Makeshift Engineering: practicing the craft of locally manufactured small wind turbines
(National Technical University of Athens)
Aristotle Tympas (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens)
Paper short abstract:
Wind turbines in Scoraig grow out of their environment in an organic relationship to the social, the material and the natural. In this empirical study, the 'makeshift engineering' culture of locally manufactured wind turbine builders, proposes a sustainable design approach to rural electrification.
Paper long abstract:
In the isolated peninsula of Scoraig, Hugh Piggott has been building small wind turbines for the last 40 years, by reusing materials sourced at the local scrapyard. His design manuals and hands-on construction courses have led to the creation of a global network of wind turbine builders, the Wind Empowerment association. The authors use an ethnographic action research approach to immerse themselves in this grassroots technological network, attempting to experience the fluidity (De Laet and Mol, 2000) of a locally manufactured wind turbine and study its co-production from precarious wind patterns, self-built tools, recycled and up-cycled materials, basic electricity needs and the unique design styles and temperaments of different builders. By revisiting the human scale design of the Radical Technology movement (Harper et al.,1976) and its more recent revival in the Design Global Manufacture Local trend (Kostakis et al., 2016), where desktop manufacturing meets the 'benchtop' of crafts men and women (Sennett, 2009) in a multitude of urban Maker Spaces and rural Farm Hacks, the authors attempt to sketch the concept of a 'Makeshift Engineering' culture, where sustainable design meets the ability of an engineering arrangement to adapt to continuous changes in its a material and immaterial environment. The makeshift engineers encountered, design wind turbines by putting science to service, by making the most out of available materials, by cultivating skills in maintenance and repair, by tweaking and tinkering with their machines and by sharing the 'recipes' of their designs with their social networks.