Wind-Powered Electrical Supply for Humanitarian Field Operations

The “Wind-Powered Electrical Supply for Humanitarian Field Operations” project involves university student branch members at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, with 20 high school students from Howard High School’s technology education class. The project will count towards the high school students’ senior year capstone project. The non-profit organization partner will be Global Outcomes, Inc. (GO). GO provides quality resources to promote correct, consistent, and compliant healthcare delivery in rural and low-income environments in the US and developing world. GO develops model facilities that are able to sustain the requirements of country codes, the World Health Organization, ISO, and the US Food and Drug Administration.

The project team will focus on the design and implementation of solar and wind-powered supplies to provide electricity for humanitarian operations at rural and disastrous areas. The generated electrical power will be able to cover the need of computing/communication, illumination, and small instrument operations. With the small size, light weight (portability), energy free (sustainability), and low cost (availability) characteristics of the technology, the proposed project will bring significant impact to humanitarian operations and the low-income community.

The wind-powered electrical supply is based on windbelt technology, which is using aeroelastic flutter as the power source. Aeroelastic flutter occurs when aerodynamic forces exert a load on a belt and cause it to vibrate at its normal mode. A windbelt consists of a tensioned belt, a set of magnets, and a set of electromagnetic coils. When the belt experiences aeroelastic flutter under the action of wind, the magnets oscillate between the coils to induce an electric current. To increase the power generation efficiency, the number of wire turns, N, of the wound coils can be increased.

The magnetic flux can also be increased by using stronger magnets. The time rate of change of magnetic flux can also be increased, which is a function of wind velocity. This means that the windbelt has to be sited in an area with suitable wind velocities. The quantity also depends on the tension of the belt. The optimal belt tension will be optimized by experimentation because it involves balancing both the amplitude and frequency of the belt’s oscillation. Specifically, tightening the belt may increase the frequency of oscillation; however, the amplitude will decrease (and vice versa).

The IEEE Student Branch will take the lead and work with the high school team to design the power system appropriately, combining the solar and wind power fan optimized mechanical structure to produce best tension and amplitude performance using software like Matlab and Comsol. The IEEE branch members will work closely with the HS team to guide them to implement the design with available materials. The Humanitarian organization will be the customer to provide instrumentation specifications like voltage, frequency, and current requirements to the team.

The first year goal is to achieve 50W power generations. The IEEE student branch and the high school teacher will accumulate the experience and prepare to design a system that can produce a targeted power of 1.5 kW. Although the high school student team will change to a new group of students, the IEEE Student Branch will continue the project and achieve the goal for the system design. The project will encompass a two-year endeavor.