Thursday, 20 September 2012

Wind generator repair

Whilst this is not strictly 'house', I thought I would share this with you.

Our off-grid power system here is quite basic, and consists of two solar panels which total about 200W, and a wind generator which is a 400W machine.

This Air403 Wind generator recently stopped turning, which with my extensive knowledge I conceived was a 'problem'.

We decided to lower it and take a look- a job we undertook without really thinking it through and subsequently the poles holding the turbine buckled part way through lowering it and further helped it's operational ability by smashing a blade off it. (oops! is what I said.....)

Ok!

So I removed the turbine from the poles, and placed it on my workbench. I then did a bit of research and contacted the company who made it, and the uk supplier asking about spares.
I know from replacing blades once before that a balanced set of 3 is about £70 minimum, but there was obviously more wrong with the machine.
I was told that the company no longer provided spares and I would need to purchase the newest model from them (about £800), so I decided that I had nothing to lose by dismantling the old unit.
On investigation it appeared that, apart from the broken blade, the only apparent problem appeared to be that the two bearings on the rotor were worn and no longer turned freely.
I knocked them out of the housing- took down the numbers from the casings, and got back on to the internet.
I purchased the two bearings needed for less than a fiver and after having to order another one due to destroying one trying to re-insert it into the housing, I replaced them both and re-constructed the turbine.
I had one spare blade from the last set I replaced so I decided to risk an 'unbalanced' set to test the turbine.
On reading several bits of information on turbine blades I also filed off all the rough bits from the casting process and then polished them with t-cut. Apparently this reduces noise as they cut more cleanly through the air and causes less turbulence.

I purchased another couple of 6m steel scaffold poles (£20 each) and today we (carefully!) re-erected the turbine.

I am extremely pleased to report it is working absolutely fine!

For my part this was a really interesting experiment into what is possible with a little determination and a wish to 'prove them wrong' - for under £50 I have repaired the wind generator, and extended it's life from the 10 years it has already served us, to who knows how much more?

It also makes me realise that whilst many companies making 'sustainable' technologies are doing a fantastic job, they are also commercially motivated and the main motive is unfortunately profit. The embodied energy in a turbine like this is relatively speaking quite small, but if a unit can be repaired, or it's parts be re-used, surely we have a responsibility to our planets resources to do so?
Many of the parts, particularly the Permanent Magnets used on the rotor, use materials which are in limited supply and have a high embodied energy.

I will stop there though, before this turns into a huge rant, and a self-righteous blurb about sustainability and all it's many facets.

Thanks for reading, and if anyone would like to discuss this, or anything else about repairing stuff to keep it going (like old cordless battery packs, broken petrol motors, electronic gizmo's etc......) It's a little passion of mine, and I would love to hear your success stories and thoughts, and I'm also keen to share my experiences and knowledge. Comment or contact me! (if nothing to let me know I'm not alone!)

Regards to all,

Anthony


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