Most of our energy comes from dead algae or dead ferns right now, and we all know that can’t continue forever. The future is by definition sustainable, and if you’re looking for a project to change the world for this year’s Hackaday Prize, you can’t do better than something to get the world off carbon-based fuels.
The simplest solar builds can be as fun as a redneck hot tub – a solar thermal water heater repurposed into a heated swimming pool with the help of a pump and JB Weld. You can even build a hose-based version for $100. They can be as useful as a Maximum Power Point Tracking charger for a solar setup – a few bits of electronics that ensure you’re getting the most out of your solar cells. You can, of course, access solar power in a roundabout way with a wind generator built from a washing machine and a 555 timer.
Getting energy from the sun is one thing, and putting it to use is another thing entirely. We spend a lot of energy on transportation, and for that there’s a solar power bike, an electric scooter, or a completely open source electric car.
Building the machines that make sustainable energy possible or even just the tools that will let us use all that energy are just a few ideas that would make great entries for The Hackaday Prize. You could go another direction and build the tools that will build and maintain these devices, like figuring out a way to keep these batteries and generators out of the landfill. Any way you look at it, anything that actually matters would make a great entry to The Hackaday Prize.
The more we think about this one the more we like it. [Michael] built himself a wind-powered persistence-of-vision weather station. Okay, that sounds interesting, but he ups the ante when you find out what’s included in the system.
A stepper motor acts as the generator which powers the electronics. As we’ve seen before; if you spin the shaft of a stepper motor electricity is produced. [Michael] is actually spinning the housing of the motor, with the shaft mounted to the base that holds the weather station in place. This way, the electrical contacts are spinning along with the blades of the generator. By mounting all of the electronics on these blades he gets around the problem of transferring power onto a spinning platform.
A set of LEDs on the end of the blades display temperature and relative humidity readings. A hall effect sensor pulled form an old floppy drive syncs the display with the rotational speed. He’s even got a shunt system which keeps the input voltage at a safe level, and will act as a break in high winds to keep the rotors from spinning out of control. See what we mean? An interesting idea because a fantastic project when you build in features like these!
Building a generator can be a fun and fairly simple project. Getting a large DC motor however can sometimes be difficult. Here is a writeup on how to make a generator from an old washing machine drive. It looks like you might need to find a specific machine called the “Smart Drive” to follow their directions exactly though. If you happen to find one, or know of a unit with a similar motor, you can follow these directions to end up with a fairly decent wind powered generator.