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Portable Windmills

Move them to where the wind is blowing
  (+9, -3)
(+9, -3)
  [vote for,

The title and subtitle pretty much sum this Idea up. I seem to be living in a place where lots of wind blows at this time of the year, and not so much at other times. So, if a bunch of windmills could be set up here, and removed to a different windy location when the season changes, a major generic problem for windmills could be solved.

Some variations on the theme are worth describing in a little more detail. For example, we could prepare a region of the landscape with "mounts". Each mount would be a thing onto which a windmill tower could be attached.

We'd also prepare attachment points to the power grid. We wouldn't necessarily build energy conversion equipment (from the type of power a windmill generates, to something steady for the power grid) at this site; that's pretty expensive stuff and could be made as portable as the windmills.

With several such sites prepared, to be used as the prevailing winds change, we save quite a bit of expense associated with idle windmills.

Vernon, Feb 20 2008

Thai Windmill http://www.flickr.c...arkroom/2269831275/
Like old-fashioned western mindmills, Thai windmills have detachable sails. That might be an easier thing to move (or furl and unfurl), than the whole windmill. [DrCurry, Feb 20 2008]

Thai Windmill In "Off" Position http://www.flickr.c...arkroom/2269831953/
Sails stowed. Oh, and technically these are "windpumps," since they are used to pump sea water in salt making, but if I called them that, no one would know what I meant. [DrCurry, Feb 20 2008]

Windmill Scale http://www.millenic...4/18-10Windmill.jpg
note the pickup near the base [DanDaMan, Feb 26 2008]

Some facts about those big windmills http://www.mge.com/environment/wind/
Yup, they are big, each and every one. [Vernon, Feb 26 2008]

Heavy lifter airships http://www.ilcdover...fense/heavylift.htm
That first one could pick one of those big windmills up, tower and all. [Vernon, Feb 26 2008]

watt yacht Watt_20Yacht
shameless self promotion [afinehowdoyoudo, Nov 17 2010]

airship windmill http://www.magenn.com/
[afinehowdoyoudo, Nov 17 2010]

//gangs of rampaging rogue windturbines// http://xkcd.com/556/
for [spidermother] [mouseposture, Nov 17 2010]


       Given the costs of manpower to move the windmills, I have a suspicion that there would be little economic advantage to simply installing windmills in both places and leaving them there. Do idle windmills have any real expense associated with them?   

       But I also believe that the long-term success of wind power will rely on smaller, portable windmills. We need to come up with designs that householders can implement, on rooftops or in gardens or backyards (and I note that some people are already taking this tack).
DrCurry, Feb 20 2008

       Don Quixotes' grave is tilting.   

       [DrCurry], any moderately large windmill can only pay for the cost of building it if the wind is blowing. Idle, it just racks up property taxes. I'd think that if this Idea is implemented, they'd design it for easy transportation and assembly.
Vernon, Feb 21 2008

       How does the site not incur property taxes simply because the windmill is absent?!
DrCurry, Feb 21 2008

       [DrCurry], the expense of building a windmill, plus operating expenses, such as taxes for the land it occupies, can only be paid off if the thing is operating to produce energy. That obviously means it needs to operate as much as possible. I admit there is an assumption here that if it does operate as much as possible, certain additional operating expenses can be covered (extra land taxes and moving expenses), plus it logically figures that a smaller and more transportable windmill will produce less energy than a large one --but it will also cost less to build in the first place. So, this Idea is Half-Baked because the trade-offs need to be properly analyzed, to be sure it can work.
Vernon, Feb 22 2008

       If someplace else has better wind why not just build it there in the first place? If you are gonna try to catch every gust you would be moving hundreds of tons of steel around every few minutes which is gonna require a lot more energy than you produce.
DanDaMan, Feb 23 2008

       [DanDaMan], there is a focus here on seasonal wind patterns, although not stated so explicitly in the main text as in this anno.
Vernon, Feb 24 2008


       I think *this* is what the halfbakery is all about!   

       Thank you Vernon.   

       Catch this moving croissant. +
xandram, Feb 24 2008

       I still don't see how even seasonal energy benefits could outweigh the cost of dismantling and trucking these windmills around. They are enormous. I don't think you quite understand the size of these. So I put up a picture to illustrate. It would take a fleet of flatbeds to move it piece by piece.
DanDaMan, Feb 26 2008

       [DanDaMan], nice picture; I admit I didn't know that wind farm windmills were quite that large (knew that single mills have tended toward the extreme, though).   

       Perhaps the poles should stay in place, while the blades and generator are moved. I found a reference indicating that the generator nacelle can easily weigh 20 tons (English not metric tons), and the rotor blades (all on one windmill) can weigh another 7 tons or so.   

       There are still ways to haul such loads. Some cargo airships (blimps with extra rotors) can carry 160 tons. I've added a couple of links.
Vernon, Feb 26 2008

       Again, the subject of transportation cost comes up..I can't imagine the property tax of the windmills being higher than the cost of having an engineering team dismantle the windmill (using very heavy equipment - large cranes aren't cheap), then transport it by air, then reassemble it (again with the heavy machinery) at the new site. And this is for one single windmill..don't you need a field of them to be economically feasible? I really like the idea, but I couldn't quite make it work in my head.   

       Admittedly my head is quite small, so don't take my word for it. The idea of building permanent windmills at the proper sites still seems to make more sense imo. Hope this idea works out somehow tho^^
kenboren, Feb 26 2008

       A better idea, then, would be to transport the wind to the mills.   



       Hey - it is as viable as the original idea.
neelandan, Feb 27 2008

       Would not "Flocking Windmills" make more sense?
ed, Feb 27 2008

       I once watched a crew of three men assemble a huge pre-fabricated survey tower in less than four hours...it was 75 feet tall and they used no heavy equipment...just an electric winch they had on their pickup.   

       I believe, with the proper engineering, a viably large wind turbine could be efficiently erected in very short time. Transportation costs would certainly be a factor. However, we are facing a time of ever increasing energy costs which may make this idea more practical.   

       Consider the huge wheat harvester convoys we see in Nebraska and Kansas. The equipment these contract harvesters move is not only massive but unbelievably expensive. I see no reason contract electric wind generation companies would not prove profitable. I can understand that the mega watt 500 ft tall generators may not be portable, but certainly hundred or hundred and fifty footers are of practical capacity and could be erected on poster's pre-fabricated pads with pre-installed electrical connections to the grid and properly constructed anchor points for stabilization. So, the equipment, in my mind, is very viable from an engineering stand point.   

       Considering the seasonal and geographic varainces of the wind, I think this is probably a very good idea. If I had about 300 million available in risk capital, I would probably try a pilot project. Regardless, it would be a hell of a tax write-off.
Blisterbob, Feb 27 2008

       This could, actually, work really well. The turbines could be mounted on the back of large, flatbed trucks; as long as the trailer bed was pointed into the wind, its length would give it enough stability. The trucks would need to be as large as is legally allowed on the public highway, though they could only travel on bridge-free routes.   

       Then, just drive the trucks back and forth across the country at about 40mph and harvest all that free electricity.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 27 2008

       Mount them on ships at sea.
BunsenHoneydew, Feb 29 2008

       You must be talking about some pretty small wind gennies.   

       The typical windfarm ones I've been seeing start at a hundred feet to the genhead and only get bigger. The smallest ones around here are the first three from the pilot program; they're about 120' tall. The big ones are about 250' at the genhead. You ain't trucking that nowhere.
elhigh, Mar 03 2008

       Oh yeah?   

       Vernon's got a few big trucks - and a lot of hot air to make them buoyant.
neelandan, Mar 06 2008

       To buzz up an old one, but...   

       The reason transporting huge farm or construction equipment makes sense is that the units are very expensive, but have minimal additional cost to set up for use in a new location.   

       Wind turbines, on the other hand are relatively cheap, but relatively expensive to put in place at a new location. (Tower construction, footings, etc). Building a new turbine would probably be cheaper then moving the same one within a couple of years. This is even true if the tower remains in place, since each tower with construction costs about as much as the turbine itself.
MechE, Nov 16 2010

       I saw something on TV the other day where they were trying to erect a giant wind turbine, and they needed a flat calm day to do it. I know windmill parts are designed to catch the wind, but when you need to wait for a windless day at a site chosen for maximum wind, something is wrong. That said, this idea is mostly a wish, without much method for dealing with windy days, long trucks and sharp turns.
baconbrain, Nov 17 2010

       I think the solution was mentioned in passing above - large cargo airships. Why faff around dismantling - just hook the whole structure to the airship, unbolt from footing, and float away to the next (pre-built and waiting) footing.
Come to think of it, this is probably the best way to install permanent wind-farms as well; instead of waiting for a really calm day(s), build the system off-site (large custom assembly plant) and airship to site. Still needs a relatively calm day to install, but for a much shorter time than normal.
neutrinos_shadow, Nov 17 2010

       [MechE] Would this idea make economic sense if the windmills were mounted on ships*, and the ships moved to exploit seasonal wind patterns?   

       *The ships would spend most of their time at anchor, of course. Maybe something like a mobile offshore drilling platform would be better. Perhaps they could use the electric power to to hydrolyze water for hydrogen, then act as refuelling stations for hydrogen-filled cargo airships that never went near enough to population centers for the hydrogen to be a serious danger.
mouseposture, Nov 17 2010

       Offshore, as a rule, doesn't have significant seasonal wind variation, so that wouldn't help much. Mounting that way might still make sense if you're putting offshore turbines in hurricane prone areas, as we can get them out of the way when needed.   

       The on-land argument for portability to avoid storms (which I know someone would make) breaks down primarily because storms on land don't give nearly as much warning with regard to path and severity.
MechE, Nov 17 2010

       A certain amount of windiness could be tolerated by an airship carrying a windmill, provided the windmill was cocooned in an appropriate aeroshell. By definition, this converts a windmill from a device designed to experience as much wind as it could withstand into a device designed to experience as little wind-resistance as possible. As soon as the windmill is mounted at its new location, the aeroshell is lifted off, and the windmill is turned to face the wind....
Vernon, Nov 17 2010

       //dismantling and trucking// Pshaw. Just mount them, in operational condition and attitude, on giant crawlers as used to move spacecraft and buildings. Power the wheels with electricity generated en route. (It then becomes trivial to implement the flocking paradigm.)   

       The potential for gangs of rampaging rogue windturbines is a mere externality.
spidermother, Nov 17 2010

       [MechE] Well, monsoons change their *direction* seasonally. They don't change their location -- not on a large scale -- but perhaps, on a smaller spatial scale, local costal topography is such that the best spot for wind-generation could differ between the summer & winter monsoon, justifying mounting them on ships.   

       [spidermother] //gangs of rampaging rogue windturbines// <link>
mouseposture, Nov 17 2010

       If airships are going to be involved, why mount the turbine on the ground at all? It's much windier up there. Just anchor the airship to the ground with a long cable, and hang the turbine underneath it.
BunsenHoneydew, Nov 29 2010


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