Urgent Evoke

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Hi all

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Niels LaWhite, chief scientist for Second Wind and ask him a few questions about Wind Energy. I was hoping that he would give me some guidance with my project, instead he opened my eyes to the current wind energy situation in America and how I can help.

One thing that Niels told me which I found very interesting is that the Wind turbines that we use today are based on Danish designs. When the American's first started building turbines they believed they had a HUGE advantage because at the time America was the world leader in helicopter technology--it was far from the truth. The mechanics that go into making a helicopter work are all controllable forces. The blades spin and generate a controllable amount of lift. Well wind is as chaotic and turbulent a force as they come. So when you try an use tight gear boxes and finely tuned gear ratios that work at say 25mph winds, what happens when their is a gust of 40mphs? The turbine breaks!

The Danish on the other hand had a completely different approach. They had a government policy that helped inventors and engineers who were interested in wind tech get started. The government provided technical schematics and aid as a starting point. Then when these inventors modified the design, before they could release the product and make money, the government would take the turbine and test it and work with the inventor to improve the design. You see the Danish government didn't want any turbines to reflect poorly upon the country that made them. Smart huh?

I made this to explain the rest of the technical side of our discussion.

Niels and I then talked about the current state of wind power in America. He said that we don't need futuristic technologies like what Saul Griffith is working on, we have the tools we need NOW. All we need to do is get proper wind funded. Niels works for Second Wind, and if you didn't click the link above what they do is sell wind diagnostic equipment. This equipment is used to measure the wind in a location over a year long period. Once the test is complete the company can tell with a high level of certainty whether or not a wind turbine would be cost effective. Turbine are very expensive to install and they only really last for about five years until the rotors, gear box and other systems begin to fail.

Wind turbines can be very cost effective energy generating machines as long as the due diligence was done up front. Niels said that his general rule is, "if you like where you live, it would be a bad place for a turbine." 20mph winds have enough power to open a car door, so sorry to everyone who thinks that they are going to save the world by putting up a turbine on your house (me including).

So how does design come to save the day? I'll tell you. As a designer it is my job to inform people in clear and visually interesting ways. I believe that if people understood a bit more about what goes into make a
turbine effective they would see them as a real energy source and not some backyard bs. So I am going to make a poster series and maybe a flash movie or two that inform and inspire.

What do you all think? Any ideas?

Views: 65

Comment by Turil Cronburg on April 3, 2010 at 3:45am
Hey, I walk by their office/s all the time in Somerville. I always wondered what they did, as it didn't seem like they actually put up windmills.

It seems that smaller windmills are find for smaller purposes, and lesser winds. So maybe powering your laptop is still feasible, at least sometimes, with wind power.
Comment by Turil Cronburg on April 3, 2010 at 3:47am
Oh, also, there's small typo in the illustration text. You've got "Exachange" at the bottom of the left column.
Comment by Wintermute on April 3, 2010 at 3:59am
I can buy a unit that charges my laptop, yes it would be fun to build one and I still might do it, but if I really want to help make the world a better place I need to use my talents.

thanks for the typo spot.
Comment by Nick Heyming on April 3, 2010 at 4:31am
Does everything he was saying apply to Vertical Axis Wind Turbines or multi rotor wind as well?
Comment by Nathaniel Fruchter on April 3, 2010 at 4:33am
An awesome infographic!

A question: personally, I've never seen anyone who doesn't really see wind power as a true source of energy, at least in the "augment, not replace" sense. Who exactly would you be targeting?
Comment by Michele Baron on April 3, 2010 at 4:34am
Very interesting--diffused feeds are more effective. Thank you for your post.
Comment by Sarah Shaw Tatoun on April 3, 2010 at 4:37am
"As a designer it is my job to inform people in clear and visually interesting ways." Then I'd say you're doing an amazing job-- that's a gorgeous graphic -- and very clear.

What I'm not clear on, however, is why, if it is really not cost-effective, there are huge windmills all over Copenhagen. It's true there's usually a wind, but it doesn't seem excessive to me. Is it because they ARE big that it becomes worthwhile? Are the 'home wind-turbines' not cost-effective because they are small?

Extremely impressed, as always, with your work, Wintermute. By the way, I've put you in my latest 'vision'. ;-)
Comment by Wintermute on April 3, 2010 at 6:08am
@Nick--something yes, others...i don't know. The graph that shows the air being slowed down is Betz Law, which states a maximum efficiency of 59.29%. the multirotors look interesting but according to betz law you'd be better off having 5 single rotors the 5 rotors in a line, but I think their graphs say other wise, ill have to look into it.

@nathaniel--along route 93 in boston (for those who live in the area) is a a wind turbine, according to Niels the diligence studies weren't done to determine if the site was economical, as it turns out it isn't. So now after paying all this money to put it there--and getting people hopes up--it turns out that it doesn't generate barely any power, and its going to break soon. The effect this has on morale is crippling, when people hear stories like that they loose faith in wind and start to see it as a publicity stunt.

For any graphic design work target audience is a very important question I hadn't exactly tacked that down Nathaniel but now I better get on it since your curious.

@ Sarah -- I think I know the answer but I am going to shoot Niels an email with your questions (your too Nick) and get a proper answer. My guess is that the cost effective equation is something like

[(average potential Wind energy generated in watts over a 5 year period*cost of electricity per watt) -- (cost of installation+maintenance over 5 years)] if that equation is positive then it will be worth it. but like I said that's just a guess. Thank you for the honor of being put in your vision post, I will have to go check it out.
Comment by Wintermute on April 3, 2010 at 4:43pm
yeah those solar wind panels are amazing. I went back last night and read that wh*** site that nick posted about multi rotor turbines, and they look pretty incredible. I think that if their data is correct there could be a lot of personal wind turbines that could cost effective.
Comment by sunnydupree on April 3, 2010 at 5:50pm
Very good work and investigative powers. My eyes were open as I see the type of wind power mills all down the highway where I travel. I look forward to seeing your production. I think that you show foresight and creativity in your blog regarding Wind Power. I look forward to seeing what else you have in store for us!


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