February 18, 2010

Windmills and watermills: modern uses for ancient technology

Wind and water turbines are practical technologies that put the elements to work to make life easier – and even possible. They grind grain, pump water, and generate electricity. We’ve rounded up videos of water- and wind-powered machines in action, including how-to guides and a twist on traditional designs. Many of these are showcased by our friends at Approvideo, and we’ve gathered all of them on our YouTube channel.

Efficient watermills

In this well-edited video, the Nepal’s Centre for Rural Technology shows how it has improved the designs of Nepalese watermills. The organization reports that there are more than 25,000 mills grinding rice into flour in Nepal. A newly developed, easily fabricated metal blade that catches running water more efficiently can double the mills’ output.

Build your own wind turbines

Dan and Denise Rojas have shot more than 100 video guides about making wind and solar energy generators. In this three-part series, the duo shows us how to use a table saw and other woodshop power tools to make a vertical-axis wind turbine.

Click here to see the other two in the series:
Part 2
Part 3

Turbine-free wind energy:

A 20-something inventor named Shawn Frayne created a mini wind-powered generator to light homes and charge batteries in developing countries. Instead of a spinning turbine, the wind flutters a tautly-strung ribbon on a frame. Magnets on each end of the ribbon oscillate between wire coils to produce small amounts of electricity. This is a musical, mostly wordless demonstration of the fluttering ribbon and how it was assembled.

Blue Energy

In the communities near Blue Fields, a city on Nicaragua’s jungle-entangled Caribbean coast, tropical fish and tropical storms can be easier to spot than a wall outlet. Many of the villages have never been linked to the grid. In 2004, Mathias Craig, an MIT graduate and his brother, Guillaume, founded Blue Energy, an organization that has built a dozen wind turbines for those blacked-out homes and businesses. This video artistically documents the construction of a wind turbine on Monkey Point.

For a repository of more videos on appropriate technology and DIY guides please visit our YouTube channel. Do you have ideas for wind power and watermills? Let us know in the comments section below.

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