My Foray Into Solar and Wind Power

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My Foray Into Solar and Wind Power

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My Foray Into Solar and Wind Power

By Doug Parker-Barnes

Doug shares with us his ongoing solar and wind energy projects... his ideas, challenges, failures and successes!


To begin, my background is in electronic servicing mostly of business and home office equipment, computers and electronic security equipment.

The interest in alternative power sources has been simmering for many years and when I moved into my current house I was able to start testing some of my thoughts and ideas.

Most of the things I have built have been made 'on the fly' with not much detailed planning except for the idea in my head and a rough idea of how I've wanted it to turn out. So far it has worked out ok.  Some of my bigger plans upcoming will need some details as there will be higher voltages and high strength requirements.

My first purchase was a 5W solar panel which charged some old alarm panel batteries I had at home and this in turn powered a light that kept the hallway lit enough for my son not to get upset with how dark it was and also so we didn't have a light switched on all night anywhere. It also powered another light at the base of some stairs for when I come home from my second job at night.

This installation is still running with the only change being that it now has a couple of car batteries to charge instead.

I also have another 2 10W panels to add after I build frames for them to go onto the roof with.

A couple of years ago I stumbled across a reference on the internet which mentioned converting the motor from a Fisher and Paykel Smart Drive washing machine into a power generator. Naturally at that time if you wanted the information you had to purchase a book or similar. So not wanting to spend any money on something I wasn't sure about I again waited until moving into my current house where again after more research on the net I now found lots of material for this conversion which I promptly downloaded.

I found a repairer who had some of the motors which he sold to me cheaply as he was selling them for the copper to a scrap merchant.

I thought I might be able to find a machine on the internet locally for sale cheaply. So I browsed the local classifieds to find anyone selling a machine and to my amazement I found a few machines that people were giving away as they didn't work. So after picking these machines up I set about fixing a couple and selling them and the ones I couldn't fix I have dismantled for conversion.

Using the instructions off the net I have converted one motor for testing in the completed windmill.

Next I had to make the wind vane. I had already decided I didn't want to use the traditional aeroplane propeller type that most people use as I couldn't put a massive pole up in my backyard with it sitting on top and nor did I want to.

I decided to go with a vertical version and found some ideas from commercially available wind generators which I decided to try to emulate. After testing my theory using a version literally made from a toilet roll I moved onto making the 'real thing' from PVC pipe.

Following completion of the idea I then waited till a nice windy day to test it, and out I went and nothing happened... Wouldn't turn at all...

Long story short the one I had made didn't have enough "Swept Area" to catch enough wind to turn it and it would need to be about 3 times as high and wide to catch enough so that was the end of that one...

So take two was a again a copy of a design I found on the net which again uses PVC pipe and this one has been seen spinning happily in the wind. I am yet to put the whole thing together mainly due to a lack of time, however also I am trying to re-use as many bits of the machine as possible to reduce waste and the cost of buying bits.

Greatest challenge has been mounting the vertical vanes on the existing washing machine parts (i.e. the tub and the spinning magnet, I tried using a piece of wood which was ok for the first one but didn't work for the second. I then tried cutting the side out of the metal box of the washing machine but that ended up being too heavy and too wobbly. The final design re-uses the agitator from inside the tub and the vanes bolt on using normal shelf brackets from Bunnings.

The future plans are to finish the windmill and install it on my roof, luckily I am up fairly high and have a good wind channel which should spin the wind mill quite well. Once this is installed I'll need to buy another charge controller and some more batteries.

Next I am planning to change all the lights in the house to 12v led ones and run them directly off the batteries and similarly as many appliances as I can do as well. Small ones initially like laptops clocks etc as they're low power and I can buy 12v ones units and you can buy laptop power supplies to plug into your car battery so this will be the same... and then move up to bigger ones using inverters.

I would like to acknowledge the Backshed.com whose website has been a major source of information!

If anyone wants to know any more specific details of my project, please feel free to contact me doug.parkerbarnes@gmail.com


We look forward to hearing updates of Doug's projects as they progress!

If you have a project you would like to share with us, we'd love to hear from you.


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