Assu, Rio Grande Norte, Brazil

Assu is a remote community of ~ 500 people located in Rio Grande Norte state in northeast Brazil. Before the wind power project drinking water had to be carried by hand ~ 5 km (3.1 miles) because there was no source of drinkable water in the village. In 1994 as part of a World Bank financed municipal infrastructure development project (PAPP) the citizens of Assu decided that their highest priority was to develop a water source in the village. There was plenty of water available ~ 30 m (100 ft) underground, but they needed a way to pump the water to the surface.

The solution was a 1.5 kW Bergey wind-electric water pumping system driving a Grundfos 10-stage submersible pump. Since the wind resources were unknown a relatively tall tower of 30 m (100 ft) was used to increase the chances of having sufficient wind energy available. Under the guidance of Eolica Consultores Assoc. in Recife, PE, the new water pumping system was installed in July, 1995. The installation also included two 5,000 liter water tanks. The photo above shows the turbine, one of the tanks, and a villager filling a water cart to serve outlying homes. The water tank on the cart was constructed from old truck tires turned inside out.

There have been a few electrical problems with the pump controller, but overall the system has worked well. Three additional systems using 1.5 kW turbines have been installed a nearby villages. One problem, which is common in these types of pioneering projects, is that technical support is based 600 km away in a big city. With only a few systems in the Assu area it is not economically feasible to maintain a support structure closer to the projects, particularly since support is seldom needed. The emphasis, therefore, is placed on making the systems as reliable and maintenance-free as possible.