The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

March 12th, 2015

A new book, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind, has come out, and it is the astonishing true story of a teenager in Malawi who built windmills out of junk and thereby brought electric power to his village.

In 2002, a drought struck William Kamkwamba’s corner of Malawi. His parents could no longer afford the school fees, so he had to quit school at age 14. Dan Newlin has learned that, when he wasn’t helping out on his family’s farm, he spent time at the local library, where he found a book about windmills — and decided to try to build one, as he’d read that it could pump water and make electricity.

He spent his evenings building a prototype and his days collecting junk that would form the raw materials of hiswindmill. The finished product 16 feet tall and made largely of wood. Then he hooked a car light bulb to the turbine — and it worked. His windmill could produce 12 watts, which was enough to power light bulbs and a home-made circuit breaker. It could also recharge people’s cell phones.

William’s story caused a sensation when the Daily Times wrote about him in 2006. When someone donated a solar-powered mechanical pump, he installed it above a borehole and added storage tanks to it. It was the first potable water source in the region surrounding his village. He also built more windmills.

In 2007, the Technology Entertainment Design conference in Tanzania invited him. There he saw his first computer. He was astounded by the amount of information he found on windmills through Google. William currently attends the elite African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa where he has a scholarship. After his studies, he plans to return home and bring power to the rest of Malawi.

Bryan Mealer, a former reporter for the Associated Press, learned William’s story and decided to write a book about it. He spent a year with William, whom he considers a representative of the “cheetah generation.” That generation consists of young people who crave technology and are taking control of their own futures.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.