Notes on My Wind Power System

Here's what the author learned after installing a small wind power system to provide power for his hydroponics and aquaculture project.

| November/December 1974

In "Build an Ecosystem: The Earth-Sheltered Solar Greenhouse" and "Hydroponic Greenhouse Gardening," I described my initial experiences with the experimental underground hydroponic greenhouse and aquaculture tank I've built on my New Mexico homestead. Almost a year has now passed since the greenhouse proper was completed, and nearly six months since their supporting small wind generator and solar panel were installed. It's really too soon to pronounce either my wind power system or the whole setup itself a total success, though I can confidently state that it certainly isn't a total failure! The real proof of the pudding will come this winter when the greenhouse will be tested for the first time with all its components in full operation.

As you'll remember from earlier installments, the greenhouse was conceived of as a mini-ecosystem, a self-contained food production unit which takes maximum advantage of nature's law of recycling. Looked at in terms of alchemy's primary elements—earth, air, fire and water—the setup is an attempt to integrate all four into a harmonious whole: The earth insulates the structure, and air (wind) generates electricity to pump water through a solar panel where it's warmed by the fire of the sun.

Very early in the planning of the project, I began to envision it as a prototype which, if successful, could easily be reproduced by anyone with a minimum of mechanical aptitude. After all, if an underground greenhouse and aquaculture tank was to serve as a potential solution to part of the world's food problem, it would have to be designed so that people from non-technical cultures could construct and operate the system without a great deal of training or supervision. This should be quite possible: While the concepts of the ecosystem are different from traditional food-production methods, there's really nothing in the idea that requires a highly sophisticated technology (or a highly sophisticated technologist).

Perhaps the most "complicated" part of my system is its wind electric component. The wind generator is used as a power source to pump the fish tank water for aeration and filtration, and to absorb heat from the solar collector. The first two functions keep the fish healthy, the third warms the greenhouse at night.  

In choosing a generator I was confronted with a very important decision. I could have used any one of the several big, old Jacobs or Wincharger machines (which are no longer manufactured) that I scrounged from farms out on the plains (see "Wind Energy Generation: The Answer Is Blowin' in the Wind" ), but I ruled out this choice for two reasons: Such relics are [1] now so rare that most people wouldn't be able to find one and (2) really much too large and powerful to use just for circulating water in a fish tank.

I also could have built a small wind generator of my own design from automotive components. It would have served my purpose very well. I decided not to do so, however, because while I have the tools and mechanical background to construct such a device, there are plenty of people who don't. If the ecosystem was to be of maximum immediate benefit to anyone, it would have to be quickly and easily constructed. Anyway, that was the drift of my thinking during the planning stage.

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