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Household wind turbines

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Juan Lopez, E’17, displays the wind turbine he and his peers developed for RISE:2016. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Today’s wind turbines are gargantuan structures that require high wind speeds to generate large amounts of energy for consumers.

One group of engineering students presenting at RISE:2016—and featured at the event’s Innovation Alley—wondered, why go big? Why not go small?

Drawing from a past capstone project, Juan Lopez, E’17, and his team developed a scaled-down version of a wind turbine that would be geared toward everyday consumers and utilize slower wind speeds to generate energy using a furling and unfurling method.

“Through our research we determined that the high wind speeds needed to generate the energy output big wind turbines claim are just not common,” said Lopez, a mechanical engineering student. “Our prototype would be for household consumers and generate about 40 percent of a house’s electricity.”

The smaller turbine, which would have about a 30-foot diameter, would operate with winds between three and seven meters-per-second. Once wind speeds get too high, sails on the turbine would furl, decreasing the surface area and preventing the turbine from rotating.

Once a full-scale model of the turbine is built, Lopez said the next step would be to attach a generator to it and start creating energy.