‘Changamoto’ is kiswahili for ‘challenge’. And this is really the best word describing the status of Operation & Maintenance of wind turbines at the moment. In fact, it is an observation which can be made on a lot of technical things in Tanzania. Normally, stuff is only repaired to such a level that you can use it again for a few weeks after which it breaks down again.
After two years living in Tanzania it is frustrating to see that no high-quality repairs are being done here. Cars, buses, bikes, tools, electrical wiring, furniture, fans, locks, roads, waterworks, the list is endless… it all gets a quick and dirty repair, and falls back to malfunction again after a short period. Why? Number one, is the lack of money! There is no culture of creating a savings account. Moreover the majority is so poor, that at the end of the day, they have nothing to put into a savings account. So the repair can mostly only be done with cheap, second-hand material. Other cultural factors do also contribute, but that is too difficult to explain in this short blog.
Back to the wind turbines. As was announced a couple of months ago, an internship on Operation & Maintenance was started. That has been performed successfully by visiting wind turbines, interviewing owners and local technicians. And by analyzing very thoroughly the structure of NGO ‘I Love Windpower – Tanzania’ and the local for-profit company ‘Windpower Serengeti Ltd’. Many learning points for both organizations have been found. It is good to realize that most recommendations are not technical of nature. It is more than using the right nuts & bolts. It is also about ownership, involvement of local people, managing expectations, and agreeing on the details of a maintenance contract.
In the next years to come, we will prove that the new technology of small-scale wind turbines can be maintained in a successful way in the challenging environment of sub-Sahara Africa.