Travelers along US-77 may have noticed a bunch of small windmills with blades turning and sparkling in the sun on a farm near the Marion County Lake exit.
The farm owner, Rodger Nurnberg, said a lot of curious people stop by, especially on Sunday. He has set out to build his own wind energy system in the cheapest way possible.
“I like fooling around with science and machines,” he said.
He has owned a heating and air conditioning company in Wichita since August 1983 and moved to the farm in 2007.
He calls his project the “Windturbinehenge,” modeling it after the prehistoric Stonehenge in England, a monument of stones arranged in a circle.
When complete, it will be a circle of 12 small wind towers, one for every hour on the clock.
“I could have put them in a straight line, but there’s something special about circles,” he said. “Nothing in nature is square. Planets are round. Plant stems are round. All sports stadiums are modeled after Stonehenge.”
He started out by installing several windmills on the roof of his barn and 12 on top of an upright silo.
Finding the right turbines was a learning experience. The plastic blades he first tried could withstand wind up to 40 miles per hour. He soon found that 40 mph wind is common in Kansas. It destroyed the turbines.
Next, he tried turbines made from aluminum that could withstand up to 80 mph wind. Then, an 82 mph wind that tore across the Marion airport swept across his farm, bending several support poles and ripping off the turbines.
He finally discovered that the fans used in commercial air conditioning units work the best because they stall at 80 mph. He can purchase them for $30 each, much cheaper than the $160 aluminum blades.
It takes about eight hours for Nurnberg to build a wind tower. The posts for the circle are made of plastic pipe, with rebar inserted in the center and filled with cement. The motors mounted on top are similar to alternators found in vehicles. He calls them “permanent magnet alternators.”
The electricity they create will run through conduits that will lead to special switches in his barn to convert the energy from DC to AC. It will be stored in a 24-volt battery pack Nurnberg got off a forklift.
His immediate goal is to generate enough electricity to power his barn and a couple of small greenhouses on the property.
When complete, his project will include 30 turbines.
“The only reason I need so many is that I want to burn water,” he said.
Yes, that is his long-term goal, to burn water. He plans to have a stationary engine in his yard for that purpose. He said electricity could be run through water to separate the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water and cause an explosive force of energy. The molecules then would recombine as water.
Nurnberg downplays the level of expertise needed to do what he is doing. He graduated from Chase County High School, where he said he had great science teachers.
“It all comes from stuff I learned in high school chemistry and physics,” he said. “Anybody who knows chemistry could do it.”