Renewable Energy

Let’s Build A Windmill

When I entered Malawi, I was eager to meet a Malawian man named William Kamkawamba who built a windmill when he was 14 years old. While searching for that man I met Zack Mwale, a young innovator in Eastern Malawi. After chatting about windmills we decided to build a windmill ourselves that would work to pump water for a community that was currently without any type of water pump. We went to some surrounding villages and met the people of Zandana, a small village of some 25 families who all pull water from a well using a bucket, or walk more than half a kilometer to a water hole to carry water back in buckets on their heads. We agreed with the chief of the village that it was a good place to install a windmill. After weeks of designing, finding materials, building and redesigning, we successfully constructed a windmill that pumps water for use in the village (see video above). This rewarding experience has been an inspirational one for myself and the people of Malawi, most of whom have never seen a windmill before. Zack and I look forward to seeing what this windmill leads to in the future, hopefully motivating other communities to look to the wind for clean energy.                       Mchinji, Malawi 7/9/17 to 17/10/17


The old well in the village of Zandana, Malawi. The community used a bucket to pull up water from this well

After hours of searching around the market in Lilongwe, Zack and I struck gold when we found this old gear set that used to work for a conveyor. We used this for the critical function of the windmill gearing.Zack negotiating timber prices  Digging holes for the water tank standWind blade layout The people of Zandana helping to move the tower

Plumbing Trenches

First Design = TOO MUCH POWER!!

Water Well Cover Zack and the gears


Lifting all the wind blades up at once Our master craftsman Delick extending the windmill shaft

First time taking water from the windmill

Water hole where people of Zandana, Malawi take water

When we strapped this 1000 liter water tank to Zack's little car, we had to drive at night to avoid the inevitable police bribes that would follow.Digging the water well Building our gear set for the windmill Constructing the tower Some of the children of Zandana around the well

Assembling the wind blades


Our first wind blade design was too powerfulBack to the drawing board Redesigning the windblades View from the windmill tower of the village of Zandana

We carried sand in buckets on our heads to mix concrete. African women are ridiculously strong when it comes to this.The future of innovation, baby ZackZack claims he became a better brick layer than me by the end of the project. I disagree.

A big thanks to Zack Mwale and his family and friends for all their support, meals, and good times. I thank the people of Zandana for all their help throughout the project. Thanks to Delick, Halice, Jablos, and Mr. George for all their help and patience. If you are interested in what to consider in building your own windmill, reach out to me through my contact page. If you are looking for innovation and design work, Zack Mwale is filled with ideas and can be reached at [email protected], whatsapp +25699930029.

How the Sun Can Freeze In Zimbabwe

In early July as I was first biking into rural Zimbabwe, I met Zulu Tofirani, a bread salesman in the village of Kalisine. I dined with Zulu's famly,  slept in his humble shop, and learned about his desire to expand his business in the future. Like in most other rural areas of Zim, Zulu lives off the grid, without any electricity. Those in Zimbabwe who do have electricity have suffered from frequent power outages as the country struggles to generate enough energy from its coal plants. As I left Zulu, I began to think about how he, his family, and his business could benefit from an off grid solar system. One month later, after I learned a good bit about solar installations, I made my way back to Zulu to install a solar system strong enough to power to a deep freezer. Zulu and I agreed that the project would be an investment in him and his business. The idea is to use the solar powered freezer to expand his offering to sell meat that he and local farmers raise, as well as other chilled products that are in high demand in the area. By harnessing the power of the sun, hopefully Zulu will be able to grow his business and make life a little more comfortable in his village. I look forward to tracking Zulu's progress as I continue on my trip.                                      Harare & Kalisine, 11/8/17 to 24/8/17

Zulu's familyZulu's shop

Running cable for lighting in Zulu's hutThe power board/control panel

Solar panel frame construction with Baba Mevi


        A huge thanks to James and Buck Davy at One Stop Solar for their recommendations, instruction, and high quality solar products. My project would have been a pipe dream without the help and resources of Graham Botton of Carbontek. My thanks to Barry Rawlings at Switched on Solar. Thanks to the guys at Capri, Zimbabwe's best refrigeration dealer with products manufactured in Zim. I also want to thank Baba Mevi and Orphan for their help and wonderful company, as well as the community of Kalisine for their assistance during installation.

Welding the solar panel roof mount

Orphan installing the battery and security cageCarrots and solar panel connections

Wiring the equipment togetherLearning to grind millet traditionally

Installing Solar Powered Water Pumps in Eastern Zimbabwe

After biking across Zimbabwe to the capital city of Harare, I settled down with the most helpful family in Zimbabwe and got involved in some work with solar energy. Through a string of connections I met James Davy, a solar installer with prior experience working in rural areas teaching farming. James took me under his wing and taught me a great deal about solar energy systems. He also invited me to help with a couple solar powered water pump installations for communities near rural primary schools. It has been very refreshing to be stationary for a while, forming closer relationships with Zimbabweans than I normally would while just biking. My time working and living here has helped me prepare for a solar project of my own…


Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe 7/7/17 to Harare, Zimbabwe 10/8/17

The solar masters: James Davy & Baba Mevi

Talking to the primary school kids about biking


Building a Solar Water Heater in Colombia

I biked to a casa de ciclistas, or a bike hostel, located in San Antonio de Prado in Colombia. The owner of la casa, Manuel, is one of the more fun people I have met in my life. After telling him about my interest in renewable energy, he asked if I could build a solar water heater. After several design changes and help from other cyclists that came through the house, I managed to build a functioning solar water heater. It was a great experience to harness the power of the sun and water that flowed from the Colombian mountains to provide hot showers for cyclists from around the world. If you have ever considered a solar water heater for your home, give it a try. Constructing a DIY system is easier than you might think, and there are plenty of affordable commercial systems available as well. Check out for design ideas.

Turbo, Colombia to San Antonio de Prado, Colombia 5/3 to 6/4 2016

Steps to Building a Solar Water Heater

IMG_05401) So you start by building a box... (while enjoying a Colombian beer and soda pop concoction. Maybe 1 part miller lite, 2 parts cherry 7up if you made it back in the States)


3) Next you untangle 100 meters of black PVC...

IMG_06246) Close the box with plastic...


Thermosiphon physics experiment with hot water

IMG_0744Shout out to Origon and Celine for all their help!


Source of water for the bike hostelIMG_0886Finished product, designs 1 and 2


IMG_05582) You then paint it black with a metal bottom...

IMG_05704) Then wrap the PVC in the box...

IMG_05745) You proceed to tying the PVC to the box..

IMG_06427) And put it on the roof!


DSCN7216Thermosiphon system #2

DSCN7206Making connections to the hot water tank