Wednesday, August 3, 2016


The US Department of Energy wind map of New Mexico shows us to be less windy than I expected relative to some nearby blowhard states. I say expected: when I leave Albuquerque in the evening headed west on I-40, I usually, especially during the warmer months, head into a good westerly wind, usually in the 10 to 15 miles per hour neighborhood but sometimes even in the 20s. This of course increases my fuel consumption, and of course by the time I've reached my turnaround point, Holbrook, AZ, around midnight it's often died down and sometimes even reversed, and if so, I head back into a 3 to 5 or even 7 miles per hour easterly. Always a head wind. Story of my life. Har.

My theory is that this daily wind pattern, and the reversal and how it's timed, is caused by the heating and cooling of the air as the sun moves over it. Warmed air rises, as the sun moves over from west to east, which keeps creating a partial vacuum behind where the sun is, which is filled in by air behind the sun's overhead point, which has already started cooling off. This accounts for the westerly flow. Then when the sun has passed, all that air starts to cool. It's had a chance to cool more the further west you are, and it becomes more dense and takes up less space, so it creates another partial vacuum there, in the west, and it all starts sloshing back toward the west, which accounts for the easterly flow.

Of course there's the Pacific Ocean over there, and there's land heating and cooling at different rates than the air, and there's the prevailing winds all to take into account, but that back and forth pattern in the late afternoon up until midnight is prettyy consistent along I-40 in New Mexico in the warmer months.

Anyway, I found this excellent government issued wind map after I came across a crappy private sector wind map at an ad for a wind generator, the actual little mechanism that generates the electricity, that someone had "pinned" to the web site Pinterest, where you can sign up for all kinds of different topics and get an email every day with links to articles other people have "pinned." I guess "pinned' is like pinning things on a bulletin board.

At the ad for the generator they try to keep you from copying their wind map, but you can always find a way, but then it turned out to suck anyway because it was too low resolution, so I found a good one from the government. They have the whole US and you can click on each state.

That ad, though, which purports to be a technical discussion of how much electricity you can expect to get out of a given amount of wind, convinced me I know very little about the topic. For now I'm sticking with my original plan, which was to experiment with wind power by rigging up some kind of wind turbine, maybe a vertical axis, of which there are many kinds now, and include the old Savonius and Darrieus types, which are supposed to be easy to make and which have been being improved steadily, including by Sandia Labs,  and running a car generator with it and seeing if I can charge up a 12 volt battery or maybe even a few of them. An advantage of doing it this way is that the mechanical connections will be easier and require less technical know how, like about bearings and lining up shafts, gears, and so forth -- you can just transfer the power from the turbine shaft to the generator with a fan belt and pulleys, things you can get from a junk yard and which are designed to not have to be perfectly aligned.

Wind power has long interested me, as do hot air solar collectors, and I'd like to experiment with both, but solar electric power still seems the best bet; because there are no moving parts, and especially here in sunny, sunny, New Mexico.

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