Wind Chasers

February 2 / 2017

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The Beginning
Who would have thought that a simple conversation on our front porch over a cup of coffee would have lead to all of this.

That's how it all began. A simple observation about how there always seemed to be a strong breeze blowing by our house and a suggestion that we should put up a wind turbine. That was in 1997.

That simple conversation lead to more conversations and that lead to the start of our turbine building adventure.

It started slow. We began to notice anything related to wind turbines and energy saving in general. Internet information was gathered and absorbed. Hugh Piggott's website was found and became a favorite source of information.

After about a year of talking about turbines, energy savings and the environment, we began to take this more seriously. This was something that we could really do! We had already looked into the cost of putting up a manufactured turbine and we knew that we could never afford to go that way, so we returned, once again, to Hugh Piggott's website and started looking seriously at his homebuilt turbine design.

The Journey
In Hugh Piggott's website, there was a link to a website in Ontario for Bob Budd and Andrew Masse, the Canadian distributors for the North American version of the brakedrum design turbine. We contacted Andrew Masse, and he directed us to Bob Budd. We contacted Bob and made arrangements to visit him at his home and after meeting Bob and seeing his turbine actually up and running, supplying all of his power, along with a few solar panels, we were very excited!

Bob explained to us all of the details of how the turbine was built and about what electronic components were needed to run the system. He also explained that this turbine was not easy to build and that there were challenges involved in finding the right parts at a decent price. He was very helpful with that part of it, offering us advice on where to go to get the parts that we would need. He was also very frank about the fact that most of the people who came to see him never managed to actually build a turbine and get it up and running properly. This did not deter us at all! He had no idea how determined we were to do this! By the time we left, we had a set of plans in one hand and some of the metal parts for the tail boom in the other!

And so began the task of hunting for the parts we would need to build the turbine. This took months of making phone calls, visiting scrap yards, digging through piles of electric motors to find the right size stator that would fit inside the brakedrum. It was a real challenge, but we were determined!

In the meantime, we were working hard at reducing our energy consumption in our home. This was something that Bob had stressed that we needed to do first if we were to have any hope of ever getting off the grid. We never were large consumers of electricity anyway, about 600 kilowatts per month, but we needed to get our consumption down to a level that the turbine, along with some solar panels, could produce.

Saving energy became a sort of game to us to see how low we could go and still do everything that we had always done before. The arrival of the monthly electric bill became exciting instead of something that we would have normally dreaded! By the time we were ready to put the turbine up, we had our monthly consumption down to around 100 kilowatts!

We made several trips to Bob Budd's house during this time to pick his brain about the turbine to make sure that we were doing everything properly along the way. He had great advice and was extremely helpful! We were also, while building the turbine, gathering all of the electronic components that we would need to run the system once the turbine was ready to go. We did a lot of research to find out what components were the best and then we tried to find them at prices that we could afford.

In 2002, we began to work on our tower design. this took over a year! We went slowly with the design. We read articles about tower failure and tower design an we designed and re-designed the tower until we felt that it was perfect for our needs.

In the summer of 2003, we began digging holes for the tower. Thankfully, we had two strong nephews that didn't mind coming to our house to help dig. They were a huge help to us and they worked for food! Bonus!
In the fall of 2003, the turbine was almost ready to go up. We really wanted to get it up before the nasty winter weather set in or we would have to wait till spring, but there were a few problems with the turbine and we didn't want to put it up till it was running perfectly.
The Big Day
January 4th, 2004. It had been above average temperatures for and damp for weeks and the weather was about to change, so it was now or never, or at least till April!

We were up bright and early and had everything ready to go by the time the turbine raising crew arrived. It was foggy and damp with no wind, a perfect day! Everyone was anxious to get it up before the weather changed, which could have been any minute!

However, we had made some miscalculations with our tower's gin pole which was making it a lot more difficult to raise the tower than we had hoped. Our tower is seventy feet high, and we only had a twenty one foot gin pole on it. That was not nearly long enough! Each section of our tower weighed two hundred pounds and there were three sections. The turbine weighed about one hundred pounds. When you do the math, that two hundred pound gin pole was no where near enough of a lever for something that long and heavy!

Anyway, we were very determined to get it up and running that day come hell or high water! We would take it down in the spring and fix the gin pole problem then. So, with a lot of people, a lot time and a huge amount of effort, we finally got it up. It was a thing of beauty! And, as if on que, just as we got it up and secured into place, the wind started to pick up and the blades started to turn! We ran into the house and checked the meters and sure enough, it was making power! There were a lot of ya hoo's and jumping up and down and also some sighs of relief! We spent the rest of the night, till it got dark, looking out of the kitchen window watching the turbine go! The next day, winter arrived with a vengeance as if to make up for lost time. We had gotten it up just in time!           

The Decent Into Madness!

Things went along quite well with the turbine. It produced lots of power. There were a few minor problems that we had to deal with, but for the most part, everything went well.

There is a huge learning curve with building a turbine and making your own power. Turbines produce huge amounts of power sometimes and other times they produce nothing at all. We have since added a few solar panels to our system which produce a more consistent amount of power.

The next thing we had to learn to live with was having people stopping in at our house continually to ask us about the turbine. Almost every day, someone would stop in to ask us where we got the turbine, how much it cost to build it and could we build one for them.

One of the people who stopped in to ask us about the turbine, was a reporter from the local newspaper. He said that he had been watching our progress since we began to put the tower up in the summer of 2003. He was very interested in what we were doing and asked us if it would be alright if he took some pictures and asked us some questions for an article about what we were doing. We thought that might be kind of neat to have a little write up in the paper, so we agreed. We had no idea how much interest that "little write up" would generate!

That "little article" turned out to a three page major story on the front page of a special edition of the paper! The special edition was all about power and how to save energy. There was everything from wind generation to solar to making your home more energy efficient. We later learned that the paper won an award for that special edition of which we were a major part!

About a week after the newspaper article came out, we got a phone call from a television reporter who wanted to come and do a spot about us for the  news that night. He had saw the newspaper article and thought that it would be a really good story to put on the television news.

After those two stories appeared, we were inundated with phone calls from all over Ontario about our turbine. There was a huge amount of interest in what we had done!

This interest sparked an idea about developing a sort of wind turbine co-op where interested people could get together to build turbines and exchange ideas and skills. Everyone we talked to about this thought that this was an excellent idea! We had no interest in building turbines for people, but we were very interested in helping people to build their own.

In the meantime, while all of this was going on, we were getting seriously interested in the new Hugh Piggott Axial Flux turbine design. We ordered a set of plans and studied them. This new design was great! It looked so much easier to build than the brakedrum design.

We set about the task of finding the parts for the new design and found that they were much easier to come by than the old design. Within a couple of months, we had all of the parts together and were ready to start!

The Madness Continues!

That brings us to where we are at this point. We have several turbines here in various stages from barely started, to almost finished. We get together almost every Saturday afternoon and everyone helps everyone else. Everyone who comes has something to offer whether it's a mechanical skill or parts for the turbine that they have found at a better price or just an extra hand to hold something. We have lots of people who stop by just to see what we are doing and how everything is going. There are lots of laughs and everyone is very enthusiastic! It's a great atmosphere!