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If you like the work we do like composting latrines in Haiti, renewable energy for communities in Guatemala, and small business development in poor countries, please consider donating $20- $40.

We are supported mainly by people like you and are getting hit hard by a fundraising decline resulting from the flagging economy 😦 . We need your help today.

Donate to AIDG

If you need extra inspiration, check out our new interactive slideshow.

What we did in 2007 with help from folks like you
AIDG Goals for 2008
AIDG in Action

Sam Redfield on Pico-hydro at La Florida

The pico-hydro system we’re working on just got featured on MAKE and Gizmodo so I asked Sam Redfield, the primary developer on the project, to send over some more info on his invention and time with us in Guatemala.

I recently returned from a 3-month stint with AIDG Guatemala. As part of their program in Central America, they are pursuing an ambitious project to develop cheap, small hydroelectric systems under one kilowatt known as Pico-Hydro. Prior to my arrival in Guatemala I had developed a small hydroelectric system housed in a 5-gallon bucket. Using a Permanent Magnet Alternator as the generator in the system and made almost entirely of PVC, we conducted field tests in the small community of La Florida to determine what the possibilities were for generating power with the device. La Florida had lost its primary source of electricity and was depending on candles and batteries for their energy needs.

Pico-hydro system test at La Florida, Guatemala
Pico-hydro system test at La Florida, Guatemala. See Parts List

Pico-hydro PVC Turbine

La Florida is a small community based around a coffee plantation on which a group of landless campesinos ceded from ruin after the previous owners abandoned the property. It now runs as a collective producing excellent organic coffee. Set in the foothills below a semi-active volcano near the Pacific coast in the tropical lowlands of western Guatemala, La Florida offered a temperate climate with easy access to water. Our work in la Florida focused around the prospect of charging cellular phones using the Pico-Hydro system that I had developed in the States.

Charging 10 cell phones off the battery
Charging 11 cell phones off the battery

To charge cell phones, members of the community have to take an expensive and time consuming taxi ride an hour each way to pay a service for charging. Cell phones have become increasingly important in small isolated communities as they give these communities access to medicine, the market and family. Our field tests began by identifying a site with access to abundant water and a steep incline for the pipe to feed the generator. After a site was identified, we laid the pipe and tapped into an existing stream. In all we laid 80 meters of 2- inch pipe to achieve a head, or drop in elevation, of just under 30 meters.

The generator was then installed with a voltage regulator, car battery and inverter. The regulator insured that the battery was not overcharged, the battery stored the energy for use and the inverter bumped up the power to 110 volts. Three power strips were then attached to the inverter. After we determined that the generator was producing electricity, we began gathering cell phones from the community. In all we gathered 18 phones. The generator was producing 60 watts, not a whole lot of power, but enough to charge 10 cell phones at a time without depleting the battery. Because the car battery could remain fully charged with a load of ten cell phone chargers working, we would be able to charge ten cell phones at a time 24 hours a day without depleting the car battery. Alternatively, we could charge considerably more cell phones simultaneously and allow periods for the car battery to recharge. The system produced enough power to charge all the cell phones in the community and potentially could provide a service that would save the people of La Florida considerable time and money.

Micro-enterprise schemes are being investigated to provide an individual with the generator as a business venture. The owner of the business would charge a small fee for charging cellular phones that would be affordable. The cost of the generator would be paid back over time with the proceeds of the charging service. Another application of the generator being explored is for household lighting. With the emergence of high output super efficient LED’s the prospect of creating small-scale lighting utilities is within reach. Again, people would be charged a reasonable fee to receive four to six high output LED lighting fixtures in their homes. The provider of the service would make a modest profit, and pay for the generator over time.

Duration: 1min

Work continues. One of the issues that we face in deploying the system is cost. The Permanent Magnet Alternator that generates the electricity in the system costs more than $300.00 US and has to be imported from the States. As part of my program with AIDG in Guatemala, I investigated the possibility of rebuilding a Toyota alternator to function as a Permanent Magnet Alternator. After investigating several possibilities, I am happy to report that we now have a working prototype, which is being integrated into the system. Other improvements include integrating the voltage regulator into the device and improvements in turbine performance. In the coming months trials will continue and no doubt improvements in economy and performance will be made. My work with AIDG Guatemala was invaluable to me in understanding the energy issues people face in the developing world and provided me an excellent opportunity to develop my technology in an environment that fosters innovation in a setting where people’s lives are positively effected. Thanks AIDG!

-Sam Redfield
Sam Redfield

Sam is building a generator for Professor Brian Thomas at Baylor University to be installed in Honduras as a cell phone charging micro business.

He’s going to try to get me a parts list with general specs to post on the blog in the next few days. Until then if you have pressing questions, you can email him a samredfield [@} earthlink {dot] net

More info:
Wind Stuff Now Gm Alternator Mod

Related Posts:
Update: Parts List. Manual Coming Soon.
Communities We Work With: La Florida (Guatemala)
12 Days of Xmas – 10 drops a dripping
12 days of Xmas: 5 cell phone rings
Link of the Day 042308: Human Centered Design for the BOP [NYTimes]
Letter to Inverters R Us

Local Action: Call to update U.S. Foreign Assistance Act

Foreign Policy Is More Than Military Policy

Duration: 59sec

Global Development Matters … [is] calling on the next president to make modernizing foreign assistance a priority in the next administration.
American foreign assistance programs have proved to be an influential aspect of our engagement with the world in the past, but our foreign assistance policy was written in 1961. A lot has changed since then. Just as the military constantly upgrades and refines its technology and tactics to better protect the U.S. and our interests, we need a new foreign assistance policy that helps us do more and better to address today’s challenges — poverty, infectious disease, instability and global warming.

We need a new foreign assistance policy for the 21st century. The 2008 presidential elections are our chance to make that happen. Please take a moment read and sign the petition to call on the next president to make modernizing foreign assistance a priority in the next administration.

Sign the petition

Duration: 1 min 5sec

USAID Director of Foreign Assistance Henrietta Holsman Fore

Duration: 3min 14sec

In her first major speech since being confirmed by Congress, USAID Administrator and Director of Foreign Assistance Henrietta Holsman Fore delivered a keynote speech on the importance of elevating global development and reforming U.S. foreign assistance to meet our foreign policy and national interest priorities. She reviewed progress made to date in modernizing our foreign assistance policies and practices and rolled out her ambitious reform agenda for the coming year.

via Daniel Hartman and Elliot Greenberger

Intern Profile #5: Katie Bliss (AIDG Guatemala)

Katie Bliss

As I mentioned earlier this week, the illustrious Katie Bliss is back in the UK, but here is her intern profile with her impressions of life in Guatemala and interning with AIDG.

Katie Bliss

Where were you Based?
Xela, Guatemala

What was your intern project?
Community Outreach and Partnerships

Describe what your normal day as an AIDG intern in like.
There really is no normal day! I could be in a community meeting, talking with the people about their needs and resources for potential projects, holding a workshop (to discuss issues such as health, sustainability, providing an opportunity to use and understand the technolgy better) or helping on a community install. Other days I am in the office of local and international NGOs, working to build up XelaTeco’s network and set up potential contracts, or in the XelaTeco workshop helping Maria Natalia and Maricela work on the stove credit scheme. It’s all pretty exciting!

What are the main challenges you face?
Unfortunately bureaucracy and poor communication can be real barriers to getting things done efficiently and thus require a lot of patience and definitely a change of pace! Additionally, road access into remote communities can be pretty poor and occasionally necessitates an arduous journey and perhaps a hike to cover a relatively short distance. Though I can hardly complain in a country as lush and beautiful as Guatemala!

What has been the most rewarding moment for you?
An awesome moment just before I left Guatemala. I was going with XelaTeco to take back an old generator from the former finca owners’ micro-hydro system that they had been contracted to repair by La Florida. La Florida is a community-owned finca (coffee farm) that we have been collaborating with on tests and research.

As we arrived many members of the community were eagerly awaiting us; they had been without power for nearly a year. For those that were still working in the fields or in the houses, they rang the community bell and called ‘Hay que trabajar‘ – We have to work. Men, women, children and the elderly came out of the woodwork. They all helped to carry the generator down to the turbine house or to cheer their compañeros on!. The atmosphere was magic. For me, it summed up the passion, energy and hard work that, over 20 years, has seen the people of La Florida leave the large exploitative privately owned fincas, to fight for their own land and work together to build a sustainable, profitable and socially-just finca.

[Sorry folks, Flickr doesn’t let you rotate video. I’ll give it another whirl in the future.]

That night, La Florida had light for the first time in nearly a year, and the finca was abuzz with excitement. As community members met in the patrones house (like almost every night!) discussing, issues such as food security, potential coffee markets and new projects, they were lit by power produced by their own hydro-electric system. Another step on their path to create a more sustainable, happier and healthier life for their children, and their children’s children…..amazing!

Who have you met who has inspired you the most and why?
I have met so many passionate, hard-working and inspirational Guatemalans who have dedicated their lives to building a better Guatemala. This includes Jose Ordonez at AIDG / XelaTeco, who is a discerning worker, enthusiastic about appropriate technology and its development in Guatemala, Dona Katrina one of the original founders of the Mayan Association Pop Atziak (who work particularly on empowering women, enterprise incubating small enterprises and medical projects) and almost without saying all the people at La Florida. But there are many, many more!

Why did you choose AIDG?
I have a background in the community renewable energy field in the UK, but felt that the benefits would be farther reaching in communities that were currently off-grid, reducing fuel dependence, facilitating local enterprise, self-sufficiency and community empowerment. In addition, AIDG’s model of working through social enterprise, using local materials and locally appropriate design (according to needs, culture and available skills) is very simple and necessary, but something a lot of other organisations have failed to consider.

What inspired you about the organization?
Watching XelaTeco grow over the last year has been fantastic. We have seen them take on real ownership and pride in their business. They are taking up new schemes such as micro-credit for customers, educational workshops and learning how to manufacture new technologies with enthusiasm and drive. Many of them are still young, and I am sure it has been a steep learning curve. I am certain, however, that XelaTeco will continuing thriving into a sustainable and profitable business, whilst helping to improve infrastructure in Guatemala.

Update: I am now back in the UK researching landfill gas opportunities in Mexico and Argentina, but am hoping to return to Xela if we are successful in an application for community owned and managed micro-hydro systems. I will also be giving presentations on AIDG and our Guatemala projects at community sustainability fairs in the UK this summer. I plan to stay in the AIDG loop and for sure will stay in touch with the guys at XelaTeco and in Boston.