The oscillating wind power project was the brainchild of our industry advisor, Tom Flynn, president of the TSF Group of Marin County. The idea for a non-turbine based wind power device was born from the failure of a group of wealthy Marin landowners to bring traditional wind power devices to Marin. While their cause, to provide the Marin County community with renewable sources of energy was just, its implementation lacked the support from the community. The Audubon Society of Marin vetoed the proposition because of the harm wind turbines can cause to avian life. Furthermore, the residents did not want large wind turbines marring the landscape’s natural beauty. Understanding the critical need for renewable energy and the roadblocks to implementation, Tom brought the design challenge to the UC Berkeley Masters of Engineering Capstone Program to build a team that can work to make wind power more viable in community areas.
Based on this information, our team formulated a design criteria such that the device has to be aesthetically pleasing, quiet, and safe for avian life. Also, due to a city regulation, the device’s size was restricted to a 25-foot height limit.
We applied an “engineering approach” for this project. As with any design project, the first step was to brainstorm. We listed out the different radical ways of generating wind power and perused through a deep literature review on the feasibility of wind power generation by different modes. Once we narrowed down our ideas, we built proof of concept prototypes as a basic milestone, with the main goal–to proceed or to reject–in mind. If a prototype passes this checkpoint, we utilized Computer Aided Design and subsequently Computational Fluid Dynamics software tool to simulate the performance of this type at scaled levels. Then, we built the device in our labs and tested it using Design of Experiments framework in order to better understand the design for modifications.
Upon numerous testing, iterations, simulations, testing, we present to you, the Oscillating Wind Power device, which uses flutter mechanism for power generation.
Our first meeting within the team ran like this: we identified each of our strengths and weaknesses, then listed out the subsections of the project tasks. Next, we mapped our strengths to the project subsections, and improved on our individual weaknesses gradually throughout the course of the year. All in all I definitely learned the importance of project planning!— Hari Narayanan Soundararajan
Passing the Baton
We built a device using flutter principle for oscillation and it did work, even at speeds as low as 1 m/s. However, there are a few things to alter and optimize in its design to maximize power output. After measuring that the 2.5x scaled up model produced close to 600x more power than the previous small scale prototype, we recognized that scaling up has a massive impact on output power. In addition to scaling up, the motor hooked up to the center shaft should have a higher gear ratio to generate higher voltages when back-driven. To enhance the device’s versatility, the counterweight and vertical shaft system should be automated so that it can self-adjust to operate in its optimum configuration at a variety of wind speeds. Finally, next year’s team should continue to reach out to stakeholders and perform user testing which increases the chances of its acceptance by the community.
One of the most important things I learned from working with this team is to take initiative for small tasks. There were larger tasks that were split among group members because of their importance, but there were smaller tasks, like running a simple calculation, that would slip through the cracks. I didn’t realize how quickly those small tasks could accumulate and that a big enough backlog could hinder our project progress. It wasn’t until one of our group members announced they had completed some of those tasks, without being assigned to them, that I realized I should do the same. After that meeting, group members started assigning themselves small tasks.— Maya Mardini
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