In 5 Tibetan refugee settlements located in Karnataka State, India, windmills were installed in several villages from the 1990s onwards, to raise water from underground aquifers in situations where submersible pumps were not only expensive, but also prone to burn-out due to slow recharge rates.
The windmills were all of a multi-blade type developed and manufactured by Aureka a unit of the Auroville International Cultural Township in Tamil Nadu. This type of windmill has an exceptionally low cut-in speed and also requires minimum maintenance. It is recognised as one of the best multiblade designs currently available in India. From Aureka’s website:
“in 1993 the Auroville Windpump was listed and described in the European Community Joule Project JOU2 CT93 0421: "Power for the World A common concept" as an excellent example of a Renewable Energy Application. A cost comparison done by Halcrow Gilbert Associates Ltd., UK, for the Government of the Netherlands, also states that the Auroville windpump delivers the lowest cost per water unit, compared with other windpumping systems, PV pumps or diesel pumps.”
The learning 20 years on...
While local community members in each of the Tibetan refugee settlements were originally trained by Aureka to maintain the windmills, over the years the trainees have either migrated or become too elderly to climb the windmills and as a result, many of the windmills have ceased to operate or been dismantled. In the settlements there is a weak ‘maintenance culture’ and successive settlement leaders have failed to act upon the need to train younger people in maintenance. From this experience it is clear that the existence of a robust maintenance culture is the overriding factor in the long-term sustainable use of this technology.