Build it and the Wind Will Come


Wind energy has become one of the most well respected and efficient forms of alternative energy
Wind energy has become one of the most well respected and efficient forms of alternative energy. Photo by Sara Ottomano

By Sara Ottomano
William Kamkwamba is a Malawian whose ideas on how to harness energy use an overlooked resource, wind.

Kamkwamba started his windmill project in 2002 when he was fourteen years old. His father wasn’t earning an income because he was a farmer and the worst drought in seven years was occurring. The drought not only took resources but took the lives of thousands as it ravaged Malawi, Africa.  Since money was tight, his family had to survive on one meal a day and he had been expelled from school after not being able to afford $80 fees.

After being expelled, he often spent time in the library where he was drawn to a book on windmills. He read the book and decided to create one. Using his newfound knowledge, Kamkwamba constructed towers made out of junkyard items including plastic pipes, tractor fans, bicycle parts, and car batteries.  His screwdriver was constructed out of a heated nail and a corncob. During the construction, people ridiculed him and called him crazy or possessed, but he continued through the insults with the goal of proving them wrong.

His finished project was a windmill tower that generated electricity and pumped water.  As of October 2009, Kamkwamba has five towers constructed with the tallest being thirty-seven feet tall.  The impact on his village that has resulted from the windmills generated world-wide recognition by green technology users including Al Gore. He now is a student at the elite African Leadership Academy with the monetary help of donors. People visit his house to charge their cell phones or to listen to the radio.

Kamkwamba has been invited to worldwide events to share his experiences with other small business owners. Bryan Mealer, a former Associated Press correspondent who has reported on Africa, wrote a book entitled, “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind”, which was released on September 29, 2009.

For More information, see

Karimi, Faith. ” Malawian boy uses wind to power hope, electrify village.” 05 Oct 2009. Cable News Network, Web. 09 Oct 2009. <>.