Power Pot Plant (2021)

Power Pot Plant (2021)

Ross Stevens

Unmaking – the Future of Making

Living in New Zealand with a range of renewable energy sources available like solar, wind and hydro, Ross Stevens has always been interested in advancing the use and perception of wind generated power. As a designer he saw the conflict that existed between traditional power generators like wind turbines and the general public, worried about visual and sound pollution by them. Another conflict, not as apparent to the general public, but still very relevant to this research, has been the fact that the wind turbines are made out of non-recyclable highly toxic materials, which at the end of their use are buried in the ground, polluting the environment. This article explains in detail the current problem of finding suitable recycling avenues.

Moving from recycled steel to recycled polymers

In 2011 Ross had converted an old council mains pipe into a Savonius-rotor styled windmill by cutting it in half. This re-use of an existing structures worked in as much as it did generate power and was recognized as an innovative piece of design research. But, it didn’t work in this domestic environment, as it was too big and too dangerous in gale force winds.

With the advent of polymer-based 3D printers Ross had been adamant about the need to be able to de-make/un-make/recycle when he challenged his students in 2010 to create a ‘recycling’ machine for printed objects and the Recyclebot was created. This research has now culminated in the development of a wind turbine made solely with recycled filament.

Pot plants are the space-economic and portable versions of traditional flower and vegetable gardens, making growing these an affordable option for people in space-poor places.  And these ideas have been applied to this turbine by making it light enough to be moved to any location by hand. This reduces the short term impact on the environment directly, as it can be moved in and out of a location at ease and speed, and the long term impact by using recyclable polymers which don’t require extensive and invasive support structures. This turbine gets anchored to the site through the use of local materials that can be easily gathered and afterwards returned like sand, stones or even other plants.

This turbine is based on the Savonius rotor principle as this offers more design freedom regarding the shape of the blades. Even though a Savonius rotor turbine (VAWT: vertical-axis wind turbine) is not as energy-efficient as the traditional one (HAWT: horizontal-axis wind turbine) it means that the design can be adapted to the actual environment it will sit in and the design preferences of the owners. The advent of printers that can print large scale objects in one setting, makes this an economic and efficient way of production.

Additionally, the establishment of electric cars has improved battery technology substantially, which adds another interesting aspect to this research: as the batteries for these cars need to be replaced after a certain amount of time, well before they become useless, they can be used in domestic environments to store energy generated through domestic turbines. By extending the life time of these batteries through further use, it adds to the sustainability aspect of the turbine, plus taking pressure of national, fossil-fuel generated power grids.