In 1978 I got seriously bitten by windpower. I have used wind and solar power for my own electricity ever since that time. I have designed, built and sold small wind turbines in sizes from 3 feet to 15 feet in diameter. These supply electricity to the population of Scoraig (about 100 people) and beyond. I had to learn the essentials of aerodynamics, electrical engineering and all other aspects of small wind turbine design.
During the early 1980s I started to write up my experiences and published some booklets. Took guided tour parties around the small wind systems of Scoraig. In 1986, helped to found a secondary school here, and gained experience in teaching physics, mathematics and computer skills.
In the late 1980s I decided to broaden my perspective, and I started to do some work with wind turbine manufacturers, testing and developing machines, in the demanding conditions we have here. Built up a connection with the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, teaching windpower at their four day courses twice each year. Stopped milking a cow and bought a fax machine.
In 1995 I was hired (as part of an aid project) to design a wind turbine for local manufacture in Zimbabwe. The design prototype was successful and has lead to a company 'African Windpower' being set up to manufacture the wind turbine. Good design was important in this process, but equally important was the ability to provide clear drawings and instructions, and to train personnel in Africa during my short visits to the country. More recently (1999-2000) I have traveled to Sri Lanka and Peru, on another aid project for a different organisation 'Intermediate Technology'. In both countries I have successfully trained local people to build alternators for small wind turbines. The project is ongoing, involving preparation of a manual for construction. Another phase of dissemination to more countries is planned.
I have also installed several direct AC hydro systems in recent years, mostly on the island of Eigg. I find hydro very exciting because it provides much more energy at lower cost (on a good site) than wind power, and you do not always need batteries. I hate batteries. I have written a report outlining how to power the whole of Eigg with small renewable systems, but they have decided instead to pursue funding for a mini-grid system.
In 1999 and 2000 I was chosen as the renewable energy consultant to the BBC's Castaway 2000 program. I designed and installed a wind and hydro system which kept the castaways supplied with electricity throughout the year. I am also training Scoraig people to help build small wind turbines.
I have written a number of short books about building small wind turbines, culminating in a longer one 'Windpower Workshop' (CAT publications 1997) which has sold over 6,000 copies, and is becoming increasingly popular. I also published plans for building a wind turbine using the brakedrum of a small truck. However these have been surpassed by my more recent works and are no longer widely available.
From year 2000 onward I started teaching workshop courses to small groups of people all over the world. During each course we built at least one functioning wind generator and erected it for test. I wrote a manual for the courses entitled 'How to Build a wind turbine" (the axial flux windmill plans), and this is now selling very well indeed.
From 2004 onward I have been installing solar and wind systems under the new government grant schemes (SCHRI and DTI), and I am now a fully accredited solar PV installer, but I find this process very bureaucratic.
Now in 2005 I plan to spend more time on Scoraig.
see my web page for more information