Did you know that wind can generate electricity?
As you probably know, Eskom supplies most of South Africa’s electricity. Most of Eskom’s power is from burning coal. However these power stations pollute the air which is bad for our planet. Coal and oil are also fossil fuels and will run out one day. We need to start thinking of the future and using other ways of making electricity that are sustainable (won’t run out) and won’t harm our planet. But how?
There are many sustainable answers – and one is in the air!
Wind energy has been used throughout history dating back to 5000 BC to fill the sails of boats and propel them over great distances, or for pumping water to houses using windmills, like the ones you see on farms.
But it wasn’t until 1888 when American inventor and engineer, Charles F. Brush invented the wind turbine that wind was used to generate electricity.
What is a wind turbine?
A wind turbine looks like a huge fan. It has blades which are spun around by wind. When the blades spin it generates electricity. I know what you’re thinking – it can’t be that simple! But it really is. The blades are connected to a generator which is connected by power cables to a transformer. Power lines are connected to the transformer which carry electricity to homes and businesses to power lights, appliances and machinery.
Just one wind turbine can power an entire village. And that’s what William Kamkwanda discovered in his village in Malawi.
William Kamkwanda grew up in a village with no electricity. During his childhood he dreamed of bringing electricity to his hometown. When he was 14 years old he began building his own wind turbine with the help of some books he found in the local library. Kamkwanda used materials he had found in a scrapyard such as bicycle parts, car batteries, and tractor fans in order to build this wind turbine. Many people in his village thought he would never be able to accomplish this task and even thought he was ‘crazy’. But William Kamkwanda did not give up. He never stopped working on his wind turbine, and three months later he completed it, bringing power to his village. The same villagers who had made fun of him were now using his wind turbine to power their homes!
Since then William Kamkwanda has built four more wind turbines, with the tallest one being 11 meters tall.
News about William’s makeshift wind turbine quickly spread around the world, and soon after he was giving speeches in countries across the globe. He even wrote a book about his experience in bringing power to his village called The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind which was recently made into a movie.
William Kamkwanda received many scholarships and went on to go to one of America’s best universities, Dartmouth College. But William never forgot his village and how his journey started. After college he went back to Malawi, in order to use his knowledge to improve life in his home country.
William Kamkwanda started life as a poor boy from a small village in rural Malawi and went on to become one of the world’s smartest environmental scientists. And it all started with curiosity, a dream, and a few books!
Tell us: Did you know about wind energy? Would you like to learn how to build a windmill?