Plastic buckets and old printers generate electricity in this Vietnamese village

Low-cost wind turbines built with red plastic buckets and printer engines bring electricity to 14 households in the poorest regions of Hanoi.

Many families living in slums along the Red River, just outside Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, are obliged to live in critical conditions: they have very expensive electricity just for few hours a day. These are the city’s poorest regions, a few kilometres away from the wealthy business district where electricity is not a problem.

Le Vu Cuong, the inventor of the system © Reuters/Kham

For this reason, someone has found a low-cost solution to generate electricity using recycled and easily available materials. Mini wind turbines built using red plastic buckets and broken printers.

The system, realised by Le Vu Cuong, a lecturer at a Hanoi University, generates enough electricity to light a 45-Watt light bulb for about 4 hours. “It is enough to light the home of my family and other families around here”, Bui Van Ha told Reuters. The family man earns about $4.50 a day on average by trading pottery. “Even for only a few hours after dark, it helped us to save on our monthly spending and bring profit to my family”. The mini wind turbines have been installed on the roofs of 14 households, which have now access to electricity at a much lower cost.

The mini wind turbines installed on the roofs ©

Low-cost wind turbines

“When my group carried out research, we found that the natural conditions at this place are suitable for small windpower turbines”, Cuong told the Straits Times. “The residents living here are poor. We wanted to support them. They can now use electricity without extra cost, and one important thing is that the energy comes from renewable sources”.

Four red plastic buckets, the engine of an old printer, a metal pole, the batteries of an old motorcycle and the system is ready for use. Even if the motor has limited power, it can work with a wind speed of just 0.4 metres a second.

It wasn’t easy for Cuong to convince the residents, who were skeptical due to previous negative experiences. But when the system has been installed with the help of some local associations, the slums residents have declared themselves satisfied with it: “We have to pay more for electricity because we live too far from a power station and we can only afford small amounts of it”, said Tran Van Xuan, a resident of the village. “With this windpower turbine, we can light a bulb when it’s dark, for free. Of course we’re happy about that. Everyone here is happy about that. But we would be happier if the power were stronger and could run an electric fan”.

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