Alternative Energy Through Homemade Wind Turbines

April 2018

I recently had the privilege to attend a Wind Turbine making workshop for our Tribe. WOW! The technology is amazing and exactly what our community needs. The ability to be self-reliant again is amazing. Our community has been devastated by repeat hurricanes and other environmental issues. These issues often cause interruptions in utility service. The wind turbine technology could give our Tribal homes a way to function without relying on the power companies. It is extremely important for this technology to be explored and put into practice for our tribe.
— Workshop participant

The most at-risk people of the Louisiana coast are traditional fishing communities who are facing a multitude of challenges due to impacts of climate and severe land-loss, complicated by prejudice and by historical political structures of violence and exclusion. We have found it useful to engage in work that weaves itself through multiple issues thus lessening the burden of working in silos. It is difficult to address one issue without understanding its context and interconnectedness to all the others. In the grassroots activism of this collective of communities and friends, energy and water are core issues common to each.

Electrical power, potable water and oil/fuel are contentious issues for the lower bayou communities of coastal Louisiana. The communities that are impacted by oil are also complexly involved with the economy of oil, from extraction to its refining; similar to the dilemma facing many that advocate for cleaner renewable energy, but find it difficult to ween from the use of petroleum and its products. Once oil and gas became part of the massive industrial complex of the region, local Historied and Tribal communities and their lifeways became sacrificial, and little was done to correct and combat the multitude of environmental abuses.

Having access to energy for homes, for fishing boats (oysters, shrimp, and crabs) and ice for storage of catch is necessary. Impacting storms that disrupt the energy supply to the lower bayou communities result in power outages that become more frequent and for longer extended periods of time. Companies that supply energy to the region are responding to the difficult situation by either not restoring some of their services or placing a burdensome surcharge on each household/business.

Subsistence living offered by the richness of land and the generous bounty of the waters are being hindered by rapidly disappearing lands and changes of water dynamics. Water that was once fresh and used for personal and agricultural uses is now brackish and turning to salt water at an increasingly fast rate. This changes the estuaries, it diminishes the agricultural possibilities and it makes drinkable water in short supply.

The Tribes are looking at creative ways of food production and soil abatement. The communities are continuing to build and expand political capacity while also working on the layers of diverse issues enmeshed in everyday life. The Tribes are also strengthening culture, discussing adaptation to climate and utilizing traditional knowledges to co-manage their living environment.

Alternative energy sources are one key element that offers hope of stability for the communities. For many years several of the coastal Tribes have talked about energy independence and sought ways to achieve such status. It is important that the alternatives to energy are affordable, easy to operate and are location appropriate. The most recent exploration on energy independence has been wind energy through the development of wind turbines. The wind turbine project provides an affordable source and is reproducible by community members.

Recently a group of 6 people from 3 Coastal Tribes traveled to North Carolina to be part of a wind turbine workshop. The goal was to build a wind turbine that will be placed at the Pointe au Chien Tribal center greenhouse. Learning the process was as important as the outcome. Each member of the team learned skills needed to produce the turbine, thus having working knowledge to replicate their creation. Handy Village Institute was the host for the workshop. The goal of our coastal communities is to host the next workshop in Louisiana so that more people from the Tribes can learn how to build a turbine, thus creating more turbines, resulting in more energy sustainability for the coastal communities.

My experience at the Handy Village Institution was truly amazing. Going into the week, I knew that I would be helping to create a wind turbine and learn more about wind energy, I was not expecting to be so involved in the process. Not only did I learn the difference between solar v’s wind energy, the cons and pros, the cost of wind energy and how it could benefit the community but also how to use power tools. From learning, creating, and meeting new people, my experience was truly amazing. “I can’t wait to see the turbine set up and producing energy.
— Workshop participant

As each community begins to build additional turbines, the community will become its own hub for energy; knowing how to create it, repair it, and rebuild it. This will be a vital component for each community’s ability to adapt to clean energy and other related issues. Eventually this ‘homegrown energy source’ could build into localized energy cooperatives and small business ventures for each of the Tribal communities, offering them not only energy but also a small source of revenues. We are proposing that the next workshop be held in Louisiana. After the initial Louisiana workshop, the communities can start production with the knowledge accrued and create a small production process for their own communities.

The following are additional testimonials from the April 2018 training week long workshop:

I’m so glad I was able to participate in this workshop and learn more about wind power! I absolutely loved how hands on it was and how the instructors broke down each and every step to explain how it all works. Attending this workshop has also made me more comfortable using power tools and knowing that I had a part in each step of the building process of the turbine is very rewarding. I look forward to sharing everything I’ve learned with others and taking the next steps to being self-sufficient. I’d highly recommend this workshop and love to attend again next year.
Was very hesitate in taking the trip to North Carolina, but happy I did. It was fun and educational. People were great to work with. Being able to say I helped build our wind turbine makes me feel good and proud. Never thought I would have had a hand in building a wind turbine. I am very thankful to the ones who afforded me to go. Really enjoyed the trip and enjoyed the ones I traveled with.
I have had a wonderful and new experience working with the Handy Village Institute. I arrived there with no knowledge of Wind Turbine, how it functioned, and more or less building one from scratch. The instructors were very helpful and patient. The workshop was all about safety first and foremost. I can truly say that this is something that should be taught to the young and old. I love the clean energy. I think it is vital to our health and to our planet to our families and future generations to come. I strongly suggest that this is something that should be taught in our schools and to our children. When I go through my pictures that I took of the assembly of the wind turbine, I feel some satisfaction and a little pride because my hands were part of the production. I want to thank you for allowing me to attend and to have had the unforgettable experience.
Hello, my name is Kandi Dardar and I am a member of the Pointe-au-Chien Indian tribe (PACIT, for short). My community and most of southern Louisiana relies heavily on the oil/ fossil fuel energy. We have had a longtime battle causing devastating effect on our lively-hood. Being that we are becoming aware of the destruction, damage that what and is being done, we want to start a change. We know we can’t change what happened but we can at least try to reverse our every day lifestyle. I’ve attended a previous conference which focused on Climate Change and the affects of us causing the effects in which we live. My tribe wants to take action and stop just talking about the situation but put something in motion. Whenever the talk about the wind turbine was brought up and how renewable energy is better for our community, it was an open doorway for us.  

       From March 18th- the 25th was a week that I’m grateful enough I was able to attend. We started a trip with not knowing everyone in the vehicle from different tribes and different views. By the time the week was over we knew each other and Ani from the Grand Bayou tribe adopted me to being her second cousin. Putting the networking aside, more of the women including myself who has not touched a power tool or any tool, was going to learn. Mr. Dan Bartmann an instructor and the author of the HomeBrew Wind Power made a point to say that he prefers when a turbine is done more by hand, so we knew we was going to get experience in tools. After taking the workshop you’ll realize how much electric, wood, and metal goes into this as well as the thought and precision behind it. Some of the tasks we done was building a mold, having a blade layout to make precise blades for the turbine, coil winding for the electric department, learning to be careful with the powerful magnets, and etc. Within the whole wind turbine workshop the main formula that was used was P= 1/2 x M x A x V^3 x CP it was a old formula that’s still good to use for today. I’ve came to a realization that i liked the torching with the metal. The great thing about the workshop is you get to try and learn through each process. They just don’t throw you to the wolves, they take you step by step. One thing for sure, the cost/ bill may still be the same after you total everything including the maintenance. The difference between the energy you have now with fossil fuels compared to the wind turbine is the wind being a cleaner source of energy. 

 We are hoping to power our tribal building as a start to our renewable energy source. Having a foot in the doorway opens curiosity to some of the skeptical members, plus the tourists. Luckily, our group at the workshop was able to see a wind turbine (one of the older setups) and solar panels being in use. We worked off the grid mainly and we survived so the process is suitable for lifestyle. My overall experience was good from the instructors, to the hospitality, from the knowledge being shared. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to learn more about renewable energy and letting me be apart of the bigger picture. I’ve gotten to participate in helping building the future of my own community. I hope I can help others with the knowledge I gained but also help allow others to be able to participate in the HomeBrew wind Turbine Workshop. 
— Kandi Dardar