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Pinwheel Generators

Many small generators in a large redundant array
  (+3, -2)
(+3, -2)
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Rather than building enormous power plants and huge gargantuan windmill generators, or massive hydroelectric plants that deform entire landscapes, why not just use a massive array of very small pinwheels? Yes, that's right: Pinwheels, like what you give to a child, but with a tiny generator on the back. Each pinwheel has a connection to adjacent pinwheels.

Now, let's say we want to do it with hydro power. We stick the pinwheels in the bank of a major river, one every few feet or so, so that they're sticking out into the water. If we do this every five feet, and the river is a mere 100 miles long, that's 105,600 little pinwheels. And that's only along one bank! I bet designs could be made that wouldn't interfere with the ecosystem, either.

Wind: There are tons of places to stick pinwheels. You could put them all on top of houses and along roadways. Inside subway tunnels (I actually got this idea at the Pittsburgh airport; they have pinwheels in the walls of the train that moves you between terminals, doing nothing but spinning around) or train stations. In fields, perhaps just above the maximum growth height of food plants.

If the components were simple and easy for anyone to replace, entire communities could manage and care for the pinwheel array. Large quantities of pinwheels could be dropped in electrically blighted areas and quickly installed for electrical power, unless there was never any wind or water flow in those areas.

Hypnagogic, Jan 12 2002

Motorwind http://www.motorwav....com/new/motorwind/
bbbaked.. but you heard it first on the HB [afinehowdoyoudo, Dec 13 2008]


       Christo Almighty!
thumbwax, Jan 12 2002

       You've seen that ad, too, haven't you?   

       [Ahrgh. Adcritic.Com is offline with business plan failure. There should have been a HTTP error code for that.]   

       Something with a child opening a door, and there are gazillions of computer generated red pinwheels on a vast meadow, with wind blowing through them... I think it was supposed to embody the realism of some media transfer or display technology, but I don't remember which. Anyone?
jutta, Jan 12 2002

       The reason windmills tend to be tall structures is because you want the blades where the wind is.
phoenix, Jan 12 2002

       Sony's V/Wega commercials. <They say 'vega', but they spell it 'wega'.> Kid in a toy store, drops a ball of string which runs through a curtain and into <magic!> a field with pinwheels. Old man turns on large TV with windmill showing, and pinwheels all start turning. <Totally ignoring the fact that windmills don't produce wind.> Oo, fancy.   

       It's supposed to show how realistic the picture on the TV is, not that the scenery was computer generated...
StarChaser, Jan 12 2002

       Is the realistic picture simulated? I haven't seen the ad.
thumbwax, Jan 12 2002

       Probably. Most computer and television screens on TV are, due to problems with incompatible refresh rates.
StarChaser, Jan 13 2002

       <My way-off-topic, know-it-all, 2¢ worth> There are ways to sync the screens to either film or video cameras these days, particularly with LCD screens (which the Wega is not, of course). Producers often opt to composite the screen contents after the fact, in post-production, because it allows a great deal of control (including not having to have the screen content completed before the product shoot); and because there is no monkeying around with complicated playback equipment on set.
Often what is on screen during the shoot is a white, or blue, solid-field screen (to help derive a matte from and to provide "practical" lighting at the bezel edges of the screen) and distinct targets in each corner of the screen so that motion-tracking software used in post has something to lock to (if the camera is in motion, that is).
If the screen contents are to be shot at the same time, one approach is to use crystal-synched 24fps screens and camera. A cheaper method is to use a PAL 25fps monitor and just shoot at crystal 25fps (synched to playback), and during telecine transfer change the frame rate to whatever is needed.
bristolz, Jan 13 2002

       I knew that, actually; I just didn't have details and it was easier to punk out.
StarChaser, Jan 15 2002

       zippy]: Wow, I haven't seen you in, like, forever. I will check out this puzzle game.
bristolz, Jan 15 2002

       a pinwheel was also used to generate power for the Hindenburg and Graf while in flight. So it is already been used. I am not sure I haven't done the calculations but I think the main reason this isnot done on a big scale is because of energy loss. One big wheel is more efficent and usually only 10% enrgy is lost, with many small wheels there may be a greater percentage of energy loss. And I am not sure but I think it is prefered that the rotation have a mach number greater than .3 and a Re number greater than 2000.
wood2coal, Jan 15 2002

       I'll second the kudos for Incredible Machine.
waugsqueke, Jan 15 2002

       yay - incredible machine... oh wait that wasn't the idea...
RobertKidney, Jan 15 2002

       Uh, I know this is old, but I wanted to just say that there is some real potential there. The loss in efficiency doesn't matter as long as it is very cost effective. Super cheap plastic pinwheels won't degrade very quickly, and you could mass build the generators which would be very simple to replace (vs. take down and fix with large machines). There should be less bird-strike threat inherently. The wiring would be a con, unless you come up with something sexy. You can get plans for a savonius 8'x2'x2' rotor column that produces 250W. I have a 100' hill line. If I build a wall of those things, I could have up to 12.5kWh. Very sexy. http://www.picoturbine.com/projectlist.htm - and this plan doesn't use high efficiency magnets. You should try building this. Just do 10 and see what you can manage. Savonius rotors are sinfully easy to build. Using readily available parts, one could drive a modified car alternator for under $100 (for economically blighted areas).
PaladinSword, May 24 2002

       Idea with potential! Small windmill type generators next to a highway will always be in artificial wind - created by cars driving past. The power used by all cars to overcome air resistance can then be partially recovered.
presipiteerder, Feb 20 2008

       As far as cost goes, I'd estimate that a single pinwheel-generator, including control software, would cost (at best) as much as a low-cost servo (about $10). I'm not so sure about the economics of this idea. But, it would be pretty.   

       Add custard and/or cats for even more electricity!
sninctown, Dec 13 2008

       They would have to be very durable in order to be cost-effective. But then...
wagster, Dec 13 2008


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