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Powering the 10268 windmill with renewable energy

donquibeatsdonquibeats South Wales, UKMember Posts: 5
Hello

I'm a newbie, first time poster, and fairly novice at builds. With my kids we have a handful of big builds under our belt (21309, 17101 etc.) but we're mostly follow-the-instructions people to date.

For my upcoming birthday, as a "surprise", I'm getting the Vestas windmill 10268.

As someone who's quite keen on renewable energy in principle, I'm thinking it would be nice if I could power the windmill from renewable energy, rather than endless AA batteries, especially given what the windmill represents.

Of course I could just get rechargeable batteries, but I feel like it would be more cool if I could somehow get the set connected up to a solar-powered USB powerbank or something like that.

However I know that there are voltage issues (9V / 5V etc.) as well as connector issues, and it's not as simple as just plugging one in- but my knowledge of electronics is pretty limited and I'm not thinking of giving stuck in with any disassembly or soldering or anything like that.

So, is there anything I can buy, or does anyone have any suggestions, on how I could keep my 10268 powered in a way that's nicely convenient and green?

Thanks for reading

Stuart

Comments

  • EvilTwinEvilTwin UKMember Posts: 112
    Lego do have their own solar panel kit- set #9688 - its an Education set so it might be tricky to find, but you can probably find the parts on Bricklink. It's not cheap so it depends how much of a purist you want to be :)
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 17,707
    You can get USB power banks with solar panels on them but they are really crap with our sunlight hours. The panels are so small that even a whole day in full sun in summer will only give you 2500 mAh or so. I guess it depends how long you will run the Vestas for.

    You are better off with a larger panel although chances are this will be 6V or 12V and you will need a buck converter to get it down to 5V to charge the power bank. You will also need a boost converter to get it back up to 9V to run the motor. However, whether this is an environmentally friendly solution is debatable. The energy and resources used to make the solar panel probably mean it is less environmentally friendly that you charging the powerbank using conventional electricity, especially if you are on a green tariff. But rather than using the 5V power bank, it is likely to be more efficient to just charge up 6x 1.5V rechargeable batteries (using a green tariff). Converting voltage multiple times wastes energy.

    Alternatively, if you have a 9V DC power supply from some old equipment, you could cut the instrument plug off, and power the motor direct from that (again, with a green tariff). Rather than damaging a motor, you are better off getting a LEGO PF extension cable and cutting that in half, and connect to that. You can do this by wire wrapping and covering in electrical tape rather than soldering if you wish. I think it is the inner two wires that you need to connect to. It is a good idea to have a look at philohome.com if you are going to cut and build like this.

    If you don't want any messing around, the regular rechargeable batteries and using green energy is going to be simplest.


    Mynattstlux
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,244
    Rechargeable batteries + solar charger might be a reasonable compromise.
    hewman
  • donquibeatsdonquibeats South Wales, UKMember Posts: 5
    Thanks everyone for the comments.

    The solar panel kit 9688 looks good, but does seem like slight overkill for what I'm after, and while I was willing to invest a bit more for it, I wasn't necessarily thinking of an extra hundred quid.

    I already have quite a few 5V powerbanks, including about 3 solar panel ones, and I know they charge very slowly but they're a nice idea in principle (for showing my kids that we try to use renewable energy etc.). So I know their green credentials are debatable because of the energy that's been used to make them, but if I already have them, then that's slightly different to buying some for this specific purpose - in a way. (And incidentally I'm on a green energy tariff at home so charging the USB powerbank from the wall is also 'green', if inefficiently so.)

    So CCC (or anyone else), please could you point me in the direction of a 5V to 9V boost converter that I could buy, that would allow me to have a USB socket at one end and the turning motor of the windmill at the other?

    Alternatively, if I do have an old 9V DC power supply somewhere, is there a way to connect it to the Lego motor that doesn't involve cable chopping or wire wrapping? My skills at such things would be best described as "poor" and I'd much prefer buying something a professional's done than making something messy, faulty and dangerous myself!

    Thanks again
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 17,707
    I use variable ones like this

    as they are cheap and have variable input/output voltages.


    If you just want it to power a 9V source from a 5V input and don't want any messing about with wiring, then you might be better off with one of these


    I've never used them but it looks like it should do the job, and the 800 mA current it provides should be just about enough under normal circumstances.

    By the way, you can run the motor with a lower voltage (like 5V) but the rotation speed will be roughly half.


    To connect an old 9V power supply to a LEGO motor, you will need to modify something. You can cut the connector plug off the motor, but the cheaper option is to get another PF cable and modify that leaving the motor intact. Alternatively, if you have an old battery box, you can connect the 9V power supply to that (the first and last pins) and then connect the motor to the battery box. This leaves all LEGO undamaged, but is obviously more bulky.

  • donquibeatsdonquibeats South Wales, UKMember Posts: 5
    Hello

    Thanks for your further advice.

    Forgive my complete ignorance of electronics, and also the fact that I haven't opened the box on the 10268 yet (it's a birthday present surprise I'm not supposed to know about).

    With either of the two links you've provided, what do I do for a motor? I'm not sure I understand the full end-to-end equipment I'm going to need, with a USB socket at one end and the Lego windmill at the other.

    If I'm not worried about the speed - in review videos the windmill seems to be turning quite fast, turning slower wouldn't actually be a problem - then could I avoid the need to step up to 9V altogether? In which case, what cables or connectors or other bits do I need to turn the windmill from a 5V USB socket/cable?

    Thanks

    Stuart
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 17,707
    I just remembered - it comes with a motor, and also a battery box, so you don't need to add anything to start.

    What might be best is if you build it first and check the speed running at 9V with batteries. Although if you are running on rechargeable batteries you will probably be nearer 7.2V anyway as these typically run at 1.2V each.

    If you do then decide to go for the ebay cable, all you would need to do is cut the connector (the round one, not the USB one) off the end to expose the two wires. You can then attach each of these to the first and last electrode in the battery box and that will power the turbine. You can use the switch on the battery box to change direction.

    If you decide to run at 5V straight from the USB power bank, all you'd need is an old USB cable. Just cut the end off and connect the red and black wires in the battery box as before. You can ignore the white and green data wires. Thsi might be a bit slow though, if it runs at all. I'm not sure of the torque needed to rotate the arms here.


    Longer term, getting an extra Power Functions cable to replace the battery box is probably neater as you are really only using the battery box as a connector to the motor's LEGO style plug. But probably best to leave that until you've seen it in action.

    Hopefully this will make more sense once you have built it!


  • donquibeatsdonquibeats South Wales, UKMember Posts: 5
    Fantastic! Thanks again for your detailed help, it's much appreciated.

    Like you say, I'm sure that will make a lot of sense once I've unboxed and built it. (Or more accurately once I've unwrapped it, then my daughter has grabbed it off me and built it.)

    That's still a few weeks away so if I still can't get my head around it then, I'll come back here and ask for more help.
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Minnesota, USMember Posts: 2,434
    This seems a very ironic topic. Shouldn’t you just find a windy spot and let it power itself? I’ve heard that you can power the lights by spinning the blades. I’m guessing the blades won’t actually turn in the wind, but maybe with some modifications. Hmm...
    KungFuKennyFizyxM1J0ECyberdragon
  • donquibeatsdonquibeats South Wales, UKMember Posts: 5
    Oh it's definitely ironic. And that's not helped by Lego's promotion of the fact that the set includes one new-material biodegradable tree piece- glossing over the fact that the other hundreds of pieces are non-recyclable etc.

    Hopefully, being able to power the windmill from solar power (if I can) makes it marginally less ironic though. And since our electricity supply is green, there's a certain symmetry (or pointlessness) in thinking that energy from a real windmill has been harvested to help drive the Lego one.

    And to take your suggestion at face value, this is going to be an indoor toy. If I left it outside unattended for any length of time around here, it wouldn't be there when I came back.

    I'm still over two weeks away from my birthday 'surprise' so I'll come back to this in due course.
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Minnesota, USMember Posts: 2,434
    Point an electric fan at it? ;-)
    560Heliportsid3windr
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 17,707
    It is not biodegradable, it is bio sourced. It won't degrade any better than oil derived polythene, it is just that it is made from plant derived chemicals rather than crude oil derived chemicals.
    PyrobugAstrobricksFizyxdrdavewatfordLittleLorisid3windrkiki180703
  • CyberdragonCyberdragon Maryland, U.S.AMember Posts: 372
    This seems a very ironic topic. Shouldn’t you just find a windy spot and let it power itself? I’ve heard that you can power the lights by spinning the blades. I’m guessing the blades won’t actually turn in the wind, but maybe with some modifications. Hmm...
    It may still take some force to get it spinning which may cause it to tear itself apart before it even gets spinning fast enough. You'd probably have to use glue to keep it from blowing apart.
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Minnesota, USMember Posts: 2,434
    This seems a very ironic topic. Shouldn’t you just find a windy spot and let it power itself? I’ve heard that you can power the lights by spinning the blades. I’m guessing the blades won’t actually turn in the wind, but maybe with some modifications. Hmm...
    It may still take some force to get it spinning which may cause it to tear itself apart before it even gets spinning fast enough. You'd probably have to use glue to keep it from blowing apart.
    My guess is the tower would crumple first, but I haven’t actually built it.
    Fizyx
  • andywilsonandywilson UKMember Posts: 60
    I’d do something with a hamster...
    KungFuKenny
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 17,707
    ... Freddie Starr or Richard Gere?
    KungFuKenny
  • KungFuKennyKungFuKenny Deep in the Heart of TexasMember Posts: 224
    I’d do something with a hamster...
    This is who I thought of when you mentioned a hamster...
    Fizyxsid3windr
  • datsunrobbiedatsunrobbie West Haven , CTMember Posts: 1,449
    Biodegradable LEGO is not something I think of as a concern, since I have LEGO from 1965 that still works as well as it did in 1965. I like to think most LEGO gets new owners rather than ending up in landfills, but have absolutely no data to back that up.
    KungFuKennycatwranglerFizyxBaby_YodaLittleLorikiki180703
  • FizyxFizyx ColoradoMember Posts: 762
    Biodegradable LEGO is not something I think of as a concern, since I have LEGO from 1965 that still works as well as it did in 1965. I like to think most LEGO gets new owners rather than ending up in landfills, but have absolutely no data to back that up.
    Yeah, I think biodegradable LEGO is probably unnecessary. (unless the degradation requires some specific process to happen and doesn't just involve it falling apart in 30-40 years.)  And LEGO is already recyclable, which is what I think would be best anyway.
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Minnesota, USMember Posts: 2,434
    Fizyx said:
    Biodegradable LEGO is not something I think of as a concern, since I have LEGO from 1965 that still works as well as it did in 1965. I like to think most LEGO gets new owners rather than ending up in landfills, but have absolutely no data to back that up.
    Yeah, I think biodegradable LEGO is probably unnecessary. (unless the degradation requires some specific process to happen and doesn't just involve it falling apart in 30-40 years.)  And LEGO is already recyclable, which is what I think would be best anyway.
    Where exactly can one recycle LEGO? Not that I envision getting rid of any that way.
  • PJ76ukPJ76uk Derby, UKMember Posts: 411
    Fizyx said:
    Biodegradable LEGO is not something I think of as a concern, since I have LEGO from 1965 that still works as well as it did in 1965. I like to think most LEGO gets new owners rather than ending up in landfills, but have absolutely no data to back that up.
    Yeah, I think biodegradable LEGO is probably unnecessary. (unless the degradation requires some specific process to happen and doesn't just involve it falling apart in 30-40 years.)  And LEGO is already recyclable, which is what I think would be best anyway.
    Where exactly can one recycle LEGO? Not that I envision getting rid of any that way.
    I've always envisioned Lego recycling as passing along the bricks to a new owner!
    KungFuKennyLittleLoricatwranglersklamb560Heliportkiki180703
  • datsunrobbiedatsunrobbie West Haven , CTMember Posts: 1,449
    Fizyx said:
    Biodegradable LEGO is not something I think of as a concern, since I have LEGO from 1965 that still works as well as it did in 1965. I like to think most LEGO gets new owners rather than ending up in landfills, but have absolutely no data to back that up.
    Yeah, I think biodegradable LEGO is probably unnecessary. (unless the degradation requires some specific process to happen and doesn't just involve it falling apart in 30-40 years.)  And LEGO is already recyclable, which is what I think would be best anyway.
    Where exactly can one recycle LEGO? Not that I envision getting rid of any that way.
    In the US, Savers or Goodwill are two places that come to mind. Most of the LEGO I have now came from Savers, and most of the off-brand bricks I have found went back there. 
  • FizyxFizyx ColoradoMember Posts: 762
    Fizyx said:
    Biodegradable LEGO is not something I think of as a concern, since I have LEGO from 1965 that still works as well as it did in 1965. I like to think most LEGO gets new owners rather than ending up in landfills, but have absolutely no data to back that up.
    Yeah, I think biodegradable LEGO is probably unnecessary. (unless the degradation requires some specific process to happen and doesn't just involve it falling apart in 30-40 years.)  And LEGO is already recyclable, which is what I think would be best anyway.
    Where exactly can one recycle LEGO? Not that I envision getting rid of any that way.
    For actual recycling (as opposed to reusing :P) ABS is a recyclable plastic.  You may need to find a facility that processes it, since the pieces aren't marked or anything, and for the most part I can't imagine anyone currently recycling it vs reusing through  passing it on to someone else, but personally I'll to see if my home recycle company accepts it so I can recycle my broken/damaged bricks instead of tossing them.  (This was a new fact for me too, went and looked around a bit because I was curious about it also :D )
    catwrangler
  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Minnesota, USMember Posts: 2,434
    Fizyx said:
    Fizyx said:
    Biodegradable LEGO is not something I think of as a concern, since I have LEGO from 1965 that still works as well as it did in 1965. I like to think most LEGO gets new owners rather than ending up in landfills, but have absolutely no data to back that up.
    Yeah, I think biodegradable LEGO is probably unnecessary. (unless the degradation requires some specific process to happen and doesn't just involve it falling apart in 30-40 years.)  And LEGO is already recyclable, which is what I think would be best anyway.
    Where exactly can one recycle LEGO? Not that I envision getting rid of any that way.
    For actual recycling (as opposed to reusing :P) ABS is a recyclable plastic.  You may need to find a facility that processes it, since the pieces aren't marked or anything, and for the most part I can't imagine anyone currently recycling it vs reusing through  passing it on to someone else, but personally I'll to see if my home recycle company accepts it so I can recycle my broken/damaged bricks instead of tossing them.  (This was a new fact for me too, went and looked around a bit because I was curious about it also :D )
    As I understand it currently, even a lot of things we have come to think of as obviously recyclable in the US are getting collected but then sitting around in bales or going to landfills because China has stopped taking our low quality recycling materials and there is no other market for it. So anything “weird” I assume is probably not getting recycled even if someone will take it. I’m sure this isn’t true in all cases, but it does make me pessimistic.
    KungFuKennyLittleLoriFizyx
  • FizyxFizyx ColoradoMember Posts: 762
    edited September 14
    Fizyx said:
    Fizyx said:
    Biodegradable LEGO is not something I think of as a concern, since I have LEGO from 1965 that still works as well as it did in 1965. I like to think most LEGO gets new owners rather than ending up in landfills, but have absolutely no data to back that up.
    Yeah, I think biodegradable LEGO is probably unnecessary. (unless the degradation requires some specific process to happen and doesn't just involve it falling apart in 30-40 years.)  And LEGO is already recyclable, which is what I think would be best anyway.
    Where exactly can one recycle LEGO? Not that I envision getting rid of any that way.
    For actual recycling (as opposed to reusing :P) ABS is a recyclable plastic.  You may need to find a facility that processes it, since the pieces aren't marked or anything, and for the most part I can't imagine anyone currently recycling it vs reusing through  passing it on to someone else, but personally I'll to see if my home recycle company accepts it so I can recycle my broken/damaged bricks instead of tossing them.  (This was a new fact for me too, went and looked around a bit because I was curious about it also :D )
    As I understand it currently, even a lot of things we have come to think of as obviously recyclable in the US are getting collected but then sitting around in bales or going to landfills because China has stopped taking our low quality recycling materials and there is no other market for it. So anything “weird” I assume is probably not getting recycled even if someone will take it. I’m sure this isn’t true in all cases, but it does make me pessimistic.
    Yeah, I'm quite sure you're right, especially when it comes to home recycling.  I have hope for stuff like ABS though, as the demand for ABS is pretty high, and recycling is supposedly pretty easy.  This puts it the same range as aluminum, where recycling aluminum is actually much cheaper than the production of net new usable aluminum.  That would make ABS plastics one of the more desirable materials for recyclers, and increase it's chances of actually avoiding the landfill.
    AstrobricksKungFuKenny
  • stluxstlux LuxembourgMember Posts: 2,179
    TLG recycles the parts that do not pass QC - IIRC they are grounded into smaller pieces and then fed with the ABS pellets in the mounding machine to make new black parts. (Black only to not impact the colour mix for other colours)
    catwrangler
  • sid3windrsid3windr BelgiumMember Posts: 1,371
    This seems a very ironic topic. Shouldn’t you just find a windy spot and let it power itself? I’ve heard that you can power the lights by spinning the blades. I’m guessing the blades won’t actually turn in the wind, but maybe with some modifications. Hmm...
    The original you could, for this to work with the new one you have to replace the clutch gear with a regular one. Otherwise you're spinning the blades against the clutch which will slip because of the motor resistance. Such a shame :-(
    Astrobricks
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 17,707
    Fizyx said:
    Fizyx said:
    Fizyx said:
    Biodegradable LEGO is not something I think of as a concern, since I have LEGO from 1965 that still works as well as it did in 1965. I like to think most LEGO gets new owners rather than ending up in landfills, but have absolutely no data to back that up.
    Yeah, I think biodegradable LEGO is probably unnecessary. (unless the degradation requires some specific process to happen and doesn't just involve it falling apart in 30-40 years.)  And LEGO is already recyclable, which is what I think would be best anyway.
    Where exactly can one recycle LEGO? Not that I envision getting rid of any that way.
    For actual recycling (as opposed to reusing :P) ABS is a recyclable plastic.  You may need to find a facility that processes it, since the pieces aren't marked or anything, and for the most part I can't imagine anyone currently recycling it vs reusing through  passing it on to someone else, but personally I'll to see if my home recycle company accepts it so I can recycle my broken/damaged bricks instead of tossing them.  (This was a new fact for me too, went and looked around a bit because I was curious about it also :D )
    As I understand it currently, even a lot of things we have come to think of as obviously recyclable in the US are getting collected but then sitting around in bales or going to landfills because China has stopped taking our low quality recycling materials and there is no other market for it. So anything “weird” I assume is probably not getting recycled even if someone will take it. I’m sure this isn’t true in all cases, but it does make me pessimistic.
    Yeah, I'm quite sure you're right, especially when it comes to home recycling.  I have hope for stuff like ABS though, as the demand for ABS is pretty high, and recycling is supposedly pretty easy.  This puts it the same range as aluminum, where recycling aluminum is actually much cheaper than the production of net new usable aluminum.  That would make ABS plastics one of the more desirable materials for recyclers, and increase it's chances of actually avoiding the landfill.
    I think the main problem here is the identification of ABS in waste. LEGO's own waste is pretty much pure ABS with no contaminants other than dyes, so if they reuse sprues or other waste they know what it is. Whereas public plastic waste will have many different plastics in it, and even different composition ABS items. Recyclers can machine sort out common PE items (milk cartons and soda bottles) and it is sometimes possible to sort similar looking non-PE plastics from each other based on their behaviour in water (in "froth floatation") but it is still quite expensive in time / machinery. I guess it will only become common when costs of production increase and costs of recycling decrease.
    FizyxAstrobrickscatwrangler
  • dutchlegofan50dutchlegofan50 Zwolle, NetherlandsMember Posts: 191
    EvilTwin said:
    Lego do have their own solar panel kit- set #9688 - its an Education set so it might be tricky to find, but you can probably find the parts on Bricklink. It's not cheap so it depends how much of a purist you want to be :)

    I just tested this. I used solar panel #87578 and measured the power output. It varied between 3.6 and 5 volts. Enough to lite a couple of #8870 Power Functions Light but not enough to power the small Power Functions M-Motor #8883.
    If I could test it again under ideal sun light conditions I don't think I get enough power from the solar panel to drive a motor to the level it would be able to move the wind turbine rotor blades.
    Alas....
    @donquibeats I like your question. It's both relevant and challenging!



    sid3windr
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 17,707
    ^ I don't think those LEGO solar panels are intended to drive a motor directly. I thought the idea was that they charge a battery and you then use the energy stored in the battery.

    I've never owned one so cannot see what the power is like, but looking at the specs they say it "delivers 5 V, 4 mA in direct light from a 60 W incandescent bulb positioned 25 cm from the solar panel". No doubt it is better in bright sunlight.



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