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Microwind Generator For Low Power Systems 243

An anonymous reader wrote in to say that "Shawn Frayne, has developed Windbelt, efficient, cheap lowpower wind generator built out of taut kite fabric." Everyone has seen the video where the suspension bridge is ripped apart by wind- his idea was to use the same thing to generate power. I doubt I'll be running my desktop off it any time soon, but it's a cool idea.
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Microwind Generator For Low Power Systems

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  • 'Taught' material? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alicat1194 ( 970019 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @09:22AM (#20973155)
    What did they teach it? Um, Editors, I think the word you're looking for is 'taut'.
  • Re:Wrong solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @09:51AM (#20973309)

    A country should never let a large proportion of it's food production all be outsourced. What happens in case of war or political/trade fallout?

    Here is the problem: When the Australians, Japanese and Europeans do exactly that, the US screams "subsidies, subsidies, subsidies...", as if the US is any innocent.

  • Re:Wrong solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Angostura ( 703910 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @10:23AM (#20973465)

    I wonder why [some] westerners always come up with their pet projects and think these projects will solve third world problems.

      Because said Westerner knows that he can have little impact on international trade policy, but does have a potentially nifty, cheap approach to micro-generation? Don't let me stop you from looking that gift-horse in the mouth though.
  • Re:Wrong solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 14, 2007 @10:37AM (#20973535)
    I like how you're faulting "western" inventors. Are you American by any chance? Or at least from a western nation yourself?

    I've seen your kind of reaction turn up in the Slashdot discussions about the OLPC project. Here's a summary of what I see as being your argument:

    "This is a waste of time -- a worthless solution -- because it doesn't provide the power and performance that I, as a westerner, demand from technology."

    If that's an accurate summary, I have news for you: if you've spent a lifetime living on the edge of civilization, having a power source that can turn on a few LEDs at night or run a radio, or having a "worthless, underpowered laptop" can mean a real improvement in your life.

    I'm sorry if this windbelt doesn't provide you with enough power to run your home's AC unit, your 62 inch plasma display, your 100+ halogen and assorted incandescent light bulbs, and that server room in your basement. The thing is, this solution isn't meant for you. I know that's hard to handle -- that someone might be thinking about people other than yourself -- but please try to accept that possibility. If you find that overly taxing, just crack open another beer and take your Hummer out for a drive to the gas station.

    Believe it or not, there are people out there who can get by with a lot less than you, and for them, something like this will be a big deal.
  • by ezavada ( 91752 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @10:52AM (#20973639)
    What he didn't mention is that this would run at night too, as opposed to a solar panel that only works during the day.

    Sure, but this will only run when there is wind. In any case you are going to need some kind of energy storage, whether batteries for small scale use, or pumped water for larger scale.

    With a small scale system like this, you could also combine it with solar panels and a battery and get luggable power generation that would work in most places.

    I'm thinking about building one myself to get some numbers and see how well it scales

    Cool! I'm sure a lot of people would love to see a project page for a DIY wind generator of this sort!
  • by StarfishOne ( 756076 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @11:01AM (#20973691)
    They are certainly not the only ones doing pioneering work in this field:

    Laddermill from the Technical University of Delft is also working on it for a number of years now: []

    Publications: []

    The more alternatives for environmentally friendly energy sources the better! :)
  • Re:Wrong solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Sunday October 14, 2007 @11:03AM (#20973703) Journal
    The only sure way to help countries of the third world is for countries like the US to open up their subsidized markets.

    That's not the biggest problem that most of the third world has, not by a long shot. Sure, they'd benefit even more than we would if our tax money wasn't spent on keeping farmers growing more of a given crop than the market wants them to, but the biggest drag on any third world country today is the local kleptocrats who hand out monopolies to their cronies, and use aid money to buy weapons.

  • by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @12:01PM (#20974059) Journal
    I'll steer clear of the efficiency claims, but the cost would definitely be a bargain.

    All thing else being considered equal, compare a modern turbine:
    -At least two (Usually three) airfoil blades (engineered composite materials)
    -Gearbox (fairly complex device)
    -Generator head (fairly complex device)

    To this thing:
    -Mast with gap in middle
    -Length of strong, flexible material (metal, plastic)
    -Permanent magnet
    -Coils of wire

    That's dead simple and could probably be supplied in kit form and assembled with absolutely minimum tools... like nothing but a large hex wrench.
  • To the naysayers: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SeaDuck79 ( 851025 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @12:34PM (#20974251)
    I'm not saying that this is the greatest thing since sliced bread, BUT... Those who think a thing to be impossible should shut up and get out of the way of those who are doing it. You can waste your time cursing the darkness, but it's probably not going to be as productive as trying to light a candle. Or an LED.
  • Re:Wrong solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Belacgod ( 1103921 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @12:47PM (#20974375)
    Or, as C.S. Lewis put it, the world is "divided between wolves who do not understand, and sheep who cannot defend, the things which make life desirable."
  • by Cheerio Boy ( 82178 ) * on Sunday October 14, 2007 @12:49PM (#20974399) Homepage Journal
    You can also make them from Pringles cans: []

    Or heating ductwork: []

    As for the frame you're referring to that could easily be made of local materials like wood or recycled plastic or almost anything that will put tension on the material. And the repair on this object is considerably cheaper than replacing something like the spindle bearings of a oil-drum wind generator which will wear out over a long period of constant use.
  • by Futile Rhetoric ( 1105323 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @01:25PM (#20974637)
    That's a bit of a stretch, simply because birds do not need to become smarter to avoid wind turbines, and because wind turbines do not form a huge hazard to bird populations. Over time, in the event that wind turbine use undergoes extensive growth, birds that tend to fly at greater heights might survive relatively longer and produce more offspring; the same argument goes for, say, birds that are relatively more apprehensive of mid-air movement -- and so on. The evolutionary path towards intelligence is anything but obvious; this much is evident from the lack of intelligent species in an otherwise abundantly variable collection -- and it's not like environmental hazards to living things are a new phenomenon.
  • by ByteSlicer ( 735276 ) on Sunday October 14, 2007 @03:54PM (#20975551)
    Probably, but the mass and viscosity of the water would dampen out the vibrations, making it not very efficient (very low frequency).

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents