William Kamkwamba

Image by Philip Weiss via Flickr

Let us take a break from all the DIY projects for now and learn of the story of a teenager from Malawi, who harnessed the power of the wind by building windmills out of junk.

At present, William Kamkwamba has high-profile fans, such as Al Gore and other business leaders, all over the world.

At age 14 he was forced to quit school because his family can’t afford his school fees.  But this didn’t stop his dream of bringing running water and electricity to his village.

After Malawi’s worst drought in 2002, Kamkwamba went to the local library and researched how he could help his hometown.  There, he saw a photo of a windmill and he was determined to make one that could power a water pump for his village.

During the day, he would help his family farm maize, but at night he would work on his windmill.  Although his intention was good, people in his village thought he had gone insane, because he was often seen scouring for garbage.  What they didn’t know was that he was just looking for parts for his DIY windmill!

Kamkwamba built a turbine from bicycle parts, tractor fan blades, and an old shock absorber.  His turbine blades are made from plastic pipes which are flattened by heating them.

It took him months to complete his prototype, which stood five meters tall.  The tower would sway with the wind.  Thoughts of him being crazy were erased, and turned into amazement, when he hooked a car light bulb to the windmill and it lit up.

News of this inspiring story spread in 2006, when Daily Times Newspaper published his story.  At present, William’s village has a solar-powered mechanical pump that provides potable water to the surrounding area around his village.  This was donated by well-wishers.  His original windmill has been upgraded to 48 volts, and has been anchored on a concrete base.

He also erected a new windmill, the Green Machine, which powers a water pump that irrigates his family’s maize field.

William Kamkwamba has become a superstar in alternative energy.  His DIY windmill has brought him fame.  He has been featured in the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  A book about his life has been published as well.

The world needs more people like of William Kamkwamba, in order to help us overcome climate change.