Ever seen a wind-powered camper?

Below is my version of a short piece on wind-turbine maker Michael Powers that appears, with Wessel’s photo, in this month’s Ode Magazine. After it ran, someone from “Weekend America” on NPR contacted me for more information, as they might do something too. That felt validating because I’d tried to sell this story to Sierra and Audobon mags and got no reply from either. The story came to be because our group of cyclists touring in Delmarva happened to camp near Michael. Only when cycling out of the park after a two-day stay did I decide I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So I did a quickie interview  and Wessel took photos.

Here’s the piece: 

Wind turbine on campsite of Assateague State ParkTravelers who visit Assateague State Park in Maryland are accustomed to unusual sights, what with more than 100 wild horses freely roaming the grounds. But last summer, something manmade captured the attention of parkgoers as well. At one of the 350 campsites along two miles of the Atlantic Ocean stood a 28-foot whirring wind turbine powering the batteries of a Coleman Camper travel trailer.

Michael Powers next to his self-built wind turbineIts creator was Michael Powers, who will return to the island park in late-July with an even more efficient version of his eye-grabbing contraption. Powers, who lives near Baltimore, got the idea last spring of providing power for the camper’s two 13.8-volt batteries. Having gone with his wife and three children to Assateague for many summers, he figured the island’s constant breeze would be a perfect spot for wind energy.

“As a child, my father and I built a solar water heater for our family pool. Since then, I’ve always been thinking of ways to make solar and wind power,” says Powers, who by day manages a computer engineering team. “For this project I had my own ideas but did a lot of research on the Internet.”

Wind turbine at campsite of Assateague State ParkHe first set up the turbine in his back yard, which, he notes, did not thrill his suburban neighbors. The whole thing cost about $80, which included a $34 permanent-magnet motor and a $25 rotor, both purchased on eBay. He used PVC piping for the mast instead of the usual metal so as not to attract lightening. The wind supplied enough energy to power the campers’ lights, refrigerator, oven fan, and water pump.

This year Powers plans to increase the turbine’s efficiency by using fiberglass for the blades and switching out the steel rotor for a lighter aluminum one. He’s even considering using the wind to power a fan that would blow air across an ammonia-based evaporator to provide air conditioning.

Once he sets up again at Assateague, Powers and his highly visible windmill are sure to draw another round of curious campers.

“Everyone stops to talk to me about it, including the rangers,” Powers says. “My family thought it was weird that I had this up, but they’re used to it.”

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6 Responses to “Ever seen a wind-powered camper?”

  1. Susan Klinger Says:

    Yes!! This is really great, and it really makes sense when camping. Of course, we are not all engineers. Fortunately, there are these new micro turbines that can easily be fitted on to an RV.

  2. Bill Smith Says:

    Thats great! How much would you charge me to energize my 1989 Dodge 2500 costom van? I’m serious. e-mail me at gitterdunn01@yahoo.com or call me at 330-987-4726

  3. Michael Powers Says:

    @ Bill Smith. I will email you directly the details about the design of my wind turbine camper generator. – Michael Powers

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