1.06.2012

Espresso blowing in the Wind

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So, put your hat on a hat rack and promise not to run screaming away from your computer, your iPad, your nook or your kindle.  If you are not particularly electrically inclined, no worries.  I myself am a mechanical engineer and I find it difficult to even believe that electrons actually exist.

While building this boat, out of pure curiosity, I inadvertently cobbled together a working "prototype" of  an electrical system that was helpful in teaching me how to keep electrons flowing in the right directions.  In this example, I've put together a system that allows me to make an espresso from the wind. It would be fairly easy to install this sort of a system on a boat, a motor home or a small cottage in the woods.

All of this stuff is available on the cheap from various local hardware stores and big boxes.

So....as complicated as this may look, it's really pretty simple. It goes like this:

Wind  (spins permanent mag alternator)--->
rectifier turns this AC electricity into a variable voltage DC electricity ---> 
charge controller ( automatically gives the battery the voltage that it needs)  ----> 
battery bank ---> 
inverter ( turning DC electricity into 60hz 120V "houshold" electricity)----> espresso

* In this particular system, when the batteries reach full charge, the charge controller diverts any excess electrical energy to a water heater, thus preventing the battery bank from becoming over charged.


If you want to create your own little renewable energy power station, here's what you'll need:

The Stuff


Wind generator:   Although you can spend incredible amounts of money on sleek plastic wind generators, I've discovered that a more robust, efficient and powerful generator can be built from pre molded carbon fiber blades, a hub and a permanent magnet alternator. Here's a great source:


Water heater: I found this little heater in a dumpster next to a building renovation project and I replaced the 120v AC element with a 12v DC element that I found at an RV store.

Battery Charger: auto parts store, WalMart and pretty much anywhere that sells stuff for cars.

DC Fridge:  this merely represents a typical DC load. I got this from WalMart.  It is a really crappy automotive fridge that is supposed to sit on your car seat and keep a six pack cold.

Espresso Maker:  Christmas present.

Charge Controller: "Wind Blue" ( do a Google Search)

Gas Generator:  Harbor Freight Tools ( also really cheap ) used here as a back up in case the wind stops blowing and stopping the flow of your espresso.  (somehow, making an espresso from fossil fuel doesn't see so appetizing)........in fact, I think it's just wrong! 

Inverter:  big box, auto stores, hardware stores, eBay  Cheap ones produce a "modified" 60 hz. sine wave ( made up of a bunch of modulated square waves) while more expensive ones create "true" 60 hz sine wave

Rectifier:  also got this from "Wind Blue"  It's a really compact unit with a few aluminum fins that help dissipate a little heat that is producedduring the conversion of AC to DV voltage.


The fine print......

None of these components  shown here were designed to withstand the marine environment and I've mainly been using them just to teach myself about renewable energy systems. I also use it to power my shop tools just for fun.  The good thing about using off the shelf consumer components is that if the smoke leaks out of some of this stuff, you can always go buy a new one without feeling too bad.  Unfortunately, to build a system that would be more suited for use on an ocean going vessel, you would have to multiply the price of all this stuff  by 10 or 20 if you wanted to order components from marine supply stores. or....I guess you could mount all this stuff in a waterproof pelican case, throw it on board and go for it.




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1.01.2012

Time sanding or time in the sand under a palm tree?

The curse of a custom build cat.....  After telling myself that I was not going to spend inordinate time fairing , sanding and trying to make the interior like the surface of a Steinway piano, I accidentally spent three days fairing, sanding and making the interior surfaces of the forward starboard cabin like a Stienway piano.




Tomorrow, I'll put the final finish paint on the interior surfaces of this forward, starboard cabin.