Monday, December 10, 2007

Wind turbine woes

The student-built wind turbine at Unity College has always been a bit of an engineering marvel. The technology is so low-tech, and the basic mechanism so robust, it's stood up to everything the weather could throw at it for over three years. Finally, it bit the dust, although not because of any mechanical failure. The hub had become bent when the device was transported to our Common Ground Fair display. The blades caught on the alternator, and the device stopped turning. In order to fix it, I took the guys off the tower and unsecured the ground bolts. As I was getting some helpers to lay it down slowly, the wind did the job for me, and broke two out of six blades.

I will have to order a new blade kit. For those of you who are interested in using these blades, you can buy the kits online at Hydrogen Appliances/Thermodyne Systems. In the meantime, Clay took these awesome pictures of the turbine, including two taken during a thunderstorm. Those are two of the best photos I've ever seen taken by a student at UC.


Update: The company that sells these carbon fiber blades in the US, which I recommend for college and high-school level wind turbine projects, just said they would donate a new blade kit to the college. Thank you very much, Hydrogen Appliances/Thermodyne Systems!

And if you want to download photographic instructions on how to make one of these small turbines, and how to use it to teach the science of wind power, you can go to the slideshow I made for Maine Envirothon here.

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