If you watch YouTube long enough, it seems like going “off the grid” is all the rage these days. But what if the thing that goes off the grid is the grid itself? In the video below the break, [Grady] with Practical Engineering explores the question: How do you restart an entire power grid after it’s gone offline? It’s a brilliantly simple deep dive into what it takes to restore power to large amounts of customers without causing major damage to not just the grid, but the power generators themselves.
The hackers among us who’ve dealt with automotive alternators know it must be excited in order to generate electricity. What does that even mean, and how does it affect the grid? Simply put, it takes power to make power. For example, old heavy equipment had what they called pony motors — a small easy to start engine that’s sole purpose was to start a much larger engine. Aircraft have auxiliary power units (APUs) for the same purpose. What do power grids have? You’ll have to watch the video to find out.
Once at least two power generators are online, grid operators can just flip the switch and start feeding power to customers, right? Not quite. [Grady] once again uses a clever test jig and an oscilloscope to show the damage that can occur if things aren’t done just right. It’s a fascinating video well worth watching.
It’s not uncommon to drive around the neighborhood on trash day and see one or two ceiling fans haphazardly strewn onto a pile of garbage bags, ready to be carted off to the town dump. It’s a shame to see something like this go to waste, and [Giesbert Nijhuis] decided he would see what he could do with one. After some painstaking work, he was able to turn a ceiling fan into a wind turbine (of sorts).
While it’s true that some generators and motors can be used interchangeably by reversing the flow of electricity (motors can be used as generators and vice-versa) this isn’t true of ceiling fans. These motors are a type called induction motors which, as a cost saving measure, have no permanent magnets and therefore can’t simply be used as a generator. If you make some modifications to them, though, like rewiring some of the windings and adding permanent magnets around them, you can get around this downside of induction motors.
[Giesbert] does note that this project isn’t a great way to build a generator. Even after making all of the changes needed to get it working, the motor just isn’t as efficient as one that was built with its own set of magnets. For all the work that went into it, it’s not that great of a time investment for a low-quality generator. However, it’s interesting to see the theory behind something like this work at all, even if the end result wasn’t a complete wind turbine. Perhaps if you have an old ceiling fan lying around, you can put it to better use.
The hack begins as [Jerry] decides to gut a Maytag MAH7500 Neptune front loader. Many projects exist that borrow the motor but rely on a seperately sourced variable frequency drive, so the goal was to see if the machine’s original controller was usable. The machine was first troubleshooted using a factory service mode, which spins the drum at a set speed if everything is working correctly.
From there, it was a relatively simple job to source the machine schematics to identify the pinouts of the various connectors. After some experimentation with a scope and a function generator, [Jerry] was able to get the motor spinning with the original controller doing the hard work.
It’s a simple hack, and one that relies on the availability of documentation to get the job done, but it’s a great inspiration for anyone else looking to drive similar motors in their own projects. The benefit is that by using the original motor controller, you can be confident that it’s properly rated for the motor on hand.
Perhaps instead of an induction motor, you’d rather drive a high powered brushless DC motor? This project can help.
When you think of who invented the induction motor, Nikola Tesla and Galileo Ferraris should come to mind. Though that could be a case of the squeaky wheel being the one that gets the grease. Those two were the ones who fought it out just when the infrastructure for these motors was being developed. Then again, Tesla played a huge part in inventing much of the technology behind that infrastructure.
Although they claimed to have invented it independently, nothing’s ever invented in a vacuum, and there was an interesting progression of both little guys and giants that came before them; Charles Babbage was surprisingly one of those giants. So let’s start at the beginning, and work our way to Tesla and Ferraris.
The phrase “Tesla vs. Edison” conjures up images of battling titans, mad scientists, from a bygone age. We can easily picture the two of them facing off, backed by glowing corona with lightning bolts emitting from their hands. The reality is a little different though. Their main point of contention was Tesla’s passion for AC vs. Edison’s drive to create DC power systems to power his lights. Their personalities also differed in many ways, the most relevant one here being their vastly different approaches to research. Here, then, is the story of their rivalry.
Here are the power and driver boards that [Miceuz] designed to control a three-phase induction motor. This is his first time building such a setup and he learned a lot along the way. He admits it’s not an industrial quality driver, but it will work for motors that need 200 watts or less of power.
The motor control board uses an MC3PHAC driver IC and an IRAMS06UP60A handles the power side of things. The majority of the board design came from studying the recommended application schematics for these two parts. But that’s far from all that goes into the setup. Motor drivers always include levels of protection (the whole reason to have a driver in the first place) and that comes in several different forms. [Miceuz] made sure to add EMI, over voltage, and over current protection. He discusses all of these, sharing links that explain the concepts of each.