air x problems

Hi all:

I wonder if anyone has any insights into my air x. It is mounted 27 feet high, which does not appear to be high enough. However, even in strong gusts of wind my blades simply will not turn at all. SWWP checked the unit out and proclaimed it within specs. The blade spins easily if spun manually. There appears to be no difference whether or not the wiring is hooked up. I'm aware that it is meant to be above the turbulence, but am still surprised that a decent wind doesn't even make the blades spin. Any suggestions?
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Comments

  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems

    Owning a Hornet (no longer in use), my first thought was a shorted rectifer, but you say it spins easily by hand, so that seems out.
    Thinking again - you say it spins easily, will it rather slowly wind down to a stop when you stop spinning it by hand, or does it stop right away when you quit turning it? I'm wondering if there's a load of some kind that's overloading and thus aerodynamically stalling the blades. Did it ever run properly, or near properly?
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems

    It has never run properly. It spins a couple of times before stopping. SWWP has assured me that the bearing is okay. Still, it seems that it should free spin a little easier. I don't think that's the problem anymore, though.
  • NoodlesNoodles Solar Expert Posts: 30 ✭✭
    Re: air x problems

    Have you connected the Air-X to a battery to see if the Air-X makes any current when you rotate it fast by hand? I'm thinking that may give you a clue whether the unit is actually capable of making power. Can you tell us more about how your system is wired?

    I own a Skystream, not an Air-X. I realize it's like comparing apples to oranges, but when the control board commands the turbine to spin, the unit spins quite easily by hand.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,212 admin
    Re: air x problems

    Assuming the blades track into the wind--can you place a large streamer on the tail end of the unit and see what the wind conditions look like? If you cannot put it on the turbine (not accessible), try to tie it to a stick or on the side of tower as high as you can reach...

    Do you have a weather station (anemometer/wind direction indicator) on the tower to show wind conditions?

    Generally, it seems to take a pretty steady wind for a wind turbine to generate power. The streamer should help you see if there is a steady velocity and if the head is correctly pointing into the wind.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems
    coreyumt wrote: »
    It has never run properly.

    Interesting. Sounds to me like it could have an electrical problem, perhaps even a shorted winding, putting an excessive mechanical load on the generator.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems

    Since that turbine has never been able to "start" regardless of wind conditions--and you've had the folks at SWWP go over your machine, I'm inclined to think along the lines of a short or a ground fault. In either of those cases, the turbine would act like it was being braked. I would presume the machine has a fuse on the positive conductor --which you've checked. Do you have a ground rod at the base of the tower? Is it tied to a single point ground with the rest of your system? Is your wire run to the tower in conduit? If you have a brake switch, I would double check that. I'm sure you've double checked your wiring for reverse polarity. Lastly, I would make sure that all of your wiring at the turbine is well insulated....inside the tower pipe.

    As you mentioned, the 27 ft tower may be a bit low--depending upon what structures or tree's are nearby. I still think the turbine would have started at one time or another.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems

    I have checked my wiring several times. Finally, it is currently disconnected altogether. The wires are all insulated with electrical tape, I put the unit back on its pole, it spins easily by hand(3-4 revolutions before it slowly stops spinning) but will not turn when the wind blows, which leads me to think that it's just not catching the breeze. I have lowered my telescoping pole to where I can stand on my roof and spin the rotors. Yesterday I had to hold on to my hat!, so for some reason the wind is not making it spin. Maybe new blades? 6 blade systems? Any ideas? Thanks!

    I'll try tying the streamer to the tail this week. That's an interesting idea.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,212 admin
    Re: air x problems

    From the Air-X manual:
    Please note that there is a short break-in period with new turbines. The bearings in both the turbine yaw and the turbine rotor will require approximately 60-100 hours of operation in normal wind speeds (approximately 18 – 20 mph, 8 – 9 m/s) before they are running at peak efficiency. During this break-in period, the turbine operation might appear sluggish.
    ...
    After the yaw is all the way onto the pole, move it back up 1/8th inch (2 mm) to prevent the bottom of the yaw from contacting the top of the pole. The only contact between the tower and yaw is through the rubber pad which will reduce the transmission of noise down the tower.
    ...
    When the AIR-X is first connected to the battery bank, the microprocessor will blink the LED twice to indicate that the control circuit is running correctly. Once the blades reach 500 RPM, the turbine will begin charging and the LED will turn on. The LED can be difficult to see during the day.
    ...
    The AIR-X continually monitors the battery voltage and compares it to the regulation set
    point. The regulation set point is field adjustable, and is factory set to 14.1V (12V Turbine) or
    28.2V (24V System). When the battery voltage rises above the set point, the turbine enters regulation mode. During regulation mode, the turbine automatically shuts off. It stops rotating, and no power is generated. Before entering regulation mode, the AIR-X will momentarily stop charging in order to get a true reading of the battery voltage. If the turbine was sensing a high voltage due to line loss in the system, this will be detected and the AIR-X will continue to charge. This process takes a fraction of a second and will not be visible.
    How will does the unit point into the wind--is it obviously tracking into the wind or is the post bearing too stiff (streamer will help here).

    Other things to ask...

    Are the blades properly installed (can they be "flipped" accidentally "upside down" on the hub mount?).

    Was there any spacers or unevenness in the hub that can cause the blades to not be perfectly aligned?

    Does the unit turn freely if you press (20-30 lbs) on the front of the hub (simulating wind load pressing on the blades).

    Is there any tape, or shrink wrap material on the blades? Are they clean and smooth? These blades appear to be laminar flow type and anything that interferes with the air flow can destroy blade lift.

    There is a "stall mode" mentioned in the manual that can virtually stop the blades from spinning in high winds... I don't see any mechanical items that can cause this effect. Do you know how "stall" is achieved (only high winds that bend the blades or what)?

    I don't believe that your electronics are causing this issue--the turbine has to spin (I would guess, from the manual, at several hundred RPM) before you would achieve any braking effect (shunting current to overload the blades).

    I believe you have a mechanical issue (at this point) and it is either because the unit is not pointing into the wind, the blades are not generating lift (no rotational energy), or that there is resistance to turning due to wind loading (thrust loads).

    It is also possible that you have turbulent wind conditions (the unit should be ~30 ft above any windward obstructions). Is there a building/tree/etc. that can cause turbulence or force the wind "over" your turbine within a few hundred feet up wind? But, I would sort of expect the turbine to still give a half-hearted spin in any case...

    That is about the limit of my guesses... Good Luck!

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems

    Not familiar at all with your turbine, but I can tell you that if the hornet has a short in the windings or output, it is very hard to turn, even from a dead stop.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems

    Bill--the braking I am referring to is the stopping/dramatically slowing of the blades via the use of a brake switch (which many SWWP turbine owners have/do install). I think you are referring to the blade flutter process the turbine uses to govern itself.

    Corey, electrical tape may not be enough. I would utilize split bolts, generous amounts of rubber wrap---followed by quality electrical tape over the entire connection of each wire.

    If that does not fix the problem--and you find that you did actually install the blades correctly, you might describe to us what your system consists of--and the routing of all wire--in great detail.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,212 admin
    Re: air x problems

    DC,

    No, stall was specifically mentioned as speed control in the on-line manual. It also mentioned the "flutter" method of speed control was discontinued because of the excessive noise of that method (and I would be worried about mechanical failures over time from the vibration too).

    The "brake switch" on these units just throws a short circuit across the output of the alternator... Creating a heavy load that dissipates the rotating energy into electrical heat at relatively low speed.

    Given that the unit spins freely by hand, it has to spin by wind unless there is some other issue (blades not generating lift in proper wind, unit not pointing into wind, thrust load locking rotation, or insufficient non-turbulent wind--there is not much more that can prevent any rotation).

    About the only thing lift to try is mounting the turbine to the back of a pickup truck, connecting it to a load, and driving down a side street at 10-20 mph...

    -Bill

    PS: I guess blade stall is possible when there is a heavy load and the unit is turning slowly... The apparent angle of attack on the blades would be high at low rotational speed...
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems

    I have completely disconnected my air x from house wiring and sealed off the wires to insure they are not touching each other or the pole. I put a streamer on the tail of the air x, it's blowing in the wind with the wind consistently in a western to eastern direction. This happens to be the direction where there are no obstructions. Of course, the blades don't spin at all. At times, yesterday the wind was pretty strong. There is obviously no wiring resistance with the unit not hooked up to anything. It's as if the blades just don't care about the wind! They are not hooked up backwards, by the way. I'm thinking of a 6 blade system, like the hornet. Anybody have any ideas or experience doing this?

    At least it rained a bunch so I could turn my micro-hydro on!

    Corey
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems

    In my opinion,being a Hornet owner, (I took it out of service a couple of years ago) I strongly suspect that if it won't now turn at all, even if you add 3 more blades, it will never produce any usable power. Yes, the extra blades MIGHT get the thing turning, but then the extra load of dragging 3 more blades through the air will probably not allow it to turn up fast enough.
    You mentioned that if you turned it by hand, that it would only continue to turn for a turn or two. Was this with the blades on to act as a flywheel? If so, I still suspect the alternator has an internal short, either in the windings, or whatever else is in there, giving the equivalent of the electric brake being activated.
    From what you tell us, there is nothing else that makes any sense to me.
    If the blades are on the unit when you spin it, they should continue to spin for a number of times, slowly coming to a stop. One or one and a half turns like you said earlier, just doesn't cut it, there has got to be a serious load somewhere.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems

    The blades turn several times when I spin it, probably 9-10 times and slowly turn down.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems

    Bill---I'm going to need some help on this, I haven't had time to download the owners manual. Isn't the charge controller inside the turbine? If so, disconnecting the unit from the battery would serve no purpose. With the Whisper units, the charge controller is separate--and because of this, you're able to isolate a controller--or turbine problem--if you decided to disconnect the turbine from all wiring to see if it would start. In the case of the Air X, wouldn't the controller determine a dead battery error and not start?

    Why don't we briefly look at wire size, and distance to tower top? What is the turbine controller reading at the battery?
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,212 admin
    Re: air x problems

    DC,

    I am not quite sure of your question... Is this about Coreyumt's problem of not turning--or is this about another issue/question?

    I don't have much to add to Coreyumt... The one question I had was do the blades turn when thrust force is applied to the hub (simulating wind force). Otherwise, assuming the turbine blades are assembled correctly, the hub is free spinning and pointing into the wind--then it has to be issues with the "quality of the wind" (turbulence/angle of wind--such as from a cliff face, etc.). Adding a streamer to the tail seemed to show all was OK with the wind--so I am at a loss (not more I can do from a keyboard).

    Your question about on-board/remote controllers--it depends on model, year, and manufacturer.

    Air-X, from what little I have read changed from an internal charge controller to a simple alternator/diode rectifier in their current models... It was the manual for the recent model that had a simple SPDT switch that simply disconnected the battery (load) and shorted the output of the alternator.

    An alternator with no load (internal or external) will spin freely (assuming no other mechanical brakes/etc.)...

    An external wind charge controller is typically wired as a "dump" controller (puts a load across the battery once it is "charged"). And, I believe NEC, requires redundant regulators when the failure of one can cause other problems (over charging the battery, overspeed of the wind turbine, etc.).

    Sizing of wire in Coreyumt's case is not an issue (that I see) right now.

    As I was going over this discussion, I don't know the model of Air-X turbine that is being discussed here... It may or may not have an internal regulator???

    Anyway, here is the manual I was reading (500kByte PDF file--right click to download and save)... It appears that it is possible that the turbine might not turn if it is not connected to the proper voltage battery:
    The AIR-X also retains these features of the AIR 403:

    • Hysteresis Braking: The regulation control circuitry incorporates hysteresis. This will lock the turbine in a silent regulation mode once the batteries are fully charged. The turbine begins producing power again when the battery voltage drops slightly below fully charged. This means, for a factory set 12V turbine, the turbine will regulate (shut down) when the batteries have reached 14.1V, and will resume charging when the voltage drops to 12.75V. Minimal output is wasted, as non-charging battery voltages above 12.75V represent mostly a “surface charge” with very little energy. This feature prevents the turbine from fluctuating in and out of regulation mode, resulting in a quieter, better behaved machine.
    It is possible that if the regulator is disconnected and/or if the battery voltage is too high (batteries are either fully charged, or regulator voltage set too low), that there may be a "turbine lock" condition...

    But, I am not really sure how to interpret this paragraph.

    From the manual, connecting the battery should show:
    18) When the AIR-X is first connected to the battery bank, the microprocessor will blink the LED twice to indicate that the control circuit is running correctly. Once the blades reach 500 RPM, the turbine will begin charging and the LED will turn on. The LED can be difficult to see during the day.
    Read page 23 for more details, but the basic test here:
    4.1.4 Five Spinning Conditions of the AIR-X
    a) Open Circuit

    When the turbine is disconnected from the batteries, it will “free-spin”. In this mode the generator can spin “unloaded” with the wind. The internal regulator has a high-speed regulation to protect the circuit from high voltage conditions. However, when a high voltage condition is sensed, the turbine is stopped which causes the voltage to drop and the high voltage condition to end. The result is an oscillating mode which is not recommended. Operating the turbine in open circuit for a brief period of time will not damage the turbine.

    However, operating the turbine in open circuit for a long period of time can cause excessive wear to the turbine and is NOT recommended. We recommend that during long periods of operation the turbine should be connected to a battery or the turbine wires should be shorted. Shorting the turbine will minimize wear to the bearings and prolong turbine life and is quieter than running open circuit.

    -Bill

    PS: I probably should add... "... when all else fails, read the manual." I am just skimming through the manual (and reading other sites as I search for details)--so I have probably confused myself on this thread.
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • BrianellulBrianellul Solar Expert Posts: 95 ✭✭
    Re: air x problems

    Hi

    I too own an AIR-X and I'm really happy that I've never had these problems...

    Well my Air-X was first installed just 15ft above my property and although it did spin, it was slow and the wind was very turbulent because as soon as the turbine starts spinning it used to get out of the wind. Now I've raised it to 40ft and the results are really better.

    From my experience however you have to supply power to your Air-X for it to spin... Please read the following chapter from the manual.
    4.1.4 Five Spinning Conditions of the AIR-X
    a)Open Circuit
    as already outlined above.

    Therfore, always connect Power to your Air-X for it to spin! I've observed that without power the AIR-X spins very slow, but once power is applied it speeds up (as long as there is wind).

    You can also measure the current consumption of your AIR-X when connected. This should read about 20mA IIRC drain from your batteries. If there is no current flowing then you have something wrong in your wiring.

    Regards
    Brian
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems

    Hi:

    Thanks for the advice! I'm going to hook it up again this weekend. Last weekend it was extremely windy and it spun on and off all day, for the first time. Next summer I intend to raise it to about 60 feet, and also cut down trees that are possibly in the way. When I was at Home Depot today I noticed that there is galvanized conduit 11/2 inches for sale which is lighter than schedule 40 pipe. Does any body have any experience with this pipe? Is it adequate? Thanks!

    Corey
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,212 admin
    Re: air x problems

    Perhaps you can talk with Southwest Wind Power about their new unit and find out if the blades from the new unit can fit yours? Sounds like larger blades would work in lower wind conditions...

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems

    I don't have an air-x, but I use the air-x blades on my 30 volt ametek wind generator. One thing I don't see mentioned here is... Do you have the blades facing the right way.? In that I mean, is the flat side of the blade facing the wind??? If you somehow put them on with the curved side facing the wind, I can see where that might be your problem... The wind would be just flowing around the blades instead of catching it.
  • BrianellulBrianellul Solar Expert Posts: 95 ✭✭
    Re: air x problems

    Hi

    It seems that the original blades can't be installed the wrong way because they will touch the turbine aluminium body. SWWP were wise on this issue, since mistakes can't be done!
    As already mentioned before, once you'll raise the tower, your air-X will start generating more power.

    Brian
  • skflyfishskflyfish Registered Users Posts: 20
    Re: air x problems

    I believe my newly installed air-x is exhibiting the problem, though it did work for a month. Yesterday we had a BIG blow and it was finally charging from 5 to 20 amps (instead of .5 to 3 amps) and occasionally higher, even one to 47 amps. Then in the afternoon it was just turning slowly, despite a good but not strong wind. Same today.

    I disconnected power and powered it back up and got the two LED blips stating it is okay, but it still won't wind up. If I short the positive and negative leads it doesn't lock up, just spins slowly again. I disconnected my solar array and let the batteries fall to 12.6 but it still wouldn't start up.

    I have been in contact with tech support but they are dumbfounded about it.

    Jay
  • kenputerkenputer Solar Expert Posts: 27
    Re: air x problems

    I have had these problems also and this is the things to do to help track the problem,try the 3 tests from the manual 1- does it spin with out any cogging when the pos.and neg wires are not connected,open circuit,2 - short wires together,is there some cogging when you do this, 3 - connect pos.and neg. to battery does the LED blink twice and there is heavy cogging while the LED blinks twice. If all these work right then you may have a wind problem.
    one other thing to try is to use an allen key and drill with about 500 rpm connect leads to battery and see if it can make some power that way,the LED should light and slight cogging,if it cogs and gets real stiff for the drill to turn then there is a short or the controller is bad.
    hope this helps
    Kenputer
  • skflyfishskflyfish Registered Users Posts: 20
    Re: air x problems

    Well Southwest Windpower feels the circuit board is bad and is sending out a replacement today.

    Now for a warm, snow-less, wind-less day. ;)

    Jay
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems

    Hi All:

    The other day it was windy enough for my air-x to actually be turning! The red light underneath was on steadily, but unfortunately nothing was registering on my amp meter, nor on the read-out on my inverter, so it apparently wasn't charging. My wiring set-up follows the owner's manual. Perhaps this is connected to why the unit doesn't often spin. Anyone with any ideas as to what could be going on?

    Corey
  • skflyfishskflyfish Registered Users Posts: 20
    Re: air x problems

    Corey,

    It sounds like your site is a bit wind limited. What type of ammeter are you using? An inline analog or shunt based digital? I am using a shunt based digital and I was surprised at what little output I was getting when it was windy enough to get the red LED light on. Many times it would be from 0.0 to 0.8 amps. It took a lot of wind to get it above an amp. If yours is inline maybe it is defective. If it is then you will not get any amperage past the meter. Or maybe your wind was just enough to spin it, but not enough to produce much.

    Jay
    coreyumt wrote: »
    Hi All:

    The other day it was windy enough for my air-x to actually be turning! The red light underneath was on steadily, but unfortunately nothing was registering on my amp meter, nor on the read-out on my inverter, so it apparently wasn't charging. My wiring set-up follows the owner's manual. Perhaps this is connected to why the unit doesn't often spin. Anyone with any ideas as to what could be going on?

    Corey
  • BrianellulBrianellul Solar Expert Posts: 95 ✭✭
    Re: air x problems

    I fully agree with Jay, the Air-X LED will get on when the controller switches on but that doesn't mean that it's generating any usuable power.
    The LED is on as soon as there is enough wind to start generating power, which can be as little as 0.25/0.5amps.
    What ammeter are you using? what's it's fsd (full range)? If it's 30amp as suggested by SWWP, then it has to be really windy to see the needle move, and you won't notice anything if you're generating 0.5amps. I installed a 10amp ammeter to better read my AIR-X output and 99% of the time it doesn't kick out more than 10amps although occasionally it does.

    Brian
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: air x problems

    To what extent does turbulence play a role when there are trees higher than the unit within 300 feet? I'm considering raising it to about 70 feet or so next summer. It will clear everything in several directions at that point, although being on the side of a hill, there will still be hillside in one direction, although it's not usually the direction where the wind blows from.
    Does anyone think it's worth even doing? Or should I abandon ship and be content with solar and micro-hydro. In a couple of years my kids will be out of the house, and my electricity needs will drop, but I'm still intrigued by the possibility of generating some through wind. Any opinions out there?

    Corey
  • nigtomdawnigtomdaw Solar Expert Posts: 705 ✭✭
    Re: air x problems

    Someone will correct me if I'm wrong but a rule of thumb that Ive read from one of the experts who writes in Home Power Magazine is have the turbine 30 ft above any obstruction within 500 ft. of the turbine. HTH
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,212 admin
    Re: air x problems

    Without a true expert at your site, or using a small wind turbine installed at varying elevations, it would be pretty close to impossible for somebody here to really give any accurate to your $64,000 question...

    You might take a look through www.bergey.com--they have lots of information... Regarding some recommendations from them:
    Towers
    A wind turbine must have a clear shot at the wind to perform efficiently. Turbulence, which both reduces performance and "works" the turbine harder than smooth air, is highest close to the ground and diminishes with height. Also, wind speed increases with height above the ground. As a general rule of thumb, you should install a wind turbine on a tower such that it is at least 30 ft above any obstacles within 300 ft. Smaller turbines typically go on shorter towers than larger turbines. A 250 watt turbine is often, for example, installed on a 30-50 ft tower, while a 10 kW turbine will usually need a tower of 80-120 ft. We do not recommend mounting wind turbines to small buildings that people live in because of the inherent problems of turbulence, noise, and vibration.
    ...
    As a rule of thumb wind energy should be considered if your average wind speed is above 8 mph (most, but not all, Class 1 and all other Classes) for a remote application and 10 mph (Class 2 or better) for a utility-intertied application. If you live in an area that is not too hilly then the DOE wind resource map can be used to fairly accurately calculate the expected performance of a wind turbine at your site. In complex terrain a judgment on the site's exposure must be made to adjust the average wind speed used for this calculation. In most situations it is not necessary to monitor the wind speed with a recording anemometer prior to installing a small wind turbine. But in some situations it is worth spending $300-1,000 and waiting a year to perform a wind survey. Manufacturers and equipment dealers can help sort out these questions.

    Books
    By far the best source of general information on the technology and application of small wind turbines is a book written in 1993 by Paul Gipe. Mr. Gipe has more than 15 years experience with small wind systems and is a world renowned author and lecturer on the subject. This book, Wind Power for Home & Business, is soft-bound and a little over 400 pages long. Gipe's book is easy to read and is filled with examples, illustrations, and a lot of common sense. We highly recommend it.

    Wind Power is available from Bergey Windpower for $30, plus $4 for shipping and handling. It can also be found in many solar equipment catalogs. The book's publisher is Chelsea Green Publishing Co. in Post Mills, Vermont.

    Otherwise, on a typical windy day, find a nice smoke marker that you can set off upwind of the turbine/trees and see if the generator is in turbulent air or not...

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
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