November 30, 2014

Technology and Evolution

Filed under: Articles + Blogs,Technology Development — smeyer @ 5:29 am

NCR N-530 Bombe Enigma Decryption Machine

Technology is a term that is broadly used and highly misunderstood.  It is the art of, or skill that is based on the underlying principle of a certain field of knowledge.  This results in the creation of tools or machinery that are appropriate to manipulate the system in question.  In electric motors, it is understanding the principles of electromagnetic induction leading to the creation of the electric motor, and all the tools and equipment that goes into making these devices.

The subject could be anything.  In computing, the underlying field of knowledge is the ability to render complex problems into binary code and writing processes that solve the desired problem.  In primitive architecture it might be the skill or art of forming bricks and understanding the appropriate building shapes that can be constructed to create safe shelters.

The application of technology is an entirely different matter.  Technology has a limitation based on value.  The usefulness or importance of technology defines how widely it is applied.  The cellphone is very widely used and has spawned giant industries to supply the demand for this technology.  This is due to the value that society places on the usefulness of the cellphone combined with the low cost that producers have been able to achieve.

There are many technologies of human transportation based on personal use and mass use.  Electric cars, however, are not achieving the mass acceptance that is consistent with how we value clean transportation.  This is because the cost of electric cars, and hybrid buses for that matter, have not fallen to the competitive level that can displace combustion solutions.

In this regard, the economics of the situation are perfectly consistent with an “evolutionary” model of the technology.  New technology displaces the old when the cost of the new tech falls below the old tech or is low enough to promote widespread adoption.  Anyone still own an analog watch? or a watch at all? Remember floppy disks?  or tube monitors?  Anyone have a phone booth in their neighborhood?  Of course not, all these things have been displaced by the new tech because the new stuff is so much less expensive and more convenient.

October 5, 2014

What’s wrong with wind power?

Filed under: Articles + Blogs,Technology Development — smeyer @ 5:32 pm

There are great expectations of wind power.  Untold taxpayer money has been spent through Federal subsidy programs.  The technology has been touted as a major element of the energy supply system in the US and many parts of the world.  Wind power has some serious problems to overcome if it is to be everything it is expected to be.

Sometimes, they fall down



The blades can break off

impaled truck


They catch fire


For an in depth statistical analysis of failure, the Caithness Wind Farm accidents are summarized at;   This is not a world wide summary, but it very detailed and represents an accurate snapshot of a farm in the UK and how they are performing.


Boone Pickens

In his interview with CNBC last year Boone Pickens said “I’ve lost my ass in the wind market”


owen patterson

And UK Energy Minister Owen Patterson labelled wind power “a complete scam”.  Now he’s looking for a new job.


Wind power in it’s current form is not very profitable.  This is the result of a series of factors, mostly due to the fact that they are expensive machines that are only able to run 25-30% of the time due to the basic mechanical design.  What we have now learned, after several years of operation, is that the Operation and Maintenance cost (O&M) is twice to three times the projected amount, which effectively negates any revenue generated. Worse still is the prospect of someday having to remove these giant machines from the landscape.  No one wants to guess the cost of removal, because it’s probably going to be more than the initial cost of the equipment.  Which is huge.

Moving these machines offshore, which an extraordinary feat of engineering, is intended to increase the productivity.  But it still won’t help the return on investment (ROI).  If the offshore equipment costs double the onshore, and production of electricity doubles, the ROI remains the same.   (do the math)

Making horizontal wind turbines (HWT) bigger is an excuse to make them taller because there is more prevailing wind at higher altitude.  But we are already at the limit of what is possible in blade construction technology.  This means we are developing technology with increasing risk, not decreasing risk.  And cost.  Do we really want to go there?

Let’s start fielding some better ideas.  We know they are out there.

September 23, 2014

Wind Power Needs Better Design

Filed under: Articles + Blogs,Technology Development — smeyer @ 10:29 am
A unique solution to wind power's need for improved overall design

A unique solution to wind power’s need for improved overall design

With all the emphasis on how important wind power is to the future of energy supply, it is surprising to me that we haven’t seen a variety of dedicated generator designs.  There are a few, but only a few.  Maybe this is because the magnetics of generator design are not a popular topic in engineering schools.  It is difficult to find a physics professor who is knowledgeable on this subject.

Consider the basic operating requirements.  Horizontal wind rotors turn at low speed, typically between 7 and 23 RPM.  Very low speed for an electric motor or generator when the industry norm is 1200 to 1800 rpm.

Basically the wind industry has attempted to take existing motor designs at 500kW and above and make them work, even though wind power is not what those machines were designed to do.  Using an “off the shelf” generator would make sense during early prototyping to avoid the expense of producing a new generator design.  But where there is ongoing manufacturing, GE claims to have 16,500 turbines installed, the investment would be justified.

The power electronics guys are having to deal with the exact same problem when it comes to making inverters for the wind industry.  Turning dc power into 60 cycle ac power is not news, but having wildly varying input power changes the solution dramatically.  There are dozens of suppliers in the solar market with inverters 500kW and up to 2MW who have successful solved this problem for their markets.

To come up with a unique wind generator requires a clean sheet of paper. Just as Tesla insisted on it’s own custom motor with copper bars to increase driving range, the solution to a generator for the wind industry is starting from scratch and focusing on the needs of the application.

Boulder Wind has a large diameter circumferential generator so it can be directly driven by the propeller blades of a standard horizontal wind turbine.  The design is high pole count so that it runs efficiently at low speed.  The new unit is already showing increased efficiency in early testing and should be deployed  in wind turbines by 2017.

General Electric has been demonstrating a 4MW PM direct drive wind turbine and planning a 10MW superconducting generator for the wind industry.  Among the earliest and most innovative designs for onshore and offshore application, these systems eliminate the gearbox cost, weight and inertia making direct drive a significant improvement in wind power.

These improvements are all the result of the same thing; Motor Centric Design, examining the application of a motor or generator and looking for optimized solutions.  Without this kind of starting point it is hard to image that wind power will ever become profitable.

December 14, 2009

Air Bearing Vertical Axis Wind Turbine with Integrated Generator

Filed under: Technology Development — smeyer @ 11:57 am

Pictured in the graphic is a Vertical Axis Wind Turbine using a conventional squirrel cage design for the aerodynamic portion of the rotor.  At the base is a steel ring with an integrated generator.  The whole system is suspended on three concrete piers with air bearing pads providing a frictionless, non contact suspension system that allows the generator to operate in extremely low wind speed and extremely high wind speed.

vawt concept drawing

All of the major forms of parasitic losses are eliminated.  No steering, no gearbox and bearing friction, no pitch controls.  And best of all, the weight reduction is so signficant, it can easily be located offshore or on top of high rise buildings where winds blow constantly.   This concept will reduce the cost of the equipment and installation significantly, as well as reduce operations and maintenance costs making it a sure bet to make wind power viable in the coming decade.

Utility patents have been filed and we are ready to commence prototype testing to verify performance.

July 26, 2009

Digital Position Read-Out

Filed under: Technology Development — admin @ 5:52 pm


This is an actual working prototype hardware that adds Digital Read Out (DRO) capability to conventional woodworking equipment.  This creates dial-in precision to 0.001″ accuracy that is totally repeatable and adds less than $100 Retail Value to the price of the target equipment. Software design of the display allows the unit to switch modes from fractional display 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64 and then reads out in thousandths of an inch.

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