Friday, 14 November 2008

Thrift? I'm Gonna Make Me a Wind Turbine

Inspired by the news that 14 former colliery sites are to be used as windfarms, I've decided that it's time to explore building my own wind turbine. Like all such projects, if you do a google search and read some forums, messageboards your initial excitement will be drowned by a tide of naysaying. All the evidence is telling me that:
- There is limited wind in residential areas,
- It's all terribly complicated
- You need to know what you are doing.

I say nonsense to all that - 1) There's enough wind to blow down a fence in my garden last week, so there's enough to turn a turbine, or blow it around a bit at least. 2) Complicated means 'somebody makes good money out of putting simple systems in boxes' (Think the telephone) 3) You don't know what you're doing until you've done something and even then you might not be sure.

I've been here before, with the 'dark art' of plastering and with most other DIY related tasks I've researched whilst renovating my 1880's terrace house over the last couple of years. But if you wade through the forums and look beyond the advice telling you that 'it's probably best to get a professional, you might make a mess' you will always find a website or a blog that makes it all seem so simple, usually written by somebody with scant regard for health and safety and a half decent sense of humour.

Step up to the plate Mike Davies, who's written this helpful, amusing and free guide on building your own wind turbine. I'll be looking into this and very likely building my own turbine, if only to see whether it works or not. Like all great do'ers, Mike seems able to see beyond the nonsense and use his instinctive sense of physics to create something workable: "Next I needed a mounting for the turbine. Keeping it simple, I opted to just strap the motor to a piece of 2 X 4 wood. The correct length of the wood was computed by the highly scientific method of picking the best looking piece of scrap 2 X 4 off my scrap wood pile and going with however long it was". This is a mantra for all would be DIYers or frankly for anybody wishing to use their initiative to do anything - use what you have and get on with it!

This can-do-mentality is something we should be embracing in the current economic situation: My feeling is that so many skills, techniques and practices have been professionalised and capitlaised upon such that the average Joe/Joanne is left feeling like a reckless maverick should they wish to grow their own food, do their own car repairs, make their own clothes etc etc...
There is much talk of a return to austerity, of the merits of thrift (good article that, espescially if you have a horse) and with slightly more merit the need to reconsider notions of capacity. I'm struck though by the wonder with which so many of the reports and weekend magazine articles I've read announce the discovery of a new 'thrift tip' - yes you can make your own gifts, didn't Blue Peter teach us all this stuff?

If anybody seriously injures themselves, makes a mess or wastes money as a result of reading this piece, I'm sorry, I take no responsibility and after all..... you should have called in a professional.

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