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Producing heat directly with wind power?  RSS feed

 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I've been talking with a friend, telling her about my goal of ending up in a village on the Alaska Peninsula, and how the residents there are using solar and wind to produce most of their electricity (with generators for high-load times).  She suggested looking into using windmills to produce heat.  She gave me several websites to look at, and so far it seems like it's mostly theoretical.  Has anyone heard of any actual experiments with this?  It certainly seems like it could be a useful idea for an area that gets a lot of wind.

Kathleen
 
paul wheaton
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I guess I'm struggling with just the theory.  What is the theory?

 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I'm trying to get into the forum where we were discussing it, and am having problems (they've been having a lot of problems at HT).  I'll see if I can find the web sites she gave me through a search....

Here's one, though not one of the one's she gave me:  http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4421967.html

Okay, I found one she gave me:  http://www.thebackshed.com/windmill/FORUM1/forum_posts.asp?TID=230

And another:  http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/4421967.html

(Finally got into HT!)  http://www.vlbengine.com/wind.html

http://www.thebackshed.com/windmill/FORUM1/forum_posts.asp?TID=230


I don't understand all this stuff!

Kathleen
http://www.fieldlines.com/story/2006/11/7/212552/075
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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First:  USPTO is a lot easier to use if your computer can handle TIFF files.  If not, maybe try Google Patents.  Freepatentsonline annoys me, especially the way they monopolize search results.  Thankfully, the patent numbering system works.

Second:  The best-developed fluid-handling wind turbines I've heard of are for water purification.  They pull a vacuum on warm, impure water, and compress the rising vapors into distilled water.  In many regards this is the opposite of a steam engine, and a large amount of heat is released as the water condenses. 

An eddy current heater can be thought of as a normal electric generator driving heating coils.  Only the heating coils and the magnetic coils are all made as one solid lump of metal...you could add insulators or separate it out into wire, but there would be no point.  IMHO, it would be much more reliable to have a more-traditional electric generator on the turbine, and place the heating coils where you want the heat...this could also lead to a more-flexible system in general.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Do you know of a good, understandable (for dummies, LOL!) book on the topic of electricity-generating windmills?

Thanks!

Kathleen
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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This is a great start:

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/wind_how.html

To really get it, you might want separate books on airfoils and on electrical generators.  I've had good teachers on these subjects, but they used very poor books, so I'm sorry, I can't recommend much.

I do like this website, which seems to go a bit deeper than the DOE one:

http://science.howstuffworks.com/wind-power.htm
 
Erica Wisner
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Freeholder wrote:
Do you know of a good, understandable (for dummies, LOL!) book on the topic of electricity-generating windmills?

Thanks!

Kathleen


I like Paul's suggestion about treating it as two subjects.  I'm gonna give you a brief intro to each (I used to teach science, and it's something of a hobby).

Subject One is electrical generation: 
  The most common method is to spin magnets near a coiled wire.  The magnetic field will generate electrical current in the wire.  Depending on how you arrange the parts, you either get back-and-forth flickering electricity (Alternating Current, or AC, like our power grid) or one-way flow (Direct Current, like batteries and many electronic devices). 
  The next step is converting the power you get into power you can use and store.  Direct current (one-way flow) is easier to store in batteries.  It's good to have a big storage battery of one kind or another - maybe even a water heater or pump - to collect unused electricity and avoid overloading your system.
Once 'charged' with a full load of useful chemicals, batteries produce electricity by allowing those chemicals to transform back into their spent versions.  Like zinc, losing electrons, turns into dissolved zinc salts.  Or iron into rust. 

  You will want to understand voltage, amperage, and current.  By analogy with water, voltage is like the depth or height of a water tower (potential difference).  Amperage is like the volume or amount.  Current is the flow, which is influenced by both voltage and amount.  Resistance to the flow is measured in Ohms; smaller "pipes" or wires generally have more resistance.  Very high resistance materials are called insulators, and can be used to protect you from accidental discharges of your electricity.

The other topic is windmills:
- which airfoil shape depends on your local conditions and available materials; fan blades, airplane propellers, wings, sails, or kites all have some version of airfoil shapes.
You can make almost any type of windmill; choose a collector that's suited to your local wind conditions.

Combining the two takes transformers, or gears, or both. 
Traditional windmills have massive gears to transfer wind power into various speeds and devices.  You can get sturdy gears with 'frictionless' bearings, and possibly even variable-speed or regulated options to transform the wind gusts into reliable, predictable generator speeds.

Electrical transformers can be made or purchased, to transform unpredictable energy into useful, predictable energy.

You can find most of this info in a good, first-year college physics textbook. 
See what your local college bookstore has, or buy the out-of-date edition from students' message boards.  Check Craigslist, post an ad if need be.  New physics textbooks are worth maybe $50-120, but once they've become obsolete, they're more like doorstops.  Electricity, magnetism, and gears haven't changed much; windmill design and our understanding of airfoils may have advanced, but not that far beyond the Age of Sail.
  My teachers used "Fundamentals of Physics" by Halliday, Resnick, and Walker; it's probably been through several editions since then.
I've always admired Richard Feynman, and bought his "Lectures in Physics" for personal study.  It's not as funny as his personal humor books, but is still well-written.

Once you understand the terminology, it will be much easier to shop for a good book on DIY power generation.  Or even use plans from the Internet.

You might also try a local science center or museum.  Electricity generation is a popular hands-on demonstration.  See if you can get your fingers on some little hand-cranked generators or dynamos, and also get familiar with how to read a multi-meter.  Once you are comfortable with the basics, understanding the details gets much easier and more fun.

Please excuse me if I've assumed a level of ignorance deeper than your own.  We all have to start somewhere.  I used to explain this stuff to the public on a very basic level. 
If you have specific questions, or want to find a paint-by-numbers kit, I hope someone with more experience than me can recommend something relevant.

yours,

Erica Wisner
http://www.ernieanderica.info
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Thank you, Erica.  There are many subjects that I do know quite a bit about, but this isn't one of them, so your explanation was very helpful.  I will look for a college physics book -- I suppose for this purpose it won't matter if it's a bit out of date?

Kathleen
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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My undergrad physics education was with Halliday, Resnick, and Crane.  My professors all hated the university for forcing them to use this text, and I personally felt like it made too many compromises in an effort to stay comprehensive...it was like using the tools of a Swiss army knife, when other books were like stand-alone tools with their own purpose-built handles.

I like the metaphor of electricity as water; in fact it's the only way I could gain some intuition for the topic.  I'd like to correct one minor error: I think you mean "coulomb" where you've written "amp."  Charge, measured in coulombs, is analogous to mass of water.  Current, measured in amperes (and so called "amperage" the way potential is called "voltage" or mass, "tonnage", is analogous to flow rate.  An ampere is a coulomb per second.
 
Erica Wisner
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polyparadigm wrote:
My undergrad physics education was with Halliday, Resnick, and Crane.  My professors all hated the university for forcing them to use this text, and I personally felt like it made too many compromises in an effort to stay comprehensive...it was like using the tools of a Swiss army knife, when other books were like stand-alone tools with their own purpose-built handles.

I like the metaphor of electricity as water; in fact it's the only way I could gain some intuition for the topic.  I'd like to correct one minor error: I think you mean "coulomb" where you've written "amp."  Charge, measured in coulombs, is analogous to mass of water.  Current, measured in amperes (and so called "amperage" the way potential is called "voltage" or mass, "tonnage", is analogous to flow rate.   An ampere is a coulomb per second.


Thanks for the correction.  I should have dusted off my textbook!  I'll try to edit my previous post to avoid misleading people.

Certainly, a good book on electrical generation is going to be more useful for getting the project done.  Anybody care to recommend one?
  My suggestions were just for background.  A general textbook that presents basic information, step by step, could make it easier to understand more specific instructions. 
  It makes me nervous to "connect the red wire to the red terminal" without more info.  Looking for the "+" and understanding what kind of a battery I'm dealing with, make me feel safer.  And it may help me diagnose or avoid problems - not as good as electricians' training, but it's something.

So "for dummies," check me on this:

Voltage is the potential difference - like height. 
A given battery has a certain voltage whether it's big or little, whether you use big wires or little ones.  (Car batteries are 12 volts; 9-volt batteries are used for smoke alarms; AA batteries are 1.2 or 1.5 volts.) 

Charge (coulombs) is the amount - like the amount of water behind a dam, or the amount of "juice" a battery.  Roughly speaking, when new/fully charged
- an AAA battery might have 3,500 coulombs,
- an AA battery 10,000 coulombs,
- a 12-volt car battery more like 3,500,000 Coulombs.
They're more usually measured in Ah (amp hours  - a car battery might have 30 to 120 Ah) or mAh (milli-Amp hours; an AAA battery might have 1000 mAh or 1 Ah).  (Means they can produce a current of however many amps, for an hour).

Current (amps) is the flow - how much pours through the pipe, how fast.  Pouring out more current uses up the battery's charge faster.  A car battery puts out a tremendous amount of current to start the engine, then slowly recharges as combustion fuels the ride.  An AAA battery cell puts out a tiny, reliable flow of current to power (but not overpower) small devices. 
  Electrical current can damage things or heat them up, so for safety we use a fuse or breaker-switch to cut the flow if there's too much current. 

Resistance (ohms) is how restricted the flow is - for example, a smaller pipe (or wire) usually has more resistance.  Metals like copper have low electrical resistance compared to insulators like ceramic or plastic.  Semi-conductors and fuses are examples of medium resistance being used in clever ways.

Circuit:
Static electricity, like lighting, can discharge between two objects with different charges.  But most electrical devices rely on circuits where current flows around and around, from the power source out to various devices, and back again through wires or the ground. 
  When a circuit is not connected, it's a dead end for electrical charge.  A gap in an electrical circuit is like a blocked pipe.  A "short circuit" is where there's an accidental connection - the current can jump tracks and flow into a place it's not supposed to be.  A short circuit can connect to the ground, or to another section of circuitry.
  (This is where the water analogy breaks down for most people.  It takes special stuff to contain water; a broken pipe or hose will just spill out its contents all over the place.  But air is such a good electrical insulator that it's kinda like instant Plastic Wrap around any broken electrical "pipe."  Disconnecting wires or opening switches breaks the circuit, and electricity won't flow until it's connected to something.  You can get plenty of electrical leakage from a circuit if there's something touching the broken spot, like water or loose wires.  Exceptions: If a gap is small, sparks can jump across and do all kinds of mischief; and some electricity can bleed off as heat or charged air even when a circuit is relatively inactive.)

Spot me on any new errors?

Thanks,
-Erica
 
                      
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Hi Kathleen,

You are best off starting small.  Getting into the physics of electricity or mechanics of air foils becomes more than you'll need to just understand how the larger picture of wind turbines works.  

To learn about wind basics, see this Home Power article.

For your original question of heating, any turbine whether wind or water based needs a dump.  The dump is often a water heater of some kind.  The dump is required because you cannot just 'turn off' a wind turbine when there is no electrical load.  The electricity has to go somewhere.  If you use a grid-tied only turbine like a SkyStream or a WindSpire, they have internal breaks to shut down the turbine when grid power is out, so these turbines don't have a dump.

As for heating in general, electricity is kind of a bad choice for heat.  Unless there is huge, inexpensive quantities of it, in an off grid scenario, it is much more valuable to run compressors (refrigeration), pumps (water pumping), lighting and communication devices.   However, making a turbine from scratch to generate electricity for heat sounds like fun. 

Cheers,
Jeff
 
                    
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I've heard rumor of direct wind to heat windmills, but don't have first hand experience. These are usually vertical axis windmills.  The base of the windmill goes into friction heat generator.  This might be a barrel filled with a liquid (water, oil, etc).  If there are a series of plates off the windmill shaft, alternating with fixed plates, the rotation of the central axis will cause friction and heat.

Here is a video that illustrates converting movement to heat - this example is probably money losing, because the inventor is using an electric motor to power the rotary wheel. But image the wheel turning like that from a vertical axis windmill.

http://www.blfdesigns.com/frictionheater/
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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If you had friction-heated water from the base of that windmill, how might you use it?

Would you throttle the amount of cold water added, so that the water coming from it was at a specified temperature? 

Or are you thinking home/greenhouse heating?  I guess that could help offset the cold that wind sometimes brings.

I could imagine running a house's hot water with this as one of the sources, but IMHO it would be easier and more efficient to use a truck alternator and run a few wires to an electrical system.
 
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