Bettering the wind turbine

Ella Fowler and Ella Fowler

Bowling Green wind could soon be in high demand since a University professor and student have created a bite-sized wind turbine. The new invention, measuring around 9 feet tall, could soon be sprouting on houses across the country.’ Technology professor Charles Codding and senior Jared Voldness, creators of the mini wind turbine, have put approximately 200 hours into the project. Currently, they are pursuing a patent on the wind turbine so they will be able to commercialize the product. The project was started at the end of last semester, when Voldness, a McNair scholarship recipient, decided he wanted to continue the work on the generator as his McNair project. ‘Last year, the ENGT (Engineering Technology) 230 class was working on building a wind turbine,’ Voldness said. ‘I felt that this was something that I could build given the right amount of time and guidance.’ Voldness added he became more interested in wind turbines after doing some research on other home-made wind turbines.’ ‘The idea behind this project is how to make a windmill better,’ Codding said. ‘By doing some things we actually came up with a system that is 200 to 300 percent more efficient [than current wind turbines].’ Codding and Voldness hope to take the wind turbine to the next step by receiving a patent on the invention. A patent, according to John Kane, licensing offer for the University, is the government rights given to the inventor that gives exclusionary rights to a particular invention. Kane added there are procedures for inventions that come from University research. ‘Inventions that come forth out of the research at the University are submitted to the patent advisory and technology commercialization oversite committee made up of University professors and administrators that reviews the inventions and determines whether it is worth while to put funds into the patenting of the invention,’ Kane said. The patent committee is currently trying to meet to decide if Codding and Voldness’ invention should be put through the patent process, which costs around $10,000 and can take as long as three years, Kane said. If they decide to go through with the patent a attorney will prepare and file a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Kane believes the invention will make it through the patent process. ‘I think they will [get a patent] because I think this particular invention, while it is not a startling state of the art new invention scenic wise, it is an improvement of the present state of the art through detailed refinement,’ he said. ‘They [the inventors] have researched the wind turbine apparatus and found a way to reduce the costs through elimination of parts and weight and manufacturing time and in that process they found a way to increase the power out put 200 or 300 percent.’ Kane added he is excited about the possibilities the wind turbine can bring. ‘[The] next step if the patent is successful, the University wants to market it,’ Codding said. ‘Potentially we would go into [the] business of making them, start up a company or … find a start up company that’s interested in making them.’ Unable to discuss the changes made to the generator that propels the blades on the turbine due to the patent, Codding said they built the generator to match the blades of the wind turbine to allow more efficiency. ‘We were successful in making a slow speed generator, but then we improved that generator,’ Codding said. Preliminary tests have revealed the generator to be successful, but the next step is to get live data. Codding hopes to put the turbine up either on campus or in his own backyard. ‘My goal is to have it up by the end of the semester,’ Codding said. ‘It’s either going to be up here at the University, or it’s going to be up at my house, and I just live outside of town.’ The miniature wind turbines, if successful, would be placed on polls 50 ft. in the air and would be able to produce around 2,000 watts of electricity. Codding said one of these wind turbines could produce electricity for only one home but will reduce the electrical costs of the consumer’s house or apartment. ‘You could put this at your house and generate electricity right at your house,’ Codding said. He added the wind turbine would be more efficient because the energy goes right to your house and is not lost like with other power plants. Codding said 50 percent of power plant electricity never makes it to end use; instead it is lost due to logging and transportation. But because of the proximity of the new wind turbine, little electricity is lost, Codding said. Codding and Voldness believe the wind turbines could last 10 years, that is if nothing catastrophic happens. ‘Probably in 10 years, technology will be better anyhow,’ Codding added.