Household waste recycled to make “mini wind-turbines”

Repurposing water bottles and aluminium cans to make wind turbines, it’s all in a module’s work for  130 undergraduates in UCC. The first-year engineering students are participating in an initiative to increase interest in energy engineering as part of a module sponsored by Statkraft which is Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy and has its Irish headquarters in Cork.


As part of this module, they were tasked with building both mini-wind turbines and mini-energy conversion devices, exclusively from waste-metal along with other appropriate discarded materials. Among the materials used were old milk cartons, lollipop sticks, disused coffee tins, cardboard, plastic water bottles with some teams developing very aesthetically pleasing designs including one which was modelled on a sunflower stem and petals.


The climate change agenda has never been as much to the fore nor had so much acceptance and support as it has today. This generation of engineers will have a major influence on how we decarbonise and reduce global warming in the future. It’s about creating solutions and thinking big while applying the technology in a micro-fashion while in university,” said Statkraft Ireland Managing Director, Kevin O’Donovan.


The students were expected to demonstrate an understanding of energy conversion in a renewable energy device, use basic principles of operation to design an energy conversion subsystem as well as carrying out a risk assessment.


Work carried out to date has ensured that the Irish electricity grid system is operating successfully with renewable energy levels of up to 65% at any given time, which proves that we are not that very far away from having a grid system which can be run almost exclusively on renewable energy. Inevitably, conversion and storage facilities are key to moulding the final pieces of this vital jigsaw,” said Mr O’Donovan.

He said that Statkraft Ireland was very proud to support the initiative and genuinely hoped that it would help cultivate a passion for energy engineering in those who subscribe to the module. As it stands, 85% to 90% of wind turbines are completely recyclable with the goal being to reach 100% in the near future.


Lecturer in Wind Energy Engineering in UCC, Paul Leahy said: “This is a magnificent module and our first time to engage collaboratively with a company like Statkraft on something like this. The wealth of ideas and sheer depth of creative thinking manifested by the students is extremely encouraging. I’d be confident that our future is in safe hands with energy engineers of this calibre graduating from UCC in the years ahead. We’re extremely grateful to Statkraft for facilitating the module which has been a resounding success.”



About Statkraft: 

Statkraft is a leading company in hydropower internationally and Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy. The Group produces hydropower, wind power, solar power, gas-fired power and supplies district heating. Statkraft is a global company in energy market operations. Statkraft has 4000 employees in 16 countries. Last year, it produced 61 terawatt hours of electricity, enough to supply more than 60 million homes, 93 per cent of which came from renewable sources.

Ireland is one of the selected new growth markets for onshore wind in Statkraft. The company employs 50 people here. It already owns and operates 14 wind farms in the UK and the Nordics with a combined installed capacity of over 1,600 MW. Statkraft is the majority owner of the Fosen Vind project in Norway, Europe’s largest onshore wind project, where an additional 420 MW will be completed in 2020. 

In 2018, Statkraft acquired 100 per cent of the shares in Element Power’s Irish and UK subsidiaries. The company’s global ambition is to increase its portfolio of wind power assets to 6,000 MW and solar power assets to 2,000 MW by 2025.


About the module – An introduction to Energy Engineering:

The first year of the Bachelor of Engineering (BE) is a broad education in engineering fundamentals. At the end of the first year, students choose from Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering;

Electrical and Electronic Engineering; Energy Engineering or Process and Chemical Engineering.

The module NE1001 “An introduction to Energy Engineering” aims to introduce students to the science of energy engineering. To explore the challenges facing, and solutions found by, energy engineers. To introduce students to energy efficiency and renewable energy resources and how to develop a sustainable energy plan.

Within this module it is intended to give students a good hands‐on demonstration of renewable energy conversion technology. To that end it is expected that groups of students will be tasked with developing mini energy conversion devices such as wind turbines. This will enable the students to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of energy conversion in a renewable energy device
  • Use basic principles of operation to design an energy conversion subsystem
  • Carry out a risk assessment 

As part of a wind turbine design, students will need to determine:

  • Blade materials
  • Number of blades
  • Rotor type (e.g. HAWT or VAWT)
  • Rotor geometry e.g. blade pitch angle

Materials required will include:

  • Small DC motors – supplied
  • Wire – supplied
  • Suggested blade materials: PVC pipe, plastic drinks bottles, wood, paper, etc. (not supplied),
  • adhesives (supplied)
  • Breadboards (supplied as required)
  • Steel rods cut into 0.5 m lengths for support ‐ supplied
  • Clamps ‐ supplied

Additional Lab equipment required will include:

  • Digital test meters or scopes
  • Handheld anemometers x 5
  • Electric fans x 5 e.g.