Switch on to wind power
Adelaide isn't exactly known as a "windy city", but a group of University of Adelaide engineering students is hoping to do its part in helping to make wind power technology more effective and affordable for home owners.
As part of their Mechanical Engineering honours project this year, the group of 10 students is working hard to improve the feasibility and practicality of wind energy turbines for homes around the city.
"Popular uptake of wind energy could have a dual benefit - it would help to take financial pressure off home owners from ever-increasing power bills, and it would also take some pressure off the State's power grid," said the Technical Director for the Adelaide University Wind Turbine Project, student Ashby Martin.
"Unfortunately, the technology is currently not at the point where it is cost effective for Adelaide home owners, which is where our project comes in," he said.
This year, the students will plan, design, build and test three different types of small scale wind turbines.
"We're looking to produce turbines that are cutting edge in technology, aerodynamics and construction, making them cheap to buy and install in the average Adelaide household," Ashby said.
"The designs will include a revised version of the traditional horizontal axis wind turbine - what most people would commonly know as the `propeller' wind turbine - as well as two types of vertical axis turbine.
"Of the vertical systems we're constructing, one uses aerofoil blades around a central shaft to generate lift and cause the shaft to spin, while the other uses drag on a `scoop'-style device to turn the generator."
Ashby said the team expected each turbine to produce a peak 500W of energy per turbine. This will be compared to typical domestic usage, looking at the quality and consistency of the power.
"The team will take into consideration a broad range of factors, including price, size, sensitivity, noise, manufacturability, durability, vibration and aesthetics," he said.
"Significant time has been put into the analysis of composite materials, as their role in extending the possibilities of the turbines is very important.
"We're already well advanced in our designs and ahead of schedule. The turbine testing is expected to begin in July with the final results on display at the Mechanical Engineering honours project exhibition in November this year."
Story by David Ellis