1st Year Wind Turbine Project

by Donald Struthers

Recently we cleared out the old blue foam workshop and I managed to find the first ever project I worked on for my product design course. In a team of 5 we were asked to design and build a prototype of a working wind turbine which could be placed in an urban environment. The project was about 6 weeks long, we began by looking into the science of wind energy. Mainly about the different kinds of turbines and blades for different wind levels and directions. Wind directions and speeds in built up urban areas tend to be quite unpredictable, so the turbine would need to be able to start turning with very low levels of wind from any direction. Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of the process as I wasn’t so bothered about documenting my work 3 years ago. Anyway, this was the final outcome.

We ended up using a ‘Savonius’ type turbine as its very low revving and self starting, it’s also noiseless as it doesn’t have gears so it’s perfect for an urban setting – it also starts with wind coming from any direction. We felt that it was an aesthetically pleasing design so people wouldn’t complain about it being an eyesore in the middle of a city. The only draw back to using this type of turbine is that it uses ‘drag’ rather than ‘lift’, basically meaning that it can only go as fast as the wind pushing it (unlike traditional turbines that you see in the countryside which can go faster than windspeed).

We made the blades out of small cross sections of blue foam which were then epoxied together and laminated then painted. The box at the bottom contains the bearing (that has annoyingly been nicked when sitting in the old workshop room) and that and the frame to hold the blades were made out of simple MDF. We named the prototype ‘Innowind’ (innovative+wind) which we are now slightly regretting the cheesiness of… but we were only young and naive 1st years.