Development of Distributed Off-grid Wind Energy System for Rural African Communities

EPA Grant Number: SU836131
Title: Development of Distributed Off-grid Wind Energy System for Rural African Communities
Investigators: Chen, Jun
Institution: Purdue University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016 (Extended to February 28, 2018)
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Energy


Our team proposes to design a distributed wind energy solution, by adopting a novel cycloturibne concept, for powering off-grid rural African community during the annual dry season. In the Phase I, we will pursue three objectives: (1) conduct a comprehensive survey of the wind resources in a village in Cameroon, as a basis for developing distributed wind energy system in similar regions; (2) design a cycloturbine equipped with a variable pitch mechanism that is optimized to meet the local wind characteristics; and (3) build a prototype unit and characterize its performance under simulated conditions.


Our interdisciplinary student team will finish the design, build the prototype, and conduct performance test, by applying the engineering skills they learned in class to solve this real world problem. The students will practice the principle Design for Sustainability by relating the design with all three pillars of sustainability (People, Prosperity, and Planet). We will also promote the substainability practices by demonstrating this project to both international and domestic communities. This work will be a substantial contribution to power the rural communities in a developing country. This study will also serve as benchmark and eventually foster long-term collaboration on renewable energy between Purdue University and local organizations in developing countries. In our search for alternative ways to generate energy and reduce environmental consequences of traditional energy sources, the results of this project will greatly assist decision-makers in both developed and developing countries in considering local resources for future energy sources.

Expected Results:

The expected outcome for Phase I of this project is a prototype assessment of the proposed distributed wind energy system. We will deliver: (a) a comprehensive analysis of the local wind resource in rural Africa communities, represented by a village of Bangang, Cameroon, over an entire dry season, (b) feasibility design of a cycloturinbe as an individual element of the distributed wind energy system, (c) detailed technical design of the prototype model with sustainable manufacture procedure identified, and (d) performance test results from the prototype unit at Purdue under a series of simulated conditions identical to the ones in local African community during the dry season. Continuation is planned to implement Phase II by first shipping two prototype units to Cameroon for pilot tests and continuing the partnership with our collaborators in Africa.

Supplemental Keywords:

Distributed Energy System, Wind Energy, Vertical Axis Wind Turbine, Cycloturbine, Design for Sustanibility.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2016
  • 2017
  • Final