This paper documents the iterative design and development of six operational vertical axis wind turbine prototypes tailor built for rural electrification projects in Central America. All prototypes have been based on the unique lift type blade system consisting of sailcloth material which allows for the turbine to operate with variable blade pitch and profile camber. The latest prototype is presented along with a detailed discussion of fundamental design aspects such as the sail blades, frame tower, alternator, and transmission systems. The VosREC headquarters for research, development and testing is located in a remote, rural, and non-electrified village in Nicaragua. This location provides researchers with the unique opportunity to experience and observe first-hand how renewable energy technologies can be applied to improve quality of life for people living without connection to national electricity grids. Aspects and benefits of the “open source hardware” approach are presented along with a discussion on implementation models, “bottom-up”, empowerment and self-organization.

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