EWB-SF’s Malcolm Knapp and Heather Fleming with low-cost turbine that they helped design. It will be tested in Quetzaltenango this spring. Photo courtesy Jim Merithew/Wired.com
Over the past year, we’ve been working with the San Francisco chapter of EWB on a low-cost windmill design as part of our Project Placement Program. The goal was to create a windmill for under $100 that could power LED lights, a cell phone, a radio and/or other small appliances.
Unlike the large-scale assemblies found in wind farms, the roughly two-foot-wide and three-foot-tall turbine has a vertical axis. Matt McLean, a mechanical engineer and the EWB project leader] said that orientation worked better in the choppy conditions likely to meet the turbine out in the field, where it’ll be bolted on to buildings, towers or even trees.
Next Sunday, the prototype will undergo its next-to-last build before [Heather Feming, a member of the design team,]and another volunteer head down to the Guatemalan manufacturing facility, XelaTeco, with the building plans in hand.
The engineering team had to make their design simple enough that it could be assembled from cheap and widely available components. As a result, their plans call for building the turbine out of hard plastic (or canvas) bolted on to a steel-tube structure. The rotor, which creates mechanical energy from the movement of the blades, runs into an alternator (actually a cheap DC motor running in reverse), which converts the mechanical energy into electricity.
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Link of the Day: Wind Turbine Buyerâ€™s Guide [pdf]
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IEEE TV: Wind Power – The Technology