Wind Energy Stored In Gravity

by hyperplanemike, published

Wind Energy Stored In Gravity by hyperplanemike Aug 2, 2015

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Wind Energy Stored In Gravity

The challenge

Design a 3D model that harnesses the power of the wind.

Technology connections

Energy transfer, movable assemblies.

The idea

This model demonstrates a fairly new idea that is being used in the field of renewable energy:

Storing energy from wind and solar in gravity. This simple solution eliminates the need for expensive and environmentally unfriendly batteries.

We can use generated energy to lift heavy objects and later retrieve the energy using the weight of the lifted object to turn gears on its way back down. A gravity battery is considered full when the heavy object is lifted all the way up.

Real world implementations of this concept usually involve weights that are either lowered into deep holes in the ground or held in above ground silos.

How it works

Energy is generated using a vertical wind turbine on the lefthand side. There is a movable battery section in the middle that can be adjusted left or right to charge or expend the gravity battery. On the right side, there is a fan that can be used to reproduce the summer breeze after it is caught and stored in the battery.

Multiple copies of the rack gear can be glued together to increase the storage capacity of the battery indefinitely. There is a small release lever on the top left of the movable battery area that keeps the gears moving in one direction.

I’m using 8x7x22mm ball bearings to make all of the parts turn smoothly: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002BBGTK6

Video: http://youtu.be/l1YajkmqFpw and https://youtu.be/9IRc9xG2ers

Here is a video of Bill Gates talking about gravity energy storage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH5Lgv-4te8

Check out http://www.gravitybattery.info/ for a great illustration of a proposed home use solution.

Mini version of the vertical wind turbine:


I've included full models of the turbine and fan in addition to sliced versions for easier printing. You can reduce the number of fan blades, reverse them, or attach a motor/anything else you'd like.

I recommend printing in ABS with .2 layer height and 30% fill.

The rack gears function as the battery weight, so it might be a good idea to print them at 100% fill, and/or attach additional weight to the gear to increase torque.

Let me know if you have any questions!

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and how many bearings/ non 3d printed pieces would I need

what pieces would i need to print in order to have a basic model of this ?

could you use the same principle to move water up then have it drip down through a constant orifice?

Great stuff Mike, tons of potential. I imagine you could use a small solar cell with a pair of motors with one-way clutches too, one to lift the weight and one to generate as it drops. That would replace a traditional lithium or lead acid battery, in theory, for a while if you could stabilize the speeds, gear ratios on both motors, and the voltage output. I'd use a 5v solar panel and 5v regulator with a 5v motor, and put a USB charging port on it. That way you could charge off of the USB for portable devices, and when it's not in use / has excess power, it'll store it in the gravity battery. You could save up energy for LED lighting at night this way. The solar panel would produce, and when it craps out, the generator side would start working.

Alternatively, that idea could be scaled up to higher voltages and uses. I just don't have a steady 12v load that needs intermittent or nocturnal power.

I gotta quit talking about this now or I will end up designing and building one, and I'm already building a wind tower and a pelton wheel generator. :)


I started working on version 2 a couple weeks ago, a sort of remontoire. I've settled on using a 6v solar panel, a 5 rpm 3v geared motor, and a buck converter to get the panel down to 3v. I'm able to lift a good amount of weight fairly quietly without direct sunlight using that and a printed planetary gear assembly.

Nice! Great minds think alike.
3v motor with 6v panel makes sense if you need the amps to increase the weight. Have you any plans to equip it with a generator? The generator side could be regulated to 5v for convenience with charging or lighting applications. Can't wait to see V2

Im not sure what a practical use for it would be, but it is brilliant!

well you can swap the fan with a mini generator like the hand-cranked 5v usb charger for phones, the rest is to play with the gear ratios and weight of the gear rack.. I'm trying to make one see how practical it will be. but sadly not much wind in my area so finger crossed.

Also, they are now making and selling a generator that uses a gravity battery generator for camping etc. You just hang it in a tree, lift the weight, and it slowly generates power until it bottoms out. They use a chain drive on the model I saw to allow for more customization of the battery length, and the device was compacted ridiculously small into the size of a wallet.
I guess in a sense, the model I saw was actually powered by the human energy of lifting the weight.

Im not sure what a practical use for it would be, but it is brilliant!

Im not sure what a practical use for it would be, but it is brilliant!

In this video you can see one part from this project in time lapse mode:


This is simply amazing!

You used wind to make wind... Sort of like breeding the wind... That's deep dude.

2000 watts for an hour is roughly enough to lift 10 tons by 25 meters using an electric motor at 90% efficiency

So, in order to power an off grid lifestyle, it would make sense to have a hillside, using a lorry with rubber tyres that weighs 70 tons, and haul it by 10 meters of elevation, actually a train track would actually be cheaper than a road.

Not going to say anything about the cost aspect but the associated link to the gravity battery concept does it a different way that is a little more space friendly by using vertical shafts/weights and by using multiple weights. An interesting idea although I can see where there could be issues using significant vertical shafts. Big problem I would have for example is our water table being too high.

Train track versus road cost would be trivial when compared to cost of buying a 70 ton lorry and good luck finding a property with 10m of elevation change you can use. The linked design gets around the issue of course by using multiple smaller weights. I did notice however that the tech specs were thin and info on weight size and shaft length were missing.

I have the land to do this.... though i think an angle iron track would be efficient and most cost effective

I would also like to believe that this mechanism is better used as a complement with solar panel system as in day time the use of battery is minimal and at night time this could help.

So how much electrical energy would this be capable of producing? Will it power my smartphone? How would you convert kinetic energy from this device into electrical?

Conversion to electrical could be accomplished through a small DC motor or small generator attached to the output shaft in place of the fan. Based on the discharge rate of the stored energy in the videos though I wouldn't count on getting very much per run. The output needs to have a stronger gear ratio to slow the conversion of energy. Adding a weight could increase the stored energy although would require a stronger input (more wind) and once again requires a stiffer gearing ratio on output to slow it down.

Comments deleted.

Im trying to make this and bought the bearings you mentioned.. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002BBGTK6
When I load the base1 part into Makerware it seems huge compared to the bearings, should I have added a scale factor?
The base measures 120mm x 120mm
This means the turbine may be too big for my build plate


I'm measuring base1 to be around 120mm deep and 117mm wide. You shouldn't need to do any scaling.

The bearing should have an inside diameter of 8mm and the peg it fits on should be something like 7.9mm.

Which printer are you using/how big is your build volume?

its a Makerbot Rep 2
Hmm seems like I have the wrong bearings, thanks for the info, I will get some bigger ones.
Base printed at correct size, and I think I am going to print the turbine next.
Thanks again for sharing this awesome model and responding to my comment!

makes me wonder if there is a way to make the heavy object rotate like a revolver so another heavy object could be lifted to make it more compact or maybe more efficient too since you could have many weights that require less power to lift

On version 2, maybe a groove running vertically the length of the rack gear and a corresponding "male" tab in the holes of base 2 and base 3 to guide the rack gear straight up and down as it is raised by the wind-driven gear train and pulled downward by gravity when it is released. Excellent design.

Comments deleted.

Someone explain how the contraption makes energy

Hey Tiger! The contraption doesn't necessarily make the energy. It is the wind that is bringing the energy in because energy cannot be created, only transferred from one place or form to another. The machine is storing the energy by moving that center block to the top and locking it in place. When the block unlocks, it releases all of that energy (kinetic energy) and moves the gears that move the fan on the right. While it doesn't make energy in the electrical sense, the machine transfers it in the physics sense. Energy is a property that can be transferred from one object to another. The wind that moves the turbine on the left is transferring its energy into the machine. When the gears are rotated by the wind, and they move that center plastic piece to the top, where it is locked in place, the energy becomes stored in the block. Hope this helps explain a bit!

Boy, I wish I was good a gear ratios, the fan (right) side needs higher gearing to utilize the stored energy better.... :)

My thoughts exactly. All that time to store the energy and phhht. Gone. Needs a higher ratio to slow down the discharge rate in order to make it useful.

Comments deleted.

Im going to try to scale this thing down so I can print it in my FF Dreamer. How do you put this together? Did you post some instructions somewhere? What is needed that isn't printable? I see some metal in there?

The metal is 8x22x7mm ball bearings: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002BBGTK6

Base1 and Base2 are glued together (or just attached to wood/railing next to each other, they both have a nail/screw hole on the back side).

Base3 holds two copies of gear2.stl and it sits on top of Base1+Base2, moving freely to the left and right.

Base4 is glued to the back of Base1+Base2 to keep Base3 from falling off or moving in any direction other than left/right.

Put the bearings in the gears and slide them onto the the base pieces.

There is a model in the collection here that shows it fully assembled. You can use Thingiview or the 3ds Max file to see where all of the parts go.

Let me know which parts are too big for you and I'll split them up. I made this for the MakerBot 150mm print area, so most parts should work in your 140mm limit.

I'm collection ideas for version 2, let me know if you'd like to see anything specific!

Thanks for the reply. I opened the full file and assumed multiple parts were too big to print, at least that was the impression. Now I've inspected all the pieces and everything fits nicely.

I'll try to get hold of some of those bearings, or try if it's feasible with printed ones just for fun.

Thanks again. Awesome design.

"Multiple copies of the rack gear can be glued together to increase the storage capacity of the battery indefinitely" --> Mind to elaborate on that?

with one rack gear you can store the energy that you need, to drive up one length of the rack. If you print two rack gears and glue them together, you need twice the energy, to drive up the complete legth = twice the energy is stored.
The longer your rack gear is, the more energy you can store with, but at a certain length, the whole construction will become unstable and break.

Yes, print out multiple copies and glue them end to end to increase the length. If you print the rack gears with lower density you can stack more of them without the turbine needing to work much harder since they will weigh less. In my pictures/video I have both 2 and 3 racks attached. A light breeze can lift up to 5 or 6 of them (low density) and as weight increases you'll need additional wind force to move the turbine. You'll eventually reach a point with any material where it can't handle the stress. I'd be interested to see how well an aluminum print would work.

To increase the amount of weight the turbine can lift, you would need to increase the gear reduction by adding/changing gears.

My goal with this model was to make it almost completely 3D printed, but you might want to adopt a cable/weight system for bigger projects like what is described at http://www.gravitybattery.info/

Part sizes per netfabb basic.

Part Volume

base1.STL 195.76

base2.STL 198.83

base3.STL 257.83

base4.STL 16.26

bearing_cover.STL 2.34

fan_blade.STL 6.51

fan_gear.STL 22.84

gear1.STL 57.15

gear2.STL 77.78

lever.STL 1.54

rack_gear.STL 116.88

rack_stopper.STL 2.11

replacement_bearing_stand.STL 1.49

turbine_bottom.STL 144.39

turbine_spacer.STL 0.59

turbine_top.STL 72.79

worm_gear.STL 19.45

Just a super, super cool synthesis of budding large-scale technology and the 3d printing world. Nice job and congratulations!

This is really clever. I like the idea of using ball bearings to keep the gears turning smoothly. I've been trying to come up with a way to rig up a gear system for a few designs I've been working on, but I kept getting too much resistance in the gears no matter what I was trying. I never thought to try bearings though. Very nice all around, congrats on the win too.

[email protected]@@ Thats is the most simple, best idea i have seen in a while.

Great, I'm gonna print this.
How about making it so that it drops down automatically when it is wound, to keep it going ?

If it drops afterwords, wouldn't that defeat the purpose of storing it for later?

Anyways my name is Chris Termeer and I want to know who built this. Please email me directly at [email protected]


Congratulations! Honestly: since I've seen your design a few days ago, I told friends I'm out of the race for the first prize. I'm feeling honored being second one behind such a great idea and design :)

Thank you! I enjoyed your design as well. Your video is really fantastic and your thorough write-up of your design process is awesome. I'll need to make a bubble maker attachment for version 2!

Thank you! I really like the idea of other attachments for version 2 and of course would second the idea of the bubble maker. Two other things I think would be great to consider for version 2:

  • an automatic mechanism so the fan/bubble maker/music box will be started when the battery is full, and the mechanism begins anew

  • big wish: reuse as many parts from version 1 as possible -- I started printing this, but the 14 hours of print time my slicer calculated for the vertical turbine alone really frighten me (on the photo, it looks so much smaller); that said, I will definitely start on this, but I'm glad for any parts reusage in a version 2!

Thanks for sharing this design :)