Light Wind, a freestanding outdoor light powered by wind that turns blades made of sail fabric. Sadly, I don’t think you can actually get these wonderful wind powered lights yet as they seem to be just a prototype created by Dutch designers. I bet this technology could also make an awesome hat!
Beer powered windbags are common but a wind powered beer really stands out. Here in Boston many are big on drinking green beer on St. Patrick’s Day but now you can drink some really green beer all year round. New Belgium Beers of Colorado makes over a million and a half gallons of green beer a year by being committed to using wind power and other earth friendly sources of power.
They put their waste water from beer making inside closed pools filled with anaerobic bacteria. The microbes then feed on the nutrients from the brewing process, and produce methane gas, which is then converter to electric and thermal energy and pumped back into their factory. New Belgium currently get 30 percent of its energy needs with the remaining 70 percent comes from wind turbines. They also are committed to green building, using such technologies as sun tubes and reusing heat from their brewhouse. An impressive statement on their sustainability philosophy can be read here.
Their earth-friendly attitude also spreads to other areas. For instance, employees are not just encouraged to bike to work, the company gives each employee a new bicycle on their first anniversary with the company. A 3/2006 Wired article talks more about them here.
Clothesline drying is the next big thing to help save the planet
One simple way for the average person to help lower greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming is to hang your clothes up on a line to dry instead of using dryers. Clothes dryers account for as much as 10 percent of home-energy use in the US. Sounds simple but this issue has many complicated aspects. First of all, most people these days feel too busy to hang laundry. Only 40 or so years ago most people managed to find time to hang clothes, I suspect that as the climate changes and the energy crisis worsens we will need to rethink how we do most everything. Unlike say, installing solar panels or a wind turbine, hanging your clothes on a line is actually possible for the average person. You can do this with only a minor inconvenience – and you can proudly talk to your neighbors about why you are doing this “radical” act! Here is a very useful and thoughtful site that discusses this issue at length.
Sociological aspects like the fact the majority of women now work full-time and there is no one home during the day further complicate the issue. Also, our weekends are jammed full with a thousand chores and obligations more important. But when you think about it, with your clothes on the line you won’t be chained to your machine waiting to put in the next load. It may sound too “new-agey” but the simple act of being outside, doing something simple and stress free can help in getting in touch with nature and your spirit. There are a wide variety of types of clothesline both indoor and outdoor types. Here is one site that has an interesting range of types available.
A complaint occasionally heard about wind turbines is that they produce low-frequency sounds that are disturbing to some people. According to an ariticle in The British Wind Energy Association (PDF) this is just a myth, but what if you like the sounds that wind can make? An amazing range of artistry and invention exists in the world of wind music making. There is often an eerie quality to the sound, reminiscent of science fiction movies. I like to imagine these wind sounds are the music from the earth gaia herself.
The Plastorgan shown in the above photo fascinates me the most because it’s free, keeps some plastic bottles out of the landfill, encourages people to unleash hidden talent, and makes for more interesting neighborhoods. All you need to do is make one slit of a certain size in the side of a plastic bottle, paint it with a cool design, put the cap on the bottle and glue or somehow fasten the cap to a bamboo pole and stick the pole in your garden or yard – the more the better, with all different sizes of bottles and slits to create a wide range of tones and timbres. Check out the sound of the above grouping here. You can see more samples and info on how to build your own plastic bottle wind organ as well as other kinds of wind organs and harps here. Here is another link in which a few people share their experiences with these plastic wind organs.
For those adventurous souls who want to try this for themselves, here are some guidelines for the cuts you make, and the types of sound produced.
- These cuts must have perfectly parallel edges.
- Overall recommended dimensions: 8-20 cm high, 6-17 mm wide (note different measurement units!)
- A slit of 8 cm by 10 mm produces a deep sound except when the wind picks up and brings the sound one octave higher.
- A slit of 11 cm by 9 mm gives a medium sound, relatively clear within a wide range of wind speeds and directions.
- A slit of 20 cm by 6 mm gives a shrill whistle but requires wind blowing at precisely the right angle.
- A slit of 16 cm by 17 mm will deliver a hoarse sound.
This is a fun project for a summer afternoon. All you need are a handful of plastic bottles with caps, some Sugru, and some bamboo canes, dowels, or posts. Use a utility knife, an Xacto (or similar hobby knife), or sharp scissors to cut the bottles. Decorate the bottles with paint or markers, and make sure to get the kids involved! When finished with cutting and decorating, affix the bottles onto the posts with the slot oriented so that prevailing wind blows across rather than directly at it. Different types of bottles produce different sounds: larger bottles with more rigid walls will moan with deeper tones. Smaller bottles sound more shrill. We advise starting out with a variety of bottle types and sizes, and adjusting your wind organ’s composition and placement until you’re pleased with its symphony. Remember to place your wind organ somewhere the wind can reach it – not beside a fence, a wall, or a hedge.
If you want something a bit more sophisticated than plastic bottles then your options are wide open. There are many resources available from extremely expensive wind sound sculpture to affordable garden wind harps.
One site, mohicanwindharps.com offers a number of reasonably priced contemporary wind harps as well as the traditional Aeolian Harp, one of the oldest known musical instruments made by the ancient Greeks. You can listen to the sound one of these harps makes here.
Book on how to build a wind turbine $25.39 US
This is a 64 page book that shows how to build a wind turbine yourself. There is an impressive amount of information and pictures on their site regardless if you are like me and have no intention of buying the book or building anything more complicated than a paper airplane.
With enough determination and ability to learn, however, it seems possible to build your own wind turbine that under the ideal circumstances possibly produce enough power to significantly reduce or even eliminate your electrical bills. You could also even put any surplus energy back into the grid and help even more to reduce greenhouse gases.
Don’t despair if you don’t have the tech savvy or the time and inclination to do it yourself. Bergey Windpower company is one of several companies now making wind power available for homes and small businesses. They have extensive information and solutions on their website about how one could go about setting this up. Some states, like California, even offer significant tax rebates that can help lower the cost by up to a half. A small turbine can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $22,000 installed, depending upon various factors
Here is a link to the faq section of the American Wind Energy Association website that discusses “What do I need to know to purchase a residential wind turbine?” This site has one of the best sources of information that might answer any questions you might have about the feasibility of wind energy for your home as well as broader questions about wind energy. One last link for even more information about wind power is the Windustry.org site which is a terrific resource for all things related to wind energy.