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Development of Small Wind Turbines for Isolated Colonia Homes of South Texas

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Projects in Alternative Energy: Wind and Solar

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.464.1 - 25.464.26



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Paper Authors


Kamal Sarkar University of Texas, Pan American

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Kamal Sarkar completed his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the Calcutta University and graduate degree in materials science from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India. After finishing his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, he joined the industry as a materials researcher. He has more than 20 years of diversified industrial experience using his experience in materials, computer visualization, and manufacturing. Presently, he is teaching in the Mechanical Engineering Department of the University of Texas, Pan American. His present research interest includes engineering education, manufacturing of nanomaterials, and their diversified applications in areas like biomedical engineering and alternative energy. He is the Co-inventor of award-winning (including 2011 R&D 100) Forcespinning [TM] technology.

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Robert A. Freeman University of Texas, Pan American


Dean Schneider Texas Engineering Experiment Station

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Dean Schneider is an Associate Director Texas Center for Applied Technology of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES). TEES is the engineering research agency for the state of Texas and is a member of the Texas A&M University System. His projects, with a combined budget of more than $5 million, provide technical assistance for the Department of Defense to improve the energy and demand performance of military facilities, development, and implementation of water and power distribution technologies to improve conditions in border communities along the Texas/Mexico border. Previously, Schneider was Chief of the Technology Requirements Branch for the U.S. Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command. He led a team of information and training technology experts in the evaluation of existing and emerging training and educational technologies and evaluated them for inclusion into the Air Force’s learning processes. Schneider’s experience includes various human-centered management positions as well as a faculty appointment to the Air Force Institute of Technology. Schneider is a Senior Member of the IEEE and has more than 14 publications, with one best paper nomination and has been recognized as the Air Force Logistics Command Engineer of the Year. He is a co-author of a chapter on Telerobotics in the Wiley Encyclopedia of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Schneider earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas, Austin, specializing in robotics and reliability.

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Ken Starcher West Texas A&M University

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Kenneth Starcher, Associate Director, Training, Education, and Outreach
Alternative Energy Institute, has earned two degrees from West Texas A&M University, a B.S. in physics (1980) and a M.S. in engineering technology (1995). Starcher has worked at the Alternative Energy Institute since 1977, when AEI began operation as an outgrowth of work begun under the Physics Department, at then West Texas State University. As Associate Director of AEI, he continues the focus of information dissemination, consulting, and teaching/training that AEI has performed in the past 35 years.

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Pam Groce Texas State Energy Conservation Office

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An energy conservationist from way back, Pam Groce has been with SECO for 15 years promoting energy conservation, efficiency, and clean energy. She manages the Innovative Energy Demonstration Program that is focused on renewable energy and sustainable design. The program goal is reached through the installation of renewable energy technologies and gathering and sharing production data at public facilities. The educational outreach is targeted to school aged kids and the general-public and includes identifying the environmental as well as the economic benefits of using the states vast renewable resources. She is a founding member the Rural Alliance for Renewable Energy, an honorary member of the Texas Solar Energy Society and serves on the board of the Growing Green Communities group. The IEDP has received national recognition for its innovative renewable energy education and small-scale demonstration projects. Groce continues varied areas of study; is a native of Lubbock (a windy city), and now happily lives in Austin.

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Development of Small Wind Turbines for Isolated Colonia Homes of South TexasTo expose the high school students to renewable energy, a project to build wind turbinesexclusively by the high school students was conceived and implemented in a South Texas highschool. A key motivation of the project was to make high school students interested inengineering by letting them build a complete system that harnesses wind power. The proposedsystem converts, stores, and measures all pertinent energy parameters for future usage. Twentytwo students worked together as a team and shared all the engineering and budgetaryresponsibilities. An important societal component was added to the project by identifying thepotential of small wind turbines to meet, at least partially, the energy need for isolated, off-gridpoor residents in Colonias of South Texas.A challenge was made to the students; namely, how to supply electricity to poor residents inisolated, off-grid Colonias. They were asked to analyze the need, identify a solution, and finally,deliver it. Important major restrictions for the students included an easy to follow engineeringbuild, $1500 dollar limit for the turbine parts, no outside help, and commercially available parts.None of the authors were involved in manufacturing the turbine. A total of 22 students, 14 boysand 8 girls, participated in this program. The team had a Team Leader, a girl, and four TeamCaptains. The team was trained by one of the authors on all science and engineering aspects ofwind turbine. Another author trained them in blade carving and aerodynamics. One of theteachers from the high school kept a watchful eye for day to day activities of the students, mostlyfor safety reasons. Hugh Piggott’s book on the subject was given to the students as a guideline.Final product was a 35’ tall tower with three 8’ diameter pine wood turbine and 12 NeodymiumIron Boron permanent magnets. The system also included 1200 Watt Whistler power inverter,Xantrex charge controller, and a DC heater as dump load. Four deep cycle Werker 6 VDCoutput batteries were used to store the wind power to deliver at 12 VDC when needed. Finally,the students also added a HOBO data logger to collect pertinent wind data. Estimated “sweatequity” for the system built was 150 person-hours, a doable effort for Colonia residents.While the turbine was not able to generate enough power for the lofty goal of electrifying aColonia home, it was an excellent start for the students to be sensitive to local societal needs andthe sense of achievement by developing and delivering an engineering solution to the problem.Students also learnt a lot of about renewable energy and many concerns of the local Coloniaresidents. Finally, it left a legacy of excitement and hope for the next group of students to furtherrefine the solution. Twenty of the twenty two students, including two who changed theireducation path to engineering, joined science or engineering degree programs after graduationfrom this program.High School Students Erecting Their Wind Turbine, Complete with Data Acquisition System

Sarkar, K., & Freeman, R. A., & Schneider, D., & Starcher, K., & Groce, P. (2012, June), Development of Small Wind Turbines for Isolated Colonia Homes of South Texas Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21222

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