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Sep 2001

Windmills for pumping water



Aureka is Auroville's oldest metal workshop specialising in sheet metal enclosures for computers and hospital equipment. It is equally active in the field of renewable energy systems and alternative building technologies.


Windmills for pumping water have been designed and built in Auroville since the early pioneering days. The present AV 55 windmill is a state of the art machine, which has some highly sophisticated features integrated into its design. Outstanding is the matching valve, developed by the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands, which allows a windmill to start without any load and to operate at low speed. Aureka got the benefit of this development through an accidental visit from one of the Dutch technicians, who impressed by the work, convinced the university to give the know-how for free. In return, Auroville agreed to act as an independent test-site for them.

The economic advantages notwithstanding, windmills for water pumping do not sell like hot cakes. "The initial investment is too big for the average farmer," says Robi, a Swiss designer who heads Aureka. "If you look at the life span of say 20 years, windmills are highly economical and cheaper than a diesel pump. But a farmer doesn't look at it this way. He will calculate that a diesel pump and an engine costs him now Rs.20,000 (US$ 450), and that he has to spend yearly some money on diesel. He cannot come up with Rs. 1,5 lakh (US$ 3,200) to put up a windmill. Even if a farmer is in a position to obtain the central government subsidy of Rs 45,000 (US$ 950) and the Rs 20,000 (US$ 450) subsidy of the Tamil Nadu government, he still has to come up with Rs 85,000 (US$ 1,800) which most often is still an impossible high sum."

Nevertheless, Aureka does a nice windmill business. "Our average sale outside Auroville is now about 12 windmills a year. Since 1988, more than 60 machines have been installed in various places in Tamil Nadu and in three Tibetan refugee settlements in Karnataka.
Windmills count for ten to twenty percent of Aureka's turnover. But it is active too in other renewable energy areas. "We manufactured the stands for the solar pumps ordered by Aurore [see the article Providing renewable energy services elsewhere in this issue] and recently we are constructing the Eurodish, a big moveable solar bowl where the heat is used to drive a Sterling engine in the mirrors' focus. This is an order from the Vellore Engineering College for particular applications.


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