She's got it 15:06 11 Jul 2023

Green energy from Kherson: 18-year-old inventor plans to help Ukrainians in case of new blackouts

WITERoK from Kherson: how despite the occupation, power, communication interruptions, and later forced displacement, 18-year-old Yaroslava Polikarpova developed and promoted her own startup that will help in the green reconstruction of Ukraine. Its bladeless wind generator is silent, compact, and environmentally friendly. Development is currently at the testing stage.

What is the problem?

In the winter of 2022, due to Russia's aggression, Ukraine faced the problem of electricity shortage. The country experienced forced power outages lasting many hours, and such issues still occur in the frontline regions. Experts hope that Ukraine's energy system will have a much higher level of security next winter. At the same time, they say that the autumn-winter period, despite the much better equipment of Ukrainian air defense forces, can be difficult if Russia accumulates missiles to carry out new waves of attacks on the energy system of Ukraine.

What is the solution?

To reduce vulnerability to attacks by an aggressor, the Ukrainian authorities announced a course to decentralize the energy system. Renewable energy sources, which may have a smaller area and be dispersed, will play an essential role in this process. The public sector also calls to support projects for installing small renewable energy facilities on the ground.

For many entrepreneurs in 2022, generators became the solution during power outages. In the case of offices and private residences, an alternative for some of these devices can be the WITERoK bladeless wind generator — the development of Yaroslava Polikarpova, a student from Kherson.

How did the solution appear?

Ярослава Полікарпова, винахідниця

18-year-old Yaroslava Polikarpova developed and promoted her own startup that will help in the green reconstruction of Ukraine

The idea of the development arose in the fall of 2021. During her studies, Polikarpova, then a 16-year-old student of the Kherson Physics and Technical Lyceum, took part in various competitions. For example, in the competition of works of the Small Academy of Sciences, she took third place at the all-Ukrainian level, and she began to develop a bladeless generator under the guidance of a lyceum teacher and her first scientific supervisor Oleksandr Bondarenko.

Polikarpova says that this lyceum bets on intelligence. It focuses on advanced physics, mathematics, and computer science. "One of the students invented a generator that will work according to the principle of a gyroscooter, from the oscillation of waves. We discussed it a lot and concluded that creating a wind generator that will also work from vibrations is possible," Polikarpova told Rubryka.

The 18-year-old recalls that the day before the full-scale war started, she and her project participated in the Eco-Techno Ukraine 2022 competition, where she took second place in her category and received many good reviews.

"We tested the system, and it showed excellent results, proved to be realistic and able to work," the student recalls.

Achievements during the war and occupation

Polikarpova spent the entire time of the occupation of Kherson in her native city with her mother, older brother, and sedentary grandmother.

The inventor recalls that on the third day of the full-scale war, a grenade exploded in a neighboring yard, killing a person. "I also remember the day I was sitting by the window, and rockets flew over the house's roof 20 meters away. The windows almost shattered; I was very scared. In general, I am very grateful that during this time, I did not see the death of a person."

In such circumstances, she managed not only to successfully complete her studies and enter the Kharkiv Polytechnic University to study Applied Mechanics but also to become a resident of the Ukrainian Future business incubator.

Ukrainian Future business incubator started cooperation with Polikarpova at the beginning of a full-scale war in the spring of 2022. Since 2018, the business incubator Ukrainian Future of the National Center of the Small Academy of Sciences of Ukraine has been actively working with young innovators who have their own developments. "At the beginning of the war, our team invited young people to switch their attention from brutal realities to the solution of a critical task, namely the justification of projects to restore the Ukrainian economy and to join our flagship program – UF Startup School Beginner 2022," shares Iryna Bystrova, the head of programs and network of consultants and trainers of the business incubator Ukrainian Future. The program was not only for those with innovative developments but also for those who wanted to start their own business or social project aimed at rebuilding Ukraine in the post-war period. 

At the end of the program, the participants demonstrated the results of their training in a pitch deck format — a short presentation of the project for investors. When Polikarpova presented her idea, the business incubator offered to continue cooperating to transform the idea into a business. After delving into the project, the experts decided that it could be implemented not as a youth startup but as an ordinary startup.

Ukrainian Future concluded a memorandum with Polikarpova, and their close cooperation began.

"It seems to me that the project helped Polikarpova not only to delve into technology but also to distract herself from the events in Kherson," Bystrova told Rubryka. "Overcoming problems with the Internet, we tried to keep in touch, talk about the project's business model, and reasoned about the possibilities of its development."

Soon the inventor managed to get the first funds for her project, which was then called WELDLESS WIND GENERATOR. It was a €5 thousand youth scholarship based on the results of the Ukrainian-Finnish mentoring program Empowering Future Entrepreneurial Ukraine. The funds were provided to Polikarpova by the general partner of the project, the Ministry of Good Spirit community, Mikko-Pekka Hanski.

Recently the representatives of this community, Mikko-Pekka Hanksi, and Erik Jan Saarinen, were in Kyiv and met with their scholars.

Ministry of Good Spirit

Polikarpova met with Ministry of Good Spirit community representatives Mikko-Pekka Hanski (left) and Erik Jan Saarinen (right). Photo from Polikarpova's archive

"Having talked with me for just five minutes, Mikko-Pekka believed in the, at that time, a still vague idea a year ago and gave funds. When he came to Ukraine, we had a very fruitful conversation. A surprise was his gift — a book about the history of Finland. It's very nice because I didn't expect such an attitude towards motivated people," shares Polikarpova.

When Kherson was liberated from Russian occupiers, the inventor and her family decided to leave temporarily because it was a challenging period: there was no electricity, no water, no communication, and no food in sufficient quantity. First, they left for Khmelnytskyi and then managed to move to Kyiv. Now the whole family lives in one room in a shelter for displaced people, but they do not complain about the conditions. Due to constant stress, Polikarpova was ill for a long time, and she began working with a therapist to overcome her war fears but did not stop working on her project. As a resident of Ukrainian Future, she developed the prototype of her own invention in the laboratory there.Ярослава Полікарпова, ХерсонPolikarpova now lives in the shelter for IDP's

How will it work?
Swinging is better than spinning

"In general, everyone knows that wind turbines are something that rotates, a system of blades. However, I thought spinning was much more difficult than swinging, so I modified the system, and now it will be much easier to convert wind currents into electricity. I am still at the stage of developing the system itself. I have the main parts and ideas, but the technical implementation is still a little more complicated," says the developer.

зелений генератор

The WITERoK model can have a different scale and height depending on the needs

The WITERoK model can have a different scale and height depending on the needs. At this time, the system will be tested, reaching two meters and generating about one to two kW of electricity.

Where will it be possible to install this development?

  • In squares and parks, other open public spaces;

The developer explains: "We can just sit, for example, on a bench and immediately charge our phones."

  • In business centers or enterprises, institutions that have a veranda, terrace, or their own yard;
  • In private residences such as townhouses and penthouses;
  • In small farms in rural areas, where installing electric current cables is problematic.

"It is sometimes more difficult for me to get to the business incubator because of the air alarms, but in general, the war gave me a greater impetus for work," Polikarpova told Rubryka. "When there was a big electricity shortage in Ukraine, I made a comparison with diesel generators. They are costly, and my system will be at least twice as cheap, but it is still in the implementation process, so these are approximate calculations."

Is this a good solution?

"This development can cover temporary power outages," says Bystrova using the example of the business incubator itself, located in a separate room. The electricity needs are not very big, and there is a separate entrance from the closed yard. This may be a suitable place for the first field tests of this installation. With a sufficiently powerful storage device, it would be possible to accumulate wind energy and redistribute it for the incubator's temporary needs. "We expect that under the condition of energy-saving use, we will be able to cover temporary interruptions in energy supply. In the future, the task is to increase the device's power."

What are the advantages of the development?

  • It is ergonomic: almost silent (especially compared to generators), odorless;
  • It is mobile: it is easy to move or carry;
  • It does not harm the environment compared to bladed ones, where birds are sometimes injured.

Among the points that need to be improved is the installation's efficiency, which is what the inventor is currently working on.

Bystrova states: there are not many true pioneering innovations on a global scale today, and success is achieved by the project in which the developer aims to achieve the result.

"It seems to me that Polikarpova falls into the category of project developers and founders who can achieve success and bring the project to a truly commercially successful level. Of course, the project is quite capital-intensive. Therefore it needs more time and effort to commercialize it and start receiving the first revenues," says Bystrova, who is an experienced business consultant.


Polikarpova is working in the Ukrainian Future co-working space

The mentor emphasizes: this is not a technology imposed on Polikarpova but a technological development invented and thought out by her.

"She lives by her project, which makes her very different from other innovators who sometimes do it to develop their own brand," says Bystrova. "Considering the difficulties of the occupation and relocation that she had to overcome, she is definitely a person of tremendous inner strength."


Screenshot from Polikarpova's presentation during Science & Business — GIST Pitch Day No. 2 Energy & Environment / Industry & Infrastructure. Photo from the heroine's archive

Recently, Polikarpova became one of the winners of Science & Business — GIST Pitch Day No. 2 Energy & Environment / Industry & Infrastructure, a competition organized by the Ukrainian Startup Fund together with the Ministry of Digital Affairs and the Ministry of Education and Science and with the support of GIST. The GIST Association (Global Innovations through Science and Technology), initiated and supported by the State Department of the United States of America, provided $5 thousand for developing the WITERoK startup.

What else is needed to implement the solution?

WITERoK is currently in the testing stage. Since Polikarpova is alone in the project (except for mentor Bystrova), she wants to involve other specialists in the startup, both for technical improvement and commercialization of development.

The developer shares: "I would like to have a team of like-minded people. Perhaps it will be not only people from Ukraine but foreigners who also support this idea."

For this, Polikarpova spent part of the received grant on a trip to Belgium. Now the inventor is preparing a better prototype of the WITERoK installation. She presented it at EUSEW 2023, the European Sustainable Energy Week. Polikarpova seeks to use the opportunity to find the necessary connections and like-minded people. Fair winds to you, WITERoK!


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