Maintaining a World Record!

I chewed some dry coca leaves and felt a surge of energy run through my body. Whether it came from the leaves’ stimulating properties, or from the image of the world record turbine towering over us, or from the glow of the slanting afternoon sunlight reflecting off of the glacier, I couldn't say. But it was exhilarating. Or, rather, (bad pun alert) it was electrifying!

Pre-installation

The highest wind turbine in the world, feat. July project crew!

 

 

Just a week prior, the nine of us in my volunteer group had no idea that a trip to Pastoruri was in store for us. We had been focusing for the past two weeks on building the small turbine that we would bring to Playa Blanca at the end of the month, but on the side we’d been doing some repair work on the Pastoruri turbine. We’d all heard the legend of the record-breaking installation, and I personally felt honored just to be able to touch the blades. So when Nick and Jess asked us if we were interested in a trip to the glacier to help with reinstallation, the response was unanimous, and a couple days later we piled in the Beast and pointed south.

Pre-installation

Community women putting us to shame as they helped us tighten the cables and dig the trenches.

 

 

 

Fast forward two days (past a certain anti-hike that did not end at a lagoon) and we were suddenly 16,000 feet high, shielded from the brilliant sunlight by alpaca ponchos and trying not to audibly gasp for air. We heeded Nick’s advice to sit down when we felt out of breath, but the altitude definitely surprised our bodies. We worked mostly in shifts, screwing in a couple bolts or splicing a wire and then retiring to the Beast or sitting on a rock to recover. The resident horses, which carry tourists up to the ever-receding base of Pastoruri’s shrinking glacier, blinked at us as they grazed on sparse clumps of grass. As the sun crossed its apex and the shadows began to lengthen, the landscape became more and more striking.

Pre-installation

The photogenic Andes, as seen from the base of the turbine.

 

 

 

By early afternoon, we had lowered the tower, adjusted some wiring, and attached the repaired rotor, stator and blades. Our eyes glistened as we watched Nick and the Beast raise the turbine up to regain its former, Guinness World Record-holding glory.
After various safety checks, all that remained was to dig a trench to house the main wire. Simple enough, but easier said than done. At that point we were pretty spent. There were only a few pickaxes (which didn’t matter, actually, since we each hacked at the gravelly ground in two-minute sprints before passing the axe off to someone else). Then, out of nowhere came Oliver, our electrical engineer. He’d spent much of the day working inside on the control panel and on configuring an anemometer that we’d attached to the tower for data collection. He grabbed a pickaxe and began hacking at the ground with a caffeinated fury. His energy was contagious—suddenly we felt a second wind (perhaps a WindAid-aided wind?) and followed his lead. We held true to our team motto, “Just do it!”, which was inspired by Shia LaBeouf and not by Nike advertising.

Rocks flew and the trench grew. The only person who managed to outshine Oliver was a local woman who approached and softly asked to take a turn with the pickaxe. She proceeded to let loose a frightening and rapid series of swings, until somebody offered to relieve her of her duty, probably because watching her attack the ground with that pickaxe was awe-inspiring but also mildly terrifying.

We finished the day with a trip up toward the glacier that involved some impromptu off-roading and magnificent views. We departed Pastoruri at sunset, ready to rest up in Trujillo for a couple days before embarking on our next adventure in Playa Blanca.

WWF Perú – Oficial Asociado de Cambio Climático y Huella Ecológica

“WWF Perú desea reconocer el gran esfuerzo y compromiso de la institución educativa WindAid, quienes con su constante trabajo empoderan a personas y comunidades en zonas rurales y/o de bajo desarrollo en nuestro país, para lograr una producción local e independiente de energía a través de la implementación de turbinas eólicas y otras fuentes de energía renovable. La importancia de su trabajo se evidencia cuando la instalación de una turbina eólica logra iniciar un cambio transformacional en la comunidad hacia un desarrollo bajo en carbono y responsable con el ambiente. Nuestro más profundo agradecimiento a WindAid por su dedicación y contribución a hacer de nuestro país un lugar más sostenible y seguro para las futuras generaciones.”

Earth Day & Fishing in Playa Blanca

Posted on May 13, 2015 by Lewis White

This month I was lucky enough to travel to Playa Blanca for the third time to take part in the installation of WindAid’s tenth turbine. This coincided with the 45th “Earth Day”, which is marked all over the world by acts of “green” aiming to promote respect for the planet. It was my first celebration of the event and it was a great feeling to take part!

I’d like to thank the whole team for making the goal of lighting up Eleanora’s home with a wind turbine on the 22nd a reality. Working with Ben, Jack, Sn Abel, Yordi, Gean and Perry was an absolute pleasure and the past month is something I will never ever forget.

Pre-installation

Getting up early to avoid the heat of the midday sun, we headed down to the beach armed with water and sun cream. This was our last day in Playa Blanca and while the trip had already offered much excitement, we had one last activity in store. The activity involved a very old rowing boat and a heavily pregnant woman. Who’d say no to fishing in the pacific?

She had gotten up even earlier than us and we all looked on as she expertly steered the rickety boat through the surf and onto our beach. We were off; 5 of us squeezed precariously into the tiny boat which felt like a strong sneeze could take it down. As the shore got further away it finally occurred to us to offer to row, we were not pregnant after all (and we’re men..), but she was having none of it – this is what she did every day, powering this boat out into the sea was as normal as making breakfast.

Fishing

My fears about capsizing proved unfounded and we soon had the anchor in place, ready to fish. We used simple hand lines with some sort of sea louse (about an inch long with wriggly feet) as bate. Off we went, casting and waiting for about 2 hours moving the position of the boat every so often in attempt to find a shoal. Conditions weren’t perfect; apparently the sea was rougher than usual which meant a lesser chance of a big haul. Ben brought home two specimens however and Eleanora managed to get three. After she sensed we were getting tired she dropped us back at the shore and headed back out to continue her days work.

Amidst all the joking around, the better luck next time kind of thing, it occurred to me just how hard a life this must be. In Playa Blanca, stuck in the middle of Peru’s vast coastal desert, the sea is all there is to live on – a couple of bad days in the boat must be incredibly stressful as a large proportion of the food supply and along with monetary income immediately runs dry. The vast majority of the people living in Playa Blanca face this fear, but if you think that would lead to a community on edge then you’d be wrong. I’ve seen more stressed faces during an hour of a tough university exam on “Industrial Management” than I ever would if I lived for the rest of my life in Playa Blanca. People get happy, get sad but it feels like people just don’t have time to be stressed.

We had installed the turbine at Eleanora’s house the day before. This involved getting the help of half the village in lifting the tower where after we moved inside to tackle the more fiddly wiring. We noticed one corner of the building adorned with fresh flowers (a rare sight out in the desert) and a drawing of a girl. The girl, we were told, was Eleanora’s daughter who had died last year. She had passed away in hospital after complications with an infection and was only 20 years old.

Me and the turbine

This is me with the final product. Here’s to more projects with WindAid and above all more turbines!

Enrico Via : Italy – Energy Engineering at Politecnico Di Milano

“If you are stuck in your boring daily life, and you want to do something special, take the first airplane to PERU!!! There you will find a new family, new brothers and sisters, with whom you will grow and do memorable things that you will keep for the rest of your life!!! This is what I found in WINDAID, a family made by nice people, always ready to help you and share with you incredible experiences. I cannot forget how many laughs I had with the WINDAID Team. The installation at Playa Blanca, there are no words to express what that place means to me. There aren’t places like that in the world. It seems that there the time stops and you can find the purity and sincerity, often our civilized society does not have, in the children’s beautiful eyes. I absolutely did not think to find in this experience all these amazing things, and it is for these reasons that I want to advise you all to join this volunteering project because you will not only help those beautiful children, but also will help yourself understand and find what it is really important in your life…because there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”

Reflections of a Long Term Volunteer

Posted on April 29, 2015 by Perry Simmons

When I first arrived in Trujillo for my long-term volunteer program with WindAid, I had no idea what to expect. I found myself in a strange city, in a strange country, and soon enough, in the back seat of a strange car. The official WindAid vehicle, affectionately referred to as “the beast,” is covered in artificial grass. As we rumbled down the road on a warm January night I quietly wondered what I had gotten myself into.

Fast forward three months and I feel as though I am leaving home all over again. The people I befriended here have become another family. It is hard for me to believe the time has passed this quickly and that it is already time for me to move on.

WindAid is a special organization with special people. Everyone involved is so enthusiastic and committed to the mission of providing sustainable energy to people who otherwise wouldn’t have it.

WindAid is a place to learn and ask questions. Ask Nick, or Jess, or Gean, or Sr. Abel, or Lewis anything and they will bend over backwards to help you understand. Welding, soldering, wiring, the Spanish language, knot tying, Peruvian cuisine, surfing, card games, dancing; if there is an interest or skill you wish to pursue you will find a teacher or, at the very least, an enthusiastic companion to learn with at WindAid.

WindAid is a place for ideas. Any idea you have is taken seriously by the team and thoughts to improve aspects of the organization are encouraged and incorporated on a regular basis. Since WindAid is a relatively small, but rapidly growing organization, there are ample opportunities to take initiative and do something that meaningfully that impacts WindAid’s development.

WindAid is a place for fun. From good times in the work shop and installation, to roasted marshmallows at a fugatta (bonfire), to multicultural dinner parties, to long weekends in Cajamarca, to days on the beach at Huanchaco, to salsa dancing at Segovia, to intense games of extreme solitaire, WindAid is about so much more than simply putting up a turbine. It’s about experiencing something new and different and enjoying the people that you are with all along the way!

A fond farewell, but never goodbye! -Perry Simmons, now former long-term volunteer at WindAid