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Wednesday, January 5. 2011
I think I'll be a sociologist in my next lifetime. I've always been intrigued by cultural conditioning and changing perspectives. Even more so when I'm the subject of the aforementioned changing perspectives.
Following are two posts on the subject. The first was made a few years ago, when I bought my 40' liveaboard boat. And, as if that wasn't enough of a perspective change, what happened the other day actually put me in the greenie class.
The topic is wind power. Like you, I've mocked, scorned and belittled it for years. What a fraud! Without fat government subsidies, it'd be as dead as geothermal energy and ocean wave power. Just another greenie notion without a lick of sense.
Wind Farm Wars
"Beautiful, isn’t it?"
"Gorgeous. Just as God intended."
(nobody ever accused Dr. Mercury of being overly polite)
So that was one changing perspective. And then there was the other day.
The day I turned green.
I'm about to use my humble liveaboard boat...
...for what it was designed for; living off the land — as it were. I plan to spend the next three or four months 'off anchor', so my electricity will have to be self-generated. You can probably see where this is going.
And, you guessed it, the next thing I know, after years of officially mocking, scorning and belittling poor wind power, there I was on the web reading How To Build Your Own Wind Generator.
By the way, have I mentioned how great wind power is? Were you aware that it's free? Imagine that! Free energy! Imagine powering the whole country with it! We could devote Kansas to the cause and simply radiate the power lines out from there. It's hard to imagine a modern, urbane country like America passing up such an opportunity. And, honestly, we don't really need Kansas, anyway. That's the advantage of having 50 states; you can afford to donate a few to good causes.
Where was I? Oh, right. Well, if anyone's interested, no, that alternator from the Buick rusting beside the garage won't work, dammit. The RPMs have to be too high before it'll generate any amount of juice. The trick is to use these certain industrial motors that have a decent RPM-to-output ratio. They're not expensive, less than $100, and you need some kind of regulator, but everything else can be done with scrap. For example, very effective wind vanes can be cut out of PVC piping using a lengthwise, curving cut.
An Unforeseen Pitfall
I read or skimmed through about five posts on the subject and watched a handful of YouTube vids, and I think about every one of the homebuilts got put out of commission at some point by the exact same thing.
Let's make you guess.
Question: The one piece of safety equipment all home-built wind generators need is:
A. A grounded lightning rod since these things act like sky magnets, especially in isolated areas without a lot of trees around
B. A fence to ward off large beasts (elk, deer, etc) who use it as a scratching post and tilt it over
C. A locking mechanism to keep it from spinning too fast in high winds, producing an overabundance of electricity and causing you to make errors as you speed up your computing endeavors so as not to waste any of it
D. A big ball made of chicken wire around the blades to keep birds from resting on them when the wind isn't blowing as the bird shit eventually weighs down the blades unevenly and causes the whole thing to vibrate apart
Actually, looking them over, those all sound pretty good. But I was thinking of 'C'. It seems like pretty much everybody's first effort gets ripped to shreds the first time it's hit with a freak wind gust. The blades spin too fast and kablooey. The commercial home units have a built-in speed limiter, but that would be tough to do for a home project. It would seem safer just to build in some kind of simple locking mechanism and not use it on days when high winds gusts were expected — although that seems kind of self-defeating since those would also be the days with the best consistent wind strength.
Since the base of the blades is the weak point, the best answer might be to simply make a spare set of blades the first time through, then use the rig like normal. Should a freak gust snap off all or some of the blades, at least it won't be a huge undertaking to repair it, plus you'll have some valuable meteorological data to warn you about next time. That is, you'd have a number of weather sites on tap and as soon as the destructive gust hit, you'd go to them all and one might possibly have some kind of "gust warning" posted, so you'd pay more attention to that site in the future.
I won't be building a wind generator, myself, because the boat's already loaded with batteries, chargers and inverters, but I was curious as to what the process entailed. While I was disappointed that a car alternator & regulator wouldn't work (the cheapest method, by far), it was nice to see that the unit wouldn't cost a lot, assuming you can do most of the work yourself. For a remote cabin getaway — combined with a small generator/battery combo — it would be an interesting, worthwhile project.
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Good Morning Doc. Here are some interesting sites you may not have found. The first one is a list of manufacturers of unique and leading edge wind systems. Click on the logo on the left and see what other companies are doing:
Or to be more specific to your concerns I would take a look at this:
And good morning to you, applepie of my eye. It's just SO typical of you to direct me to a site that has the "sexiest renewable energy on earth". You sultry thing, you.
As for the first site, two problems jump out. The first is the 24 mph (sustained) winds to keep it at max potential. 24 mph winds -- sustained -- is some serious shit. I think the last state that went through that was Oklahoma when it suffered the Great Dust Bowl. So that would have to be taken into account.
Also, that 24 mph is gained using a 30-foot high support. That's goddamn three stories high! So you'd probably have to get a permit for it, like Ham radio operators do, and that's not counting the navigational warning lights for low-flying aircraft.
On the other hand, you have to admit putting a 30-foot tower on my boat would look really cool.
As for the second article, very clever idea! But it's not "more specific to my concerns", in the sense that this is a full-blown liveaboard boat, not a 'camper' as such. Picture one of those monstrous RVs rolling down the highway minus the wheels. Anyway, I like their idea of a portable generator, and thanks much for the links.
I've spent more than a bit of time on sailing yachts where solar panels, windmills and gennys are the rule.
Below is the contact info for one of the best:
by Kiss Energy Systems
Tropical Marine Complex
ph/fx 1 868 634-4929
Kiss=Keep It Simple, Stupid!
These are effective, reliable, ready to install and have all the features you spoke of......
I love a project as much as the next guy and a chance to tinker is never to be missed...however, in Blue Water, with help hours, maybe days away, KISS is good advice.
Best of luck with your live-aboard plans, wish I could do it myself.
NC - My hopes of KISS ended when I found out I couldn't use a car alternator. :)
Sorry Doc--here is the company I was looking for:
This one is made for boats:
WS-0,30 B (~9A)
However, what I think is amazing is this one:
Tee hee hee ;-)
I like the idea of a compact turbine, compared to 'blades' -- i.e., the same principle we've been using since the Dutch windmills of the 1st century. And thanks for pointing out that particular model. Here in hurricane country, it'd be a wise move to buy the one good for a "constant wind speed of 134 mph".
"However, what I think is amazing is this one"
That is SO like you to bring a large phallus-shaped object into the discussion. What a harlot you turned out to be! Let's date! Seriously, is that a micro-church? With a wind vane instead of a cross? Whatever it is, I want one. Theo's always posting pics of some "perfect blogger's getaway", but I think you nailed it.
Wind power deserves every bit of scorn you can heap upon it, Doc. Keep it up (the humor, not the phallus-shaped object!)
www dot friendsofmainesmountains dot com
Hi Doc. forget wind. try solar panels. There are arrangements made for RVs to recharge the batteries. They are not cheap and only help; they are not big enough to be self suficient. They might be adaptable to your boat. JPB
Hmmm - interesting. How many watts do you figure on producing with this gizmo?
At best, using the KISS system figures (which, by the way, I find highly suspect for a couple of reasons) the max production you are going to get out of that unit is 300 watts +/- a couple or so. That's at a wind value of 25 mph. When was the last time you were out in 25 mph winds with the resulting wave action? At a more reasonable 12 mph or so, you're getting less than 100 watts of available power - 300 wasn't a lot, 100 is - well, mere nothing even in terms of trickle charging. At a more likely 5 mph or breeze conditions, less than 50.
The wing span on these things is at least six feet - five for the KISS system. Where the heck are you going to put it?
Raise and lower it everytime you want to use it? Downtime storage? On a 40' live aboard?
I dunno Doc - I dunno. :>)
By the way, Cape Wind Project. It's an interesting factoid that main opposition to the project came from William Koch using Senator Kennedy as his front man. As you may or may not know, Koch is, besides defending the America's Cup with the aptly named "America, owns the largest oil refining business in addition to coal and other energy interests. Something like a million and half dollars to fund the Alliance. It's no accident that the view from his home in Osterville is the main driver for opposition.
With respect to safety, sail boats and/or boats in general are all well and good - the main issue is going to be WIG ferries - or Wing In Ground aircraft/boats. Until the FAA and USCG settle their turf battle as to regulating these things, I don't think Cape Wind will be built.
"Where the heck are you going to put it?"
The bimini has good anchor points at each corner so I thought I'd just mount it to that. There should be plenty of clearance for the 8' blades. Personally, I think I'm going to be the talk of the marina. Plus, I can reverse the energy flow and turn the blades into propellers to move the boat like an airplane, thereby saving fuel and preventing global climate change crisis.
Or, it's possible you misread the above and the Kiss contraption wasn't my idea. Hard to say at this point. My big problem is that I insist on using my main desktop computer, but that draws buckets of juice compared to the laptop. Hence the need for a generator, and, once that's brought into play, the power produced by solar and wind just can't compare.
Wind power varies with the cube of the wind speed. So if your system generates 300W at 25mph, you will get about 33W at 12mph.
Cap. Beardsley, the guy who caught the big mahi, uses 8D batteries in series-parallel on his Grand Banks for house batteries. He uses an on-board genset to top the batteries off when the mains are shut down, but the 8Ds handle most applications just fine. Lots of storage capacity in those babies.
Bimini? Ok, now you gotta be pulling my leg a little - or maybe not, I've seen some strange stuff around my marina in the past. :>)
"Lots of storage capacity in those babies."
The whole weak link in the chain is that you can't charge batteries more than 10% of their amp rating, plus they really-really want to be brought all the way up, which only adds another two or three hours of generator time -- all for a few percent of battery power. The only answer is to have a shitload of batteries so each one is only drained a bit and charges up quickly, but that's mucho buckos.
"Bimini? Ok, now you gotta be pulling my leg a little"
Did you see the picture up above? Just imagine a sturdy 4-mast base leading up from the corners of the bimini, leading into the remainder of the 30' mast. Plenty of clearance for the 25' blades and a great constant wind factor. And, as I mentioned earlier, just reverse the juice and a prop that size should pull the boat along at a pretty good clip.
"is that your Mainship? Using jets or props?"
No, but same model. Two massive 454's, gas, producing a mind-shuddering 750 horsepower. The boat next to me, also a 40-footer, is a trawler with a displacement hull and has a top speed of 9 knots.
Mine has a top speed of 26. With it's light weight and planing hull, this honey gets up and goes.
"but with a bow thruster - from what I have been given to understand anyway - it's ultra manuverable."
It depends on whether you're sidled up to a dock or in a slip. I prefer slips, so no sideways jinking required on entry. For docking, a bow thruster would certainly be the cat's ass, but kind of unnecessary for a 40-footer. Between the wheel and counter-playing the engines, this thing can spin on its own axis.
HOLY SMOKES!! 454's? Dang - that's healthy. Healthy gas bill too I suppose. :>)
My Grady Canyon 33 has triple ETECs - 250 HOs so I've got the same horsepower. Last time I clocked it after a fresh bottom wash was 62 running the channel up Charleston Harbor. :>) WOOT!!!
Yes - I have a need for speed. :>)
You might want to have a structural engineer look at your design. Also remember that Fiberglass has poor thread holdling capability. Everything will have to be backplated and through bolted.
How much force will those blades be taking when they are cranking out multi-kilowatts?
Also AGM batteries can be charged faster than Gel-Cells or flooded batteries.
I finessed everything by putting my boat on an electrical diet. New reefer which draws 12 watts average on a 25% duty cycle. My anchor light is an LED, Orca Green Marine - OGM, as are the high use cabin lights. So I get by with a pair of Trojan T-105s.
CAPN JLW III
sv: Happy Puppy
A "bimini" is the canvas-and-aluminum-tube enclosure around the flybridge. It probably wouldn't actually support a 30' steel tower with 25' blades. But with Tom on the other end of the conversation, I had to try. :)
Speaking of which, is that your Mainship? Using jets or props?
I'm going to be sea trialing a Mainship next week - little smaller than 40', but it has a Volvo diesel pushing a jet drive set up on a vernier platform - 360º. That should be very interesting - I've never done one of those before.
I've been told you can put the boat just about anywhere you want with just the main propulsion, but with a bow thruster - from what I have been given to understand anyway - it's ultra manuverable.
Didn't mean to jam the thread up - when it comes to boats, I'm so there know what I mean? :>)
Thanks very much for your concern. Thread jam is, indeed, one of the things that haunts Maggie's the most. I keep wishing we'd be modern and have one of those "open threads", like Hot Air did today. It must be wonderful to be able to reply in an "open thread" like that, as compared to a common site like Maggie's and its thread jam problems.
Maybe one day we, too, can have an "open thread" post? One trembles in anticipation at the very thought.
Thread jam is a very sad state of affairs, when an innocent Dr. Mercury merely mentions the word "boat" and Cap'n Tom then has to endlessly launch off on the topic, hogging the thread and jamming things up. Hence, thread jam. How you managed to squeeze in a comment is anybody's guess.
This thread illustrates that solar and even wind power may have significant niches they can fill. After all, it's a lot cheaper to have a couple of large solar panels, and to plan your energy use around them, than it is to run a power line to every place you might take your RV or boat.
Electrical generation and transmission involve tremendous economies of scale. Relatively few large power plants can supply the needs of many communities and they can swap load and supply pretty nimbly. A few large plants are probably a lot easier to manage for safety, pollution control, and a lot of other desirable things. Imagine having to run OSHA stuff every square mile, or at every home. Oh, I just described the proglodyte's great hope, did I?