your work, it makes every small task difficult.
This here is a picture of the wind turbine that we’re building today in Blue Fields. This picture is a fresh one.. This is actually from last week. We just completed our fourth installation in the community of Kakabila. A few basic things about the turbine design itself– because fairly unique compared to, you know– we’re not the only ones building small wind turbines. There’s Southwest Wind Power, there’s Bergey. There’s a lot of other companies in the United States and in Europe.
But this design is fairly unique for a couple reasons. Well first of all, the base design comes from a gentleman named Hugh Piggott of Scoraig Wind Electric. He’s sort of considered to be the guru of small wind power, do it yourself. And he’s from what I call the school of heavy metal. He believes in using steel, not plastic. Building things strong. They’re heavy. They’re robust. The wind tends to destroy just about anything in its path. So if you put in more materials, it costs a little bit more up front. But the idea again is long term energy production. He, along with a fairly large community of interested people developed the turbine from the ground up for ease of construction. That was really number one. This isn’t like a birdie or some other high tech US wind turbine, where they stripped away components to simplify it. They really designed this from the ground up for ease of construction.
The fact that we’re able to manufacture this in Blue Fields with basic hand tools and a few power tools speaks to that. Robustness again, tied to the heavy metal idea. And also the other side of robustness is it doesn’t have a lot of fancy electronics. If you look at a Southwest Wind Turbine like the Air-X or the 403 or the Bergey Excel, you know, those have fairly high tech electronics which squeeze out a little bit more energy from the wind to get a slightly higher efficiency. But the trade-off is that those parts are difficult to manufacture, they’re difficult to maintain, unreliable, and it’s just one more thing that’s liable to break out in the jungle. So this turbine doesn’t have those features, which is a good thing in this environment. And it’s also optimized for energy production in low winds.
Which means that the way you build the blades, and you match the blades to the alternator, you have to pick where you want your peak efficiency to come. And this is designed to be more efficient in low winds, and less efficient in high winds, primarily because when you’re an isolated system and you’re charging batteries, if it’s very windy, your batteries are most likely full. So that’s a less important time to worry about efficiency. More important that you get some power every day. The key design– if there’s one design thing that really separates this from other, more traditional designs, it’s the configuration of the alternator. There’ll be some better pictures later on showing exactly how that is, but most generators are radio flux, that’s magnetic flux. So you’ll have a casing like this, the rotor could either be the inside or the outside, your copper on one end and your magnets on the other object. One of the two of them is rotating.
And it’s a three dimensional object. One rotating very close to the other. It’s very difficult to build three dimensional components like that to a high precision in a low tech environment. So essentially, if you imagine, the inside here is rotating like this. It’s got say, your copper outside, your magnet from the inside. What this design did is it flattened everything out like this, so you have the copper coils in a disc, which is essentially a two dimensional object with a little bit of thickness in the middle and then you have a plate on either side with the magnets, and they’re attached to each other.
So it’s north, south. So your magnetic flux goes along the axis of rotation. So that’s what we call an axial flux alternator. Then, as I mentioned before, what you get from ease of construction is logically, is ease of maintenance. If they can build it, they can repair it. And what that means is low cost over time. See, what we don’t like, and there’s a problem in the real energy marketplace of talking about say, dollar per watt, so dollar per power, dollar per unit installed. But that’s not what really matters. What matters is dollar per unit of energy delivered over the lifetime of the system. If you can buy a system that’s cheaper, but it’s going to break in a year, what good does that do? Better to pay more and get a system that will produce more kilowatt hours over its lifetime.
So if you can maintain something, that dramatically lowers the life cycle cost. This is actually one of our towers in Blue Fields. Products and services– so that was a little bit about the wind turbine, I’m going to go into a little more detail in a second about the turbine itself. But this just to give you an idea of the kinds of things that we build. We don’t just build wind turbines. We do hybrid renewable energy systems. That means we build these from scratch in Blue Fields. We build all the components. We wind our own copper coils. Cut our steel.
Carve the blades. All that done in Blue Fields. Towers– we also built from scratch. We do all the welding and assembly. For solar, we do all the framing for the solar and then we actually purchase the panels commercially. One of the other major components of the energy system is the power center. We’ll get into a little more detail later, but that’s the inverter, the charge controller, the battery bank, sort of the brains of the system. And then we also build home electrification kits, where one of these boxes will go in a home and provide power for one small home. It houses a battery, a low voltage disconnect device to protect the battery, and some electric sockets. For services, a lot of the work that we do is system design.
There’s not a lot of know-how about how to design appropriate renewable energy systems in that region, so a lot of our work starts with this when we put in for grants or when somebody comes to us say hey, we need energy. We do our studies, and then we come up with diagrams like this. We also do site evaluation. That’s the wind resource study to make sure that the areas are appropriate. That’s an example of a wind rose there. It just shows you, it’s not zoomed in enough to see the detail, but the general idea of a wind rose is it tells you what direction the wind blows from predominantly, how often, and how strong. So each of these colors represents a different wind speed, the top here is North, so you can see here, the wind blows primarily from the North and Northeast for that particular site.
As I mentioned, we also do a lot of operator training. Again, that touches again on the social aspect of the organization, that we’re a nonprofit organization. That allows us to do things like operator training, which are money losers. You know, you make money by building the product, and selling it and never going back and seeing those people, but that doesn’t deliver a sustainable energy source. Installation work– we do all of that. We don’t outsource any of that. We do all that in house, That’s digging the foundations, pouring foundations, anchors, building and assembling towers out in the field. And also maintenance, which again, we do some. I mean here are two of our technicians, and here are three local guys. So we do some of the work, but we try to get them involved as much as possible and over time, the ideas is that’ll move more and more towards the communities themselves, that is once they receive the training.
Just a couple key points I want to touch on, just really briefly, history of Nicaragua. Why is that region– why is there no civil infrastructure on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua? Why is it so remote? Basically, it starts with the fact that Nicaragua was colonized by the Spanish and English at the same time. Spanish on the Pacific side, English on the Caribbean side. The way that went– basically the Caribbean side has never felt that it was really part of the national government and it actually wasn’t until about 1900, with the help of US Marines, that the Pacific side, the central government in Managua invaded the Caribbean side to as they say realign it or reappropriate it or something. But the Caribbean coast really views it as an invasion, where they were integrated.
And that’s where you get really the forming of Nicaragua as one country. But that didn’t change the fact that people in the Caribbean never saw themselves as part of the national government. This manifests itself in a lot of ways, I mean, for example, just demographics. The English and Spanish pursued very different policies on the Pacific side. The Spanish pretty much decimated the local population. Therefore, the people you have there today are lighter skinned, Spanish speaking, more Spanish descent. On the Caribbean side, the English were more hands-off, but there was some slavery, so there are black creole communities. A lot of the indigenous communities have survived on the coast as well. So it’s much more diverse on the Caribbean side. And over 50% of the population on the Caribbean side speaks English as a first language, creole English. And then after the US Marines invaded the Caribbean side, you have a long period of dictatorship, about forty years the Somosa family.
And they banned educate– they always viewed that sort of a resource pool, the Caribbean side as a resource pool, not really part of the country. They banned education over the fifth grade level during that entire time. So, I mean, all these things speak to why there isn’t much technical capacity there, why there isn’t civil infrastructure. There’s a pretty long, brutal history there. And then also natural disasters, the hurricanes. Hurricane Yvonne in 1989 destroyed 90% of Blue Fields. So this is just to give you a sense of the context of where we work. Again, as I mentioned before, the fact that blueEnergy is nonprofit, and has sort of social focus, that means that gives us some room to focus on sustainability, and not on maximizing sales.
We have six energy systems installed in four communities right now. We could have had way more. We could have had 20, 30 by this time. And we have a lot of people coming to us, asking to purchase systems. But we’ve sort of held back on the reins because of our focus on sustainability. We don’t want to go install one more system in some community that we can’t support right now. So we’re waiting to scale the organization so that the number of installations we have is in proportion to the strength of the organization. And, just on one technical note, many of you probably already know this, but I just want to point out there’s a big difference between power and energy when we talk about production and battery storage and everything.
It’s important to remember that power is a rate. So I’d say, as an analogy it can be thought of as water, the rate of water flowing into a storage tank for example. Energy is an amount. It’s how much water you have in a storage tank. So think of a battery. A battery stores energy. A battery doesn’t store power. But a battery can deliver power in an instant. The turbine does the same thing. We talk about a wind turbine and say it’s a one kilowatt wind turbine. That means that at a particular wind speed, it’s spinning it’ll produce one kilowatt at any given instant. But the really important question is how over time, how much energy is it producing? So energy is really our focus, and the fact that the marketplace really focuses on power, they want to tell you how many dollars per watt, how many dollars per kilowatt, is very misleading. And we and other responsible advocates of renewable energy would rather people focus on energy. So here’s a few pictures talking about the different major components of the wind turbine itself, since that’s really our focus.
We start with the blade rotor, which as I mentioned now, the ones that we’re carving and making now are about 12 feet in diameter. So they’re six foot blades. They are carved out of wood. We are currently investigating some fiberglassing options, some injection molding, but still to this date, wood is our primary raw material. It has the advantage of being really nice to work with. it’s pleasant. It can also be very environmentally friendly, if the logging is done appropriately.
The problem on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua is that generally it’s not. It’s either being clear-cut, or it’s either that’s there a an overproduction of wood or there’s underproduction because the government bans it. They sort of cycle, back and forth. After the blades are carved, we treat them to prevent salt water damage, bugs, dust, so to sort of strengthen them. And then we assemble them. This is what the 12 foot rotor looks like, three blades. As I mentioned, we also build the alternator from scratch, this sort of pancake alternator. We start by winding our own.
We start with copper wire. We wind our own coils. We do all the wiring. This is set in a wood mold. And then we cast it. It’s a fiberglass resin. And this is what it looks like in the end. This is a magnet rotor disk. So there’s a steel disk. This white here is a north magnet. This blue here’s a south magnet. North meaning direction pointing in. The yellow disc is the stater, That has the copper coils embedded in it. You can see a little bit of one of the copper coils here. And then there’s an identical disk like this on the backside, except that the magnets alternate, so if this is north pointing in, then on the back side it’s south pointing in.
So that gives you your magnetic flux that cuts through the stater. So the blades attach here, and this is all mounted on a wheel hub for the rotor bearing. So the blades attach here, so when this disk spins, the disc in the back is locked in sync with it, so you get an alternating. As this moves around, first you have north cutting through this coil, and then as this magnet passes by, you get south. As this magnet comes around, you get north. Et cetera. That gives you alternating current. It produces what we call wild AC.
It’s called wild because it’s variable voltage and variable frequency. As the wind turbine speeds up, it’s essentially– it’s power that can’t be used directly. Because if you can’t plug your appliances into something that’s got the voltage going up and down, up and down. So what we do is we rectify it with bridged rectifiers into DC current, which then get stored in batteries, and then can either be used directly as DC current or can be used as clean AC with an inverter. For the body of the turbine– so here’s the back side of the alternator. So there you see the second disk on the back side. We make this body out of angle iron, weld it all together. Here’s the back of the wheelhub that’s pointing basically into the page. This is the bridge rectifier box. This is where the wild AC comes out of the stater here, goes in here, gets rectified to DC and runs down the center of the tower, down to the power center.
One of the other major sort of geniuses of the design of this wind turbine is the furling system. Because dealing with wind power, you always have to worry about high winds, especially in regions like this, from the hurricane and other strong winds. How does the wind turbine protect itself in high winds? Like what’s the overspeed protection? Because copper coils have a limit. You know, they can’t produce infinite current without melting. And things just can’t rotate at infinite speeds, and with strong wind and no method for furling out of the wind, these things will spin very fast, and they would melt without any protection.
So the design, which you can see here, if you look carefully, these are the hinges for the tail vane. See, the wind turbine has a tail vane that’s mounted— and you’ll notice that it’s not straight up and down. It’s at an angle. So the tail vane sits like this. Under normal operation, say the wind’s coming from that direction, the tale vane keeps it pointed in the wind. The wind switches direction, comes that way, catches the tail vane and it’ll pivot into the wind.
But because of this angle here, when the wind reaches a certain speed, the tail vane, which is mounted at an angle and it likes to sit down it its rest position, will actually rise up against gravity, and will actually fold up, and then the wind turbine will pivot out of the wind. And then as soon as the wind stops howling, because of gravity, because of this angle of the tail vane, it wants to fall back down. So as soon as the wind stops howling, it falls back down and then catches the wind, and pivots back into the wind. So it’s a passive furling system, no strings, no pulleys, no electronics, just gravity. So it’s a very high, high reliability design. Here you can see them mounting the tail vane on a 12 foot turbine. This is about a month ago. Now the towers, the tower– How are we doing on time by the way? AUDIENCE: . MATHIAS CRAIG: In a few minutes? AUDIENCE: . MATHIAS CRAIG: Oh, boy. Yeah. Still got a ways to go. The towers we build. We build two types of towers. Lattice towers, like this sort of radio. They look like radio towers.
And that we also built tilt-up towers, which are just tube sections. We generally prefer the tilt-up, It’s much cheaper. However, these types of lattice towers are used when there are space constraints. But tilt-up towers sweeps through the air. All the guy wire cables that support the tower sweep through the air when a tilt-up up goes up, so it occupies a lot of space. So when you need to put something between structures, between buildings, between a tree, use the lattice tower. Here’s a basic diagram showing the overall system. You’ve got the wind turbine here, with your guy wires supporting it about every 20 feet, every 15 to 20 feet. Concrete rebar foundations. Here you have the power center. Usually with the solar panels integrated. Here you have an end-user, say a household that’s not connected by any cables.
What they do is they have a battery box. They carry their battery to the charging station, pay a fee, and then they take their battery home once it’s charged, and they’re able to use light in their home. I already talked about this. So if we don’t have too much time, we’ll skip through some of these. I have some more that I’d like to show you at the end.
We’ve already talked about that. This is a diagram here of the power center itself. Break switches for turning the wind turbine off for maintenance work, breakers to protect for short circuits, a charge controller which is really the brain of the system, that decides how much energy to send the batteries. The batteries sort of being the heart of the system where all the energy is stored, and then we also have a dump load. The other thing is wind turbines, as opposed to solar panels, when the batteries are full, what do you do? The energy has to go somewhere. You can’t disconnect the wind turbine from the batteries, or it’ll just speed up. The batteries actually create drag, essentially, on the wind turbine and keep it operating at a reasonable speed. You can’t just disconnect the battery bank, so the energy has to go somewhere. So we build a dump load, which is just a basically a heating filaments in the air. The charge controller’s job is, if it detects the battery banks are full, it just diverts the current to dump load, it’s dissipated its heat. Which is a waste, but it almost never happens.
It’s sort of a protection for during storms, for example. OK this is what I was saying, the end-user not physically tied to the power center. I guess I’ll probably skip over this for now. If the people have questions, we can come back to this. Depending on the audience, some people are really interested in cost. And how much does it cost and why? I can come back to this. Also this brief comparison of our wind system, compared to solar and diesel, doing a life cycle energy production cost analysis. As you can see, a lot of assumptions go into these things.
You have to play with these models a lot, but it shows that our systems can be very competitive. But you notice, this is what kills diesel systems. Over a 20 year life span, a ten kilowatt diesel system, fuel costs per kilowatt hour, $0.38. Lifetime operating costs, and this doesn’t include maintenance, which diesel turbines require a lot of maintenance, just in fuel over a 20 year period is a quarter million dollars. So talk about communities, that’s just way out of reach. This is the power curve for our 12 foot wind turbine showing power produced at any given wind speed. This is some example data of a wind resource study that we’re conducting. Here’s some sample data just from one of our sites in Blue Fields at the end of 2006, beginning in 2007, showing average wind speed in meters per second by month.
Something to keep in mind about wind systems, is wind power is way more variable than solar power. So some months have more wind than others. We use the solar panels to compensate for that. They tend to mix pretty well together. So when there’s not a lot of wind, there tends to be a lot of sun and vice versa. This is some energy production data for one of our 12 foot turbines for February. You can see this is production by day. So you can see how variable it is This is why it’s important to have a decent sized battery bank. Where it zeros, it wasn’t actually that we produce zero, those were just days where our measurements weren’t taken. But overall, our 12 foot system, with the hundred watt solar produces about three and a half kilowatt hours per day. The logical question is what can you do with that? If you only used our system for one day, you would produce basically 3,5 kilowatt hours. The question is what can you do with that amount of energy? Here’s some examples. If you were running just one compact fluorescent bulb, it would last you 213 hours of power run time.
This is interesting for, say, a small clinic. A small rural clinic. Three lights, a radio. It could be either for communication or for music. A laptop and a small high efficiency freezer. For every day of energy production, it could run all these things for 24 hours. It probably wouldn’t run lights for 24 hours, but this gives you a sense of the scaling. One of our systems could power a clinic sustainably. AUDIENCE: . MATHIAS CRAIG: The cut OH, can we, is there any way can connect to the internet? Is it– I just want to show you. We did a little integration with Google maps to sort of plot out– where if you can click on that. I may not be able to on the fly, Anyway, what you would have seen here is you would have seen, this would be an interactive Google map, and you can go in– these are our four projects, these are our four project sites.
If you click into those, the information windows that pop up have Flash slideshows, showing a lot of pictures of the sites. Also some videos of the different sites, the specifications of each system and short text descriptions. That’s really a bummer that we can’t– oh, maybe it just took a little while to find the intenet. Incompatible. Ah, dumb check. I’d just wonder if it could just show you one because then you would– there we go. So here, we’re based out of Blue Fields in the Blue Fields lagoon here. There’s not a whole lot of mapping in that area. There’s a little description of what the system is being used for. The specifications of the system. The system that we have in Blue Fields is actually on the campus of the National Technical Institute, which is where we have our shop. Three wind turbines and a solar egg. here’s an example of wind rose again, showing– this is one year of data. showing what direction the wind is blowing from and what speed. A slide show just showing a couple of pictures of INATEC. So all of this is on the campus of the National Technical Institute.
We have about a third of one of these buildings for our shop. There’s two of our systems there, showing the two different kinds of towers, the regular tube tower and the lattice tower. Here’s one of our power centers, the converter, battery bank, charge controllers, breakers, the whole works. Our entire shop now is actually powered by our wind systems. So now, every wind turbine– it’s got that nice ring to it- but every wind turbine we build now is built from wind power.
It also provides backup power to the administrative offices of the school, during the frequent blackouts. This is our office. This is a video that one of our– our biggest funders is actually the government of Finland. And they sent a small film crew to do a two minute documentary on the project. And it’s in Spanish, so it’s fine that it’s muted. But you guys can check this out some time if you’re interested, but it’s got some good footage the systems in action. What you can do to get involved if you’re interested in working with us, just spreading the word about what we’re doing, donating.
A lot of our– most of our work comes from either private donations or from the government of Finland, the government of Canada, multilateral international development institutions. If you have a personal interest, and you want to just learn how to build a wind turbine like this. You can go to this website. This guy gives– this is Hugh Pigott, the original designer who gives workshops. That’s it. You can find us on the web here. And be sure to tune and we’re going to be on CNN in July. They’re going to send a film crew down and shoot another two minute documentary about blueEnergy, So thank you, Steve. Thank you, Google. AUDIENCE: Applause. MATHIAS CRAIG: Now questions. If you have any. AUDIENCE: There’s not a lot of civil infrastructure. I wonder what the demand for energy, like what they need it for? MATHIAS CRAIG: The demand relative to, say, uses here is obviously very low.
You can get a lot of bang for your buck with just a little bit of energy. It’s primarily fighter exercises lighting for schools communities one public building a community meeting center, school for the kids, and they also want to do like adult night classes, and so to jam it all in, they want to extend the hours into the evening, so lighting. Radio for communication is sort of the new hot, big one. Because there’s no telephone lines or anything. So the communities we work in down south in Indian communities, there’s no phone, so that the quickest way to communicate with somebody is to on a boat, if the weather is not too bad, and go six hours by boat up to Blue Fields to tell somebody something. So it makes, for us, project coordination really difficult. And them, just for living, difficult. So there’s a big push right now between the indigenous communities to set up a radio, a communication radio network. So actually, the installation that CNN is coming down to film in June, is actually for battery charging, water pumping and storage and radio communication integrated facility.
And then there’s the whole interest from the World Health Organization and the United Nations is often rural health clinics. So the freezers for vaccinations, and then some lightweight industrial uses, like a cacao processing, that’s a big one, cacao drying and processing and some other light industrial uses. Obviously, these systems, you know, they’re limited in the amount of energy that can provide. So you’re not going to run a steel processing mill on these wind turbines, but you could do some good micro business stuff. And that plays into the sustainability of the systems if you can generate extra revenue from the operation of the systems. So alright, thank you. .