Wind Damage

By , February 16, 2015

Saturday, I found that one of the examples of entropy that I complained about in that day’s post (Entropy Is Everywhere) but did not mention specifically was far worse than I’d thought. One of our wind generators lost its prop in the recent big winds!

The “homestead” featured two working wind generators when we arrived, the newer H40 that has been our mainstay, and an old Winco 1200.

The propless wind generator (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The prop-less wind generator with peeling on the tail section evident (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The Winco is a venerable old wind generator. Apparently, this machine powered homes across the great plains until Depression-era work projects created the electrical grid most people use today. Many of the old generators got disassembled and stuck away on various properties around the nation until an alternative energy renaissance led people to seek them out and restore them.

Ours, I believe, is a newer product of the Winco company, probably manufactured in the ’70s or even later.

We used it for several years in tandem with the more powerful H40. Although a sturdy machine, it had its problems and breakdowns,. It also required fairly frequent changes of its graphite block brushes, which wear down quickly. Eventually, we purchased and installed a solar array to match and exceed its power output.

At the same time, we overhauled the machine, choosing the best parts from a considerable collection around the property. We cleaned these up, painted them carefully, and installed them on a newly painted and reinforced tower.

We never got it to work again.

We could have hired a friend to repair it, but to do so, we either needed to pay him hourly, including the hour or so it would take him to hike out here and back, or haul it to town ourselves. We never got around to either. With the solar array taking its place, we just didn’t see the urgency. The old machine became a kind of yard art installation, providing ambience, but little else for many years.

In our recent hurricane force winds, I spent a lot of time watching the generator’s tail. The thin metal “fletching” on the tail had rusted loose and banged in the high winds. Then, it curled backward, peeling away from the main shaft.

Sometime around then, it received more catastrophic damage, which I didn’t notice until the wind shifted to the south. The prop had broken off, probably damaging the braking system in the process. I found the shattered blades at the foot of the generator, on the south side, indicating that it happened while the wind blew from the north.

The top of the tower has nearly rusted through; I’d considered dismantling the thing last summer. Now I wonder if it won’t crash to the ground before I can get to it. The tower used to be strong enough for us to climb up and work on, but I doubt that now.

If I can remove it, I’ll likely offer the useable parts to our neighbors, who also have a Winco as their secondary wind generator. We have enough replacement parts to keep theirs running for the foreseeable future.

I’m looking forward to that. We’ll have more space in the shed, the spare prop behind the shower will no longer fall out and scare us at inappropriate moments. Who knows what we can do with the platform that will remain up on the Power Point? I’ll be sad to see it go, but its absence will no doubt be an improvement.

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