Wind Turbine Project

Comments/Suggestion Section:

Pete (March 26):
I like the process that you describe below. I would like to have seen a more complete summary/analysis/conclusion. I refer again to the comments below I made last month.

Pete: I find this website still incomplete. Please read below and take a look at what I have below. Please let me know if you have any questions, or if there’s any guidance I can provide.
Again, as before, I would prefer that your motivation not come from Kevin… there is real motivation for wind power, no? Please see Blue Energy for instance, or take information from Catapult Design. Why would we (fundamentally) want wind power like what you’re looking into? THEN, you could add a statement that IME is going to make lots of these things, and we might want to look into how they could be modified, or implemented to provide a service here at Cal Poly or for people elsewhere.
(comments in red below)

I’d like to see more documentation throughout about what you are doing. Additionally, where do you see this project going? Can you provide a summary, and an “outlook” as to what the options are up front. Please include a decision matrix for the options that are to come. Did you do an initial decision matrix early on? Can you include both that early decision matrix and your more recent decision matrix and what you’ve learned in between?

How was the experience for you? What did you learn about communication? How was it between the three of you? With Kevin? With anyone else? myself?



The motivation behind this project derived from the desire to harvest and employ wind power as an energy source. The proposal for the Wind Turbine project originated from Kevin Williams, an Industrial Manufacturing Engineering (IME) Professor at Cal Poly. Along with other IME courses, Kevin teaches an IME welding class in which he requires his students to construct a vertical axis wind turbine or VAWT. Because these VAWTs have the potential for future applications, our goal was to test their potential and discover the many possible ways that they could be incorporated into various appropriate technologies.

Below is a picture of a vertical wind turbine prototype from Kevin’s welding class


In order to get a greater understanding of the technology, our first task as a group was to create our own wind turbine prototypes. With Kevin’s help, we created a vertical wind turbine prototype made out of steel. In following sessions we were able to come up with a baring system to hold up the turbine with little friction. Although we had our sights set on a wind-powered ceiling fan (diagram below), the information we learned during these initial steps will help Kevin and our group to develop the best application for this specific prototype.

wind fan.jpg
Possible application for wind turbine


February 12, 2013—Tested torque using bike computer

By creating a source of friction on the turbine (a measured weight attached to the turbine’s shaft), and counting the rotations per minute, we were able to calculate the torque that the turbine generated which we could then apply to a formula to calculate the turbine’s efficiency.



Below are the calculations that resulted from the experiment. The final output of the turbine gave an efficiency of 4.55%.


February 19, 2013—Used paper to curb wind

Our current prototype allows for wind to pass through the turbine because the “scoops” overlap. We were curious to see if the turbine would be more efficient if the turbine did NOT permit wind to pass through it. Rather than building a new prototype, we decided to do a test. The control test showed that the turbine spun at a rate of 70 revolutions per minute. Then we tapped red construction paper into the scoops so that wind was not permitted to pass through. With the construction paper, the turbine rotated at a rate of 45 revolutions per minute.

Paper test.jpg


From this experiment we can conclude that the turbine is more efficient when the wind is able to pass through the turbine. Fortunately we were able to do this test without building a new prototype. We still would like to do a smoke test to see how the wind behaves as it passes through the turbine.

February 26, 2013—Funnel Test

After studying various turbine prototypes, we were curious if adding some sort of structure to funnel the wind flow into the turbine would increase its efficiency.

We decided that creating fins that could be added or subtracted to our already existing prototype would be the best way to experiment with the different positions and number of fins. Below is a diagram of our idea as well as the various tests we conducted with differing numbers of fins and positions.

Funnel test.jpg


Prototype using 4 fins = Pout1
Control Prototype with no fins = Pout2

Prototype using 2 fins = Pout3


As you can see in the calculations above, we discovered that using two fins rather than 4 was much more effective. Based on our calculations there was an increase in efficiency by 71% when the turbine was supported by 2 fins.

March 5, 2013—Funnel Test Continued

For this lab our goal was to test out the use of four fins to curb the wind flow. In our previous experiments we incorporated two fins and found that it increased the efficiency. So by using four, we hoped to increase the efficiency even more.

Below are photos of the various orientations that we arranged the four fins depending on the origin of the wind flow.

We also tried using two fans during this experiment in hopes of creating an even wind flow for the four fins.

March 12, 2013—Angles test

In this portion of our experiment we wanted to perfect the angles at which the fins were placed. Knowing the exact position that the fins will be the most efficient will be very useful if future prototypes ever want to incorporate funneling techniques into their design.