Chris Sherwin, with Dave Franchino, by their homemade turbine: 'We tried to keep it not exotic.'
Chris Sherwin is one of the members at Sector67. He's an electrical engineer "by trade and by hobby," he says, and he's "always tinkering and tearing stuff apart."
Currently, he and Dave Franchino, both of the Madison company Design Concepts, are working on a prototype of a small wind turbine in their spare time.
The goal is to make "a very small, inexpensive wind turbine for use in other countries, areas where they don't have the luxury of power lines running up to their [homes]," says Sherwin. "Maybe they just need a couple hundred watts to run a water pump, to irrigate a field or a small plot of land."
Franchino was working on the mechanical aspects of building the turbine itself and asked Sherwin if he'd be interested in figuring out how to make it charge a battery.
The turbine, about 12 feet tall with 6-foot blades, was made from pink insulation foam from Home Depot, and some PVC, metal and aluminum pipe. "We tried to keep it not exotic," says Sherwin. "Dave cut all the blades out of the pink foam, and we spray-glued inexpensive plastic around them for a little weatherproofing."
The goal is to extract as much power out of whatever wind is blowing, without stalling the turbine.
"There's a little micro-controller in there, like a little computer, and I've written some software for it," says Sherwin. "If a big gust of wind comes along, it ramps up the load to charge the batteries. If suddenly the wind dies off, it backs off, so that the turbine doesn't come to a stall."
He's trying to get it to where the battery keeps charging "even if there's only a slight breeze blowing."
Sadly, the wind turbine is currently out of commission. "I managed to wreck it about a week ago on a really windy day," Sherwin confesses, when a big gust came along during a trial run. "So we're in the process of rebuilding it at the moment."
Watch Chris Sherwin and Dave Franchino's wind turbine here.