By Jon Sumanik-Leary. LCEDN Research Associate & Wind Empowerment Coordinator.
From the 20-24th May, a group of small wind experts and electronic engineers converged at Lîlegal, near Toulouse, France with the aim of collaboratively developing a design for an open-source datalogger for small wind applications. Whilst many such products already exist, this device is being designed specifically to meet the needs of Wind Empowerment members.
Wind Empowerment is a global association for the development of locally manufactured small wind turbines for sustainable rural electrification and as a result, the design specification for such a device states that it must be:
- robust – it will have to survive installation in harsh, remote environments, operating unattended for months or even years at a time
- easy to use – many of the people installing or collecting data from these units will have only limited technical training
- versatile – a modular construction is required that will allow data to be recorded from a variety of sensors and transmitted using a variety of different techniques
- low cost – many Wind Empowerment members are charities working in developing countries
The wind itself is one of the most variable renewable resources, in both space and time: it varies from acute gusts to long stormy winters and from the acceleration over a hilltop to the powerful winds that whip around the entire Southern Ocean. Coupled with the fact that the power produced by a small wind turbine is proportional to the cube of the wind speed (meaning that a doubling of the wind speed increases the available power by 8 times), this makes measuring the wind resource available in any particular place especially important. What is more, as mechanical devices deliberately exposed to the full force of the weather, small wind turbines are notoriously unreliable. When you arrive at a remote site after a day of traveling, having a record of what has happened to the machine since you were last there can be invaluable resource for troubleshooting.
Up until last year, a number of Wind Empowerment‘s members had been independently developing their own datalogging equipment, many of whom were using the open-source electronics development platform, Arduino. At the recent Wind Empowerment conference in Athens, many of them were able to connect and formed the Measurement Working Group. Whilst email and WindEmpowerment.org have allowed them to stay in touch, this event enabled them to dedicate an entire week to familiarise themselves with each other’s work to date, brainstorm techncial solutions, test out a few of the options and decide upon how to best continue collaboratively developing this design.
The Measurement Working Group forum and a live Q&A session offered Wind Empowerment members from Nepal, Palestine, Argentina, Greece and elsewhere a window into the week’s events, offering valuable feedback for the participants and greatly broadening the collective knowledge-base.
So, where does the project go from here? As a result of this week, a new repository for this project has been set up on the open-source software development platform, GitHub. This will act as a central point, where new developments on both the software and the hardware can be collated. Our host in Toulouse, Gilou Longeut, is about to begin a 6 month training program on electronics development, during which time he will be working almost exclusively on this project. Matt Little, founder and director of Renewable Energy Innovation and coordinator of Wind Empowerment’s Measurement Working Group, is already manufacturing and selling early prototypes of his Arduino-based datalogger for bespoke research and educational projects.
Matt is also a founder of the Nottingham Hackspace, a collaborative working space for engineers, designers, artists and more, which has been rumoured to be the venue for a follow up event later this year….. watch this space!
To get involved with this project, please visit Wind Empowerment’s Measurement Working Group Forum and introduce yourself to the team.