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WindTapper's Blog

September 2011

Surrounded By Trees

Two entries ago I wrote that we are surrounded by trees, but saved one last photo of proof:
This swing set cost $120 with shipping, in case you were wondering what kinds of things I must purchase to accomplish my alternative energy research. The swing set is in a relatively windy location where I will hang a wind-powered electric generator.  Please donate to the cause and send me an email to that effect. Magnets cost me a couple hundred dollars recently. These magnets are for making two rotors -- one to hang outside, and one to hang inside for measuring the amount of electricity I can generate.

Busy Busy

Looking for parts and ideas for supporting my magnet rotors, I saw plastic ties as a possible connectors around the plastic hoops; anodized aluminum chain from to hang or stretch from the centerpost; also from Inland I got small solid brass S hooks. Another purchase accomplished was from Ebay where I ordered one 20 inch plastic wheel. I am hoping that it is a little bit narrower, once I remove the tire.

I spent several hours on the web today looking for solid brass closed S hooks and plastic wheels. The anodized aluminum chain was a surprise and changed my ideas about mounting the magnet hoop.

Previously I was thinking of putting a rod through the centerpost PVC pipe. The rod would have been countersunk on both ends so that I could screw eyelets onto both ends. But now I see a much simpler idea of just using Dempsey wire with a loop on each end, threaded through the pipe, with the second end looped after threading it through the two opposing holes in the PVC pipe. Probably I should do that twice, at right angles, to give four opposing chain anchors for each hoop. I imagine the S hooks will come in handy. They are tiny, though -- not big enough to loop around the hoop. There I will put the plastic ties around the hoop.

Money is tight right now, so if anybody out there would care to donate to this alternative energy research, please send me an email message to I am the only one here and will keep your name private if that is what you wish. Otherwise, with your permission, I could thank you publicly. You choose. I also have no mailing list and have no email marketing campaign, so you wouldn't have to worry about getting hooked up for spam if you sent me an email.

Happy Pix

Photos I promised you, having to do with the placement of the swing set infrastructure for hanging more wind turbines:

Anchoring the swing set on the side of a hill. Although this looks level, levelness is an optical illusion.

Placed next to a recently pruned Norwegian Spruce, the cement has not yet cured. This is my excuse for why I have not yet installed a wind turbine here.

I tried to line the swing set up so you could see method to my madness, lol. Actually, you can stand at the corner and look down a row of fenceposts helping to guard four newly-planted fruit trees, into the center of the A-frame of the swingset.

Side view down the above lined-up shot, showing 3 of 4 new fruit trees plus a zuccini plant.

Front yard. See. We are surrounded by trees, and live down by a creek. That is why I am designing wind generators that must work in low velocity winds, but today is nice and windy!

Bamboo and Finances

I ordered some 18 inch bamboo skewers this morning to see if I can make a lightweight and water-proof framework to support my magnetized hoops. I also sent an inquiry to a company that says it can make bamboo skewers up to 50 cm long, but their prices are way out of sight -- or so it seems.

I might be able to sell an expensive book to offset recent purchases, but finances are getting pretty crunchy. I plan to research any tax breaks for alternative energy research activities such as I am engaged in. Also, I might go back to the idea of soliciting donations at this website, after I look into any tax and legal implications/requirements for doing so.

I was embarrassed to ask for donations previously, but necessity rules ultimately.

I received an order of 25 new magnets of the cylindrical shape (3/8"width, 3/4" height/"thickness" -- N/S pole on each end). They seem very nice and strong. I am working on figuring out how to install them properly inside the hoops. They cost me $72 but I am five magnets shy. I should purchase another 41 of these magnets, but that will be another $100 -- money I do not have. 30 are for a second hoop. Five will fill out the first hoop. The last six I need to set up a manufacturing stand so I can properly place and space the magnets that I will -- I think -- then pull into the hoop sections, spaced and attached with and to rolled-up cardboard in among the magnets.

Nova Last Night

Two NovaTV programs last evening on PBS had me spellbound by the tsunami that hit Japan relatively recently. I had wondered what could have happened to all the people who were off camera during previously aired footage of the disaster, and now I have a much better idea -- after the second hour aired last night.

Watching the tsunami roll over the agricultural land reminded me of the description of a flood I had read from The Makioka Sisters. Wikipedia actually has a synopsis of that book indicating the flood in that book was at the Kansai region of Japan, which is further south than the footage of Nova.

I am still somewhat in shock over what I saw on Nova, and remember how the City of Westminster Colorado has a friendship organization with some place in Japan. I imagine that Westminster is involved in disaster aid. I wonder if Athens Ohio has any groups involved in disaster aid for Japan? We should. One of our boulevards has a long row of cherry trees donated by Japanese people. There is another row along our river, too....

Feet of Clay -- Er, Cement

Today I anchored our new swingset with cement at its four feet, on the side of a hill, next to a Norwegian Spruce tree. I also trimmed three branches off the tree, partly so I could move the swing set closer to it. Two of the branches were really too low to be able to drive my van under the tree unscathed. Also, the septic truck got loud screeches out of those branches when it came. The tree has been growing too far out along the ground, anyway, so now there is a bit more air flowing near it.

I put the swingset to line up with our new fruit trees, too, and it sits where our street light can hit it all night long. That will increase its advertising value once I get a wind generator installed onto it. I just realized that I can put a battery nearby, under the tree, covered by one of those leachbed plastic contraptions that I showed pictures of some time back, on our back porch. Those plastic contraptions have ventilation all along their sides, plus under the tree is virtually always shaded, and is a relatively windy location, so the battery will be living at a decent temperature. (Batteries need to be kept cool rather than hot, to give them longer life spans.)

My big problem is figuring out how to level the battery and its cover, mostly, on the steep hillside, but I am looking forward to making electricity there now.

Also, the swingset came with plugs to put into the ends of the uppermost crossbar, but the crossbar ends were narrowed so that the plugs won't fit into them. I might put a couple 20-foot lengths of rebar into the swingset's upper crossbar, extended to the nearest fruit tree fencepost, thus giving me more room to hang whirligigs.

I shall be looking for any water/weather-proof lighting to add to that side of our house. I was even dreaming of putting in some grow lights for the fruit trees today. The trees don't get any of the street light's illumination. I want more light on that side of the house at night, anyway, besides the increased advertising value of more lights on our whirligigs at night.

The weather turned grey after I put the cement shoes onto our swingset, so I will wait until it turns sunny again to get a picture of them to share with you all ( : - ).

Rotor Platform & Etc.

Now I am thinking a 1/2 inch aluminum disc with 12 slots around its edge for the bar magnets. This way I can get access for magnetic flux to drive three separate coils: above, below, and around the perimeter. The center of the disc is of course hollow, but it connects to a shaft that can be easily connected to the centerpost of the wind turbine. The slot aspect removes the need for drilling 12 holes to start making the holes for the magnets in the discs. The center won't need to actually be hollow, either, after filling it with a central shaft.

I am thinking ahead to displaying these deep-cycle battery generators at our local Farmer's Market and I want them to be easily assembled, disassembled, and transported for display at this bi-weekly, three-hour marketplace. I figure that farmers are a very good target market for this product because they have space away from the meddling regulators that Neighborhood Associations can be....

Also had the idea this morning to go see an uncle who enjoys mechanical engineering projects and is retired. He does not use the Internet so this will have to be a personal type of visit to show him what I have so far. I know: a Christmas present! He will get one of my wind turbines as a Christmas present for his patio!

Oh and by the way, Moneyball is a winner, too! It was longer than I expected, or even realized until I got home, but it says so much that I agree with about innovation and stick-to-it-tiveness. The other main message has to do with living within your means.

Later Thoughts on an Alumunim Disc: I have a piece of aluminum scrap. It is perfectly flat, 6 X 6 1/2 inches (153 X 166 mm), and 2 millimeters thick. It weighs a tiny bit more than 7 1/2 ounces. That is too heavy. I was thinking of a disc twice this size and 6 times (1/2 inch or 12 mm) thicker. Let's see. 12 times 7.5 equals 90 ounces. Ouch! 5.625 lbs! Too much weight for my rotor, and that doesn't even count in all the magnets or glue to hold them in place! On the other hand, my swivels supposedly handle 35 lbs, but that is in water and on a more horizontal angle.

Materials Hunting: Swing Sets and Disks

Swing sets might be the perfect infrastructure for hanging my wind turbines. I found -- first thing -- a website selling swing sets, with one on sale for $99.99:$1000&Ntk=all&ssh=y

[Later Note: I had difficulty assembling this swing set on 9/27/11, but I succeeded. It awaits my anchoring it now. I set it onto a hillside where wind flows freely, funneled by our house and a large Norwegian Spruce, southwest of our house, near the bottom of our closest hill,  just up from our newly planted row of fruit trees. This swing set is only 6 feet tall and 6 feet long. I think I will have to go back to the smaller hoops if I decide to hang two whirligigs along its top crossbeam.]

On the other hand, I wanted a roof to protect my turbines from snowfall, so perhaps swings are not so perfect. Perhaps swing sets could be modified to have a roof, say, if I bought two sets and put a cover on top, between them. I am purchasing just one swing set to see what I can do with it. I wish I could get a further discount because I don't need the swings. We'll see how tall this one is. I think I shouldn't put the greenhouse frame on our back porch and expect it to hang wind turbines because with the roof I intend to add, plus the sides of the porch, I may only have 2 feet of space clear for air to flow freely across the turbines -- not optimal.

As I was cutting up mangoes, etc. for a fruit topping for cooked cereal I suddenly realized a potential source of materials for making the rotor disk: cutting boards. Most of our cutting boards are high tensile strength plastic of some sort. We retired the wooden ones, although those are supposed to be more sanitary except I am not as likely to put a wooden board into the dishwasher. Anyway, as I was cutting up fruits I came up with a list of requirements for my rotor disc, even though I know I will probably have to compromise on something on the list. Strong, waterproof, rigid, light weight -- less dense than even aluminum, easily cut, thin, and non-magnetic. Strong and easily cut are opposites, and I suspect I will have to work hard to cut through the material. It cannot be weak or else the magnets will fold it, or the rotation will be floppy or warped -- all of which are forbidden for this design.

I realize that some rotor makers think you need a metal disk because otherwise how would you get the magnets to stay apart while you are gluing them into place? These are high-powered magnets that we use and they do not simply sit tight, as it were. But I want to use both sides of the magnet to influence stator coils, and the metal disc would preclude this. I think the tricks to accomplishing what I want to do are 1) use the metal surface to attract the magnets but have a  layer of something between the magnets and the metal so that the magnets can be removed; and 2) find a way to rigidly attach the magnets to my alternative material disk, but with both sides of the bar magnets exposed or rather facing out, on both up and downsides of the rotor disk. Perhaps a fiberglass layer. So, perhaps I need the disk to be able to have fiberglass stick to it -- an addition to my list of properties desired for the disk material.

Gamers! and Personnel Departments

Here is another piece of evidence countering William Gibson's view that hackers are only in it to prove how smart they are. Gamers genuinely enjoy playing games, not only to show how they can beat others, but because there is intrinsic pleasure derived from the acts of imagining, planning, trying, revising, sharing, communicating about, and executing mental constructs. I am sorry that not everyone feels these pleasures, but that is not our fault.

Perhaps the educational system could do better at instilling these pleasures into its students. We could, perhaps, all benefit from the educational system causing students to enjoy their creativities....

And, also from MSN dot com concerning all the unfilled jobs at some large companies, perhaps those large companies should invest in some Knowledge Engineering to help train new people to do those jobs. Knowledge Engineering includes Expert programs as well as simulators such as the Air Force uses with its flight simulators. Sit an expert down with flow-charting software such as Expert Systems Engineering has devised. Let the expert record or have recorded what she or he would do in each situation that arises in their field. Take journals of day-to-day activities on the job and put these in flow charts, then build simulators and/or teaching games for prospective job fillers who have the basic skills but have never seen each particular job previously.

I am sure those big companies could then find people who didn't know they "had it in them" and who are not bored to tears by the activities that are simulated for these previously not-widely-understood positions.

More generally, advertise for the basic skills you need, then train the newbies or "oldies" you move "up". Recruitment is another art that even CEO's can be adept at. Also, large corporations, stop teaming up with your fundamentalist Republican brethren to tear the hearts out of educational institutions. Team up with vocational schools, community colleges, universities and graduate schools to get information out there about the skill sets required for your jobs, plus benefits your company offers, besides looking over their curriculums for common ground between you and them, and/or ways to suggest they improve them.

Frogs and Greenhouses

"Fine weather for ducks!" is how I greet walkers in our neighborhood these days. And I have a feeling that we will have more precipitation this winter. Ducks, snakes, mushrooms, and peepers all seem to love this warm, moist weather in southeastern Ohio this year. This is the first evening I was surprised by a peeper clinging to our front, storm door. Please excuse the low quality of the pix. It was 2 or 3 a.m. and I had no clue where our close-up lenses were hiding, not to mention the fact that I was shooting blind in the dark, relying on the flash to capture these:
Oooh! Now I see one reason why darkness is so spooky. Notice the huge shadow this peeper casts on the far wall, even if it is rather blurry. I estimate the frog is only an inch squared or less, while the shadow is more like a foot squared.

This photo is taken from behind the little critter, instead of through the glass.

Sorry but closer is not always better. I was trying to capture an image of the frog's eyes which are black, but I missed them.

 I had gone back to working on building awnings to cover my current wind turbine configuration, stopping by a local hardware to find screws, bolts, and grommets today, along with looking for ideas for mounting a circular magnet platform for the generator. After returning from the store I remembered I had purchased a 6 X 8 foot greenhouse kit from Lowe's this late Spring. Our porch is 10 feet wide in the back of the house so I am devising a way to extend the greenhouse frame two feet in order to put a roof over some wind turbines.

If you go by weather lore that says the color of the first caterpillar you see in the Fall -- whether white or black and the percentage of white and black on the body tells how much snow and/or cold weather you will get -- this year is a very mixed bag. The very first caterpillar I saw was all black. The very next one was all white. Now, The Weather Channel said yesterday that we are in for a cold winter this year when the "Greenland Block" takes hold. However, you and I should know that the Jet Stream seldom stays in one place longer than a week or so at a time.... so, we get both cold and warm weather this Winter.... both precipitation and sun, alternately. Duh.

 I hope I can manage to make a low-cost roof for testing my wind turbines on our back deck this year and beyond. I planned all along to at least take advantage of the frame that came with the kit, and to learn something about the mechanics of same.

Magnet Shopping and Designing Rotors

After viewing the first website of my last entry several times, I went looking for magnets of that odd shape. K & J Magnetics does not carry those, but Magnets 4 Less does. This new shape of magnets and windings has the right side of my brain working overtime these days trying to figure out lots of stuff, such as putting a greased hub at the bottom of my centerpost to carry more weight. However, that is not my only idea. Two discs of magnets might make it advantageous to spin the wire windings, instead, leaving the magnets stationary with the wire windings rotating in between the two magnetic discs.

Another novel piece of information is that I am not the only one who wants to have thicker gauge wire.

In any case it is becoming clearer to me that I need to do some actual measurements of how much electricity I can get from each configuration, and that testing will have to be done in a "lab" setting rather than outside in our yard, lol.... I had some fairly strong indication of how strong my magnets are because the iron filings that I spread over them on a plexiglass sheet I had above my magnets that are attached to plastic hoops -- those iron filings are still holding their patterns, including standing high up on end, long after I have moved the plexiglass many times across the room, even rather carelessly.

Later Notes: This morning until 4 a.m. I worked on non-wedge magnet configurations for a rotating magnet disc. Avoiding brushes means the magnets rotate, not the coils. From the first website listed in the last entry I took my cue for doubling the thickness of bar magnets to 1/2 inch or more, and dropped wedge magnets altogether. I drew pictures of 12 and 16 magnet circles, with three basically flat coils for each magnet. 12 magnets equals 36 coils, 16 equals 48 coils which are as long as the bar magnets and not too thick. 

With this configuration I suppose I could have one rotating magnetic disc with a coil stator on each side of it to take advantage of both sides of each magnet. My next trick was to figure out how to mount the magnets, basically inside holes in the disc so that both sides of the magnets will have an equal chance to affect coils. I am thinking sheets of fiberglass fabric to hold the magnets suspended in the holes. Next I must find out if fiberglass will stick to sheets of PVC....

Coil Turns Per Volt

Surfing the web, looking for some idea how many turns on the coil I will need to produce 18 volts, I found a couple of nifty sites: for a nice pictorial record of how to build a 14' windmill, with stator and rotor. for a mathematically inclined estimate for number of turns required to produce 14 volts -- some 6800 or so turns. I like the math on the first site, above, better, though, lol.


In addition to reviewing books that people purchase from me on Amazon (used books) I have acquired a couple discounted books (used) for long term study: 1. National Electrical Code Handbook (12th Edition) aka nec 2011 Handbook, by Mark W. Earley and Jeffrey S. Sargent; and 2. Illustrated Guide to the National Electrical Code (5th Edition) (Based on the 2011 National Electrical Code) by Charles R. Miller.

So far I have been reading from these books at random and according to anything that catches my eye. These two books will keep me warm this winter, I suspect, although I don't plan on becoming a licensed electrician. I still desire an understanding of the electrician's point of view so that I may understand them better and plan better for integrating home-based electricity generation and usage with utility-provided electricity and the standards for the electrical wiring of buildings.

Imagination versus Reality

Sometimes I toy with ideas only to find that in reality they make no sense. Such as when I tried to devise a way to make the rotors rotate in one direction with the stators in another. The stators will be too heavy to make this practical although I could have made similarly weighted sections rotate against each other. Then again, there is the problem of vertical supports clashing against each other between the two. An outer ring going in one direction (hung from the top) with an inner ring going oppositely (supported from the bottom) is visually tempting, but I don't like having to transfer electricity through brushes that add friction and parts that constantly wear out.

On the other hand, I am still working on the idea of brushing on insulation after winding each layer of aluminum electric fence wire to each coil. I also feel that I should have a gap between coils because the cost-benefit ratio points to a loss of resources when wire windings are in the sections that must endure oppositely directed magnetic fields. Some day I will probably test this theory, at least half way, by implementing my gap theory.

Pipe insulation spacers is what I will use to fill the gap. They will also guide me for placement as well as for depth regularities while winding my coils.

I have a number of alternative compounds to use as brushed-on insulation, and a number of primers and cleaners to try. Setting up the rotors, stators, and volt-amp-ohm (var) test equipment will be an interesting project, but I must set up the assembly process so that I can also ventilate the drying of all the goops I am going to try to use as insulation.

[I think I need to find somebody who speaks Polish to tell me if there is a Polish word "goopta" such as I heard my mother use, which I feel is the origin of the word "goop" but is not in our Webster's Dictionary.]

I plan to put a hook in our basement ceiling so I can hang a whirligig, with a fan to power it, then take readings on how much electricity I can get from how much wind-speed.... Then, too, the size of the fan will make a difference....

Coils and Anchors

Feeling a bit under the weather today, as I sit on our front step smoking, what is right in front of me is a coil of garden hose. I guess it influences me subtly to think of coils and the act of coiling reversed direction coils along a stator.

Also, next to where I sit, I have the opportunity to study the current anchor system made from a puppy anchor. I say "puppy" because any adult dog can dislodge it from soft soil.

The bottom ring swivels all the way around the central shaft, plus the topmost black hook slides back and forth along the top of the anchor, depending on wind direction. I need an anchor that confines the central chain to a much narrower field of travel so that the rotors can more precisely deliver magnetic fields to stators.

This anchor has two tie-down hooks, which is unnecessary redundancy, but -- hey -- it was my first experiment with this type of anchor.

Previous whirligigs had unstable uppermost hanger apparatus. Now the instability is introduced by the anchor. I think there should be some allowance for dampening the shock to the system from changing directions of high winds, though.
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