Winterizing the Wind Generator

By , October 23, 2013

‘Tis the season to winterize the “homestead.” I completed one of our most critical preparations over the weekend.

Earlier this year, I fixed and mounted our older wind generator (see Threat of a Brown Out). It’s served us well since then, but I knew when I put away my tools from that project that I had more to do before winter came.

We mounted our cantilevered generator tower on the old tower, installed by the “homestead’s” original owners. When erect, we secure the poles to each other with homemade clamps, drilled wooden blocks connected by carriage bolts. In the past, we’ve also used line lashings in conjunction with the clamps. When we put up the repaired generator, I removed the lashings. Before winter sets in, I made sure to add a new clamp to replace the most critical of the lashings.

Perhaps more importantly, I added reflectors or “war paint” to the generator capsule so that we can monitor its activity in the dark.

H40 WarPaint

The new reflector configuration on the wind generator. The angled parallel strips tell me the generator faces north (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

We did this with the newer wind generator (see Reflectors Help Monitor the Wind Generator and Update on Wind Generator Reflectors) and found it extremely helpful. In the dark half of the year, we have a hard time seeing if the generator is turning, whether or not it’s furling, or wind direction. If we decide to turn the generator off, that most commonly happens before we go to bed. We can shine a flashlight on the reflecors and see at a glance what it’s doing.

I use stick-on reflector tape that most marine-oriented hardware stores in our region carry. I cut up the big strips into any shapes I need.

I chose a new reflector pattern for this generator. I put a pair of thin parallel lines on each side of the generator, on either side of the housing split that allows it to furl, or turn away from the wind in high gusts. When the lines are parallel, we know it’s not furling. If they intersect, it’s furling. I can tell which direction the generator’s facing by the position of the lines: parallel to the horizon means it’s facing south, angled means it’s facing north. This information will be confirmed by the arrow-shaped reflectors I installed on the side of the prop housing.

I didn’t mark the blades as I did with the other generator. I made reflective washers for that one, which I pinned under the bolts of the machine. To do the same for this generator would have required me to pull the bolts at the top of the tower, or to lower the tower. However, an older attempt stayed on one of the blades through its use and years of storage. I suspect it’ll hang on through the winter.

I waited about three days, through a couple of gales, before I returned to the tower to remove the climbing ladder. It had remained in place for more than a year, going back to the last time I had to climb up and “unstick” the generator (see Time to Head Butt the Wind Generator Again). The reflectors seem like they’ll stick around (as it were) so I felt like I could stow the ladder to reduce windage on the tower.

One winterization task down, many more to go.

(Incidentally, if you find my use of the term “war paint” politically incorrect, I claim the right to do so through the blood of my woad-daubed ancestors.)

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