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Open Hardware Renewable Energy Equipment | Programa De Las Naciones Unidas Para El Desarrollo

Open source hardware creates significant opportunities; However, when we start developing solutions, we often lack a clear picture of what we will find and what their potential may be. Sometimes the first step is to follow in the footsteps of others, and with different strategies and a little persistence, solutions begin to emerge. When it comes to renewable energies, an important avenue we found was the availability of DIY kits or manuals, enabling anyone to build the technology in simple steps and using basic materials, in line with the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) movement.

This Maker Movement is characterized by sharing knowledge and working together, enabling individuals – regardless of their location and socio-economic status – to use designs, improve them, adapt them to their needs or imagine new functionalities. Not only is this approach an act of generosity, but it also has enormous potential to accelerate sustainable development because it fosters a more equitable system of opportunities, provides tangible solutions to real (1) problems, and promotes access to and distribution and reproducibility of technological innovations (2) at low cost.

Renewable energy sources with open equipment: the case of the solar heater and other examples

While mapping solutions, we came across a radiator that could be built – following the detailed instructions in the manual created by the CONICET team – from traditional materials available at any hardware or plumbing store. This heater can benefit people without access to hot water by allowing them to sanitize themselves (or sanitize someone else) more frequently and safely, as well as wash their clothes at a comfortable temperature without having to worry about joint problems caused by, among other things, other possibilities. In other words, changing basic daily activities that can improve the quality of life of these people. Additionally, the handbook provides tips to help people avoid potential failures. They warn, for example, that materials (such as black polyethylene pieces and pipes or plastics) collapse in the northern part of our country under the influence of high solar radiation, and that low radiation in the south does not allow the water to warm up sufficiently, and that its optimal functioning occurs in temperate climate with average sunlight.

The good news is that this solar heater wasn’t the only open hardware solution introduced nationally. In fact, 500 RPM is working with a widely used open-patent wind turbine to transfer knowledge and technology to small rural economies.

Towards innovation with democratization

The strategic nature of these technologies prompted the UNDP network of acceleration laboratories to examine how to promote and raise awareness of this approach. To contribute to this effort, we reached out to innovators who were willing to open source their technologies. The idea that locally mapped technology can be adopted by others in need, regardless of their location, goes far beyond what we could have imagined at the beginning of our journey.

Our goal is to join the movement with new innovation players with significant potential and influence; that outperforms a small group of well-intentioned enthusiasts and thereby contributes to the democratization of design, production, technology and science. This vision is at the heart of the future we want to build – where the spirit of ‘do it yourself’ coincides with the ethos of ‘doing it with others’.

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(1) Morales Martínez, Y. M., & Dutrénit Bielous, G. (2017). El movimiento Maker y los processos de generación, transferencia y uso del conocimiento. Entreciencias: Diálogos En La Sociedad Del Conocimiento, 5(15). https://doi.org/10.22201/enesl.20078064e.2017.15.62588.

(2) Ravindran, S. (2020). How DIY technologies democratize science. Nature, 587(7834), 509-512.