Windmill Software Ltd
Data Acquisition Intelligence

PLC Excel
July 2002

The Newsletter for PC-Based Data Acquisition and Control
Issue 48           July 2002
--------------------ISSN 1472-0221----------------------

Here in Manchester we're in the thick of the 
Commonwealth Games. However, we've managed to restrain 
ourselves from giving this issue of Monitor
 a sporting 
theme. Instead we describe how Windmill software can 
help save energy in buildings. We also outline how 
Windmill is being used to teach technology, and list 
other resources for technology education ideas. 

We only send this newsletter to people who have 
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* Windmill News: Windmill monitors Eco House
* Teaching technology

Windmill News: Windmill Monitors Eco House

With increased concern about global warming and 
the wider cost of energy use, one place to look 
for savings is in the consumption of our buildings. 
From this premise, the University of Nottingham 
and David Wilson Homes teamed up to design an 
energy efficient house showcasing the technology 
available and to develop new ideas. 

The Eco House has been designed to incorporate 
sustainability into all aspects of the building, 
from sustainable materials and construction 
methods to the conservation of energy and water 
and the use of new technology.
Key Features of the Eco House are: 
- Solar Chimney using glass blocks to heat and 
  cool the building.
- Wind Catcher in the roof pinnacle enhances the 
  house ventilation.
- Photovoltaic cells on the south side of the 
  building to provide electricity for heat and 
- Illumination from a Sun Pipe: an innovative 
  solution, similar to a skylight, to light the 
  naturally darker areas in the house, even 
- Access basement allows under-floor ducting for 
  heat systems.
- Rainwater collection from the roof to conserve 
  use of drinking water.
- Low energy bulbs and light sensors used 
  throughout to reduce electricity use.

With all this new technology in a test 
environment, some type of monitoring system was 
required to ensure the devices were all working to 
their full potential. This is where Windmill 
Software was called in. The outputs from the 
photovoltaic (PV) cells needed to be measured to 
see what level of electricity was being produced 
throughout the day and in all weathers. Microlink 
1500 hardware was employed to monitor the output 
from the PV arrays, the strength of the sunlight 
from a solar radiation meter, the temperature from 
thermocouples and the wind speed from an 

The 1500 hardware was chosen due to 
its robust nature and the fact that monitoring 
points can be distributed all around the building, 
connected by a single RS485 link. All of this data 
from around the building was then fed to a central 
PC, via the RS485 link, to be logged by Windmill 

If more electricity is generated by the PV array 
than the building consumes, then this excess can 
be sold to the National Grid. A 2-way power meter 
is employed to measure the power in and out of the 
building and the and its operation is logged from 
an RS232 outputs via Windmills ComIML serial 
driver (

The software displays the real-time data from all 
the devices on a Graphics screen, and also saves 
the data to disk to allow trends to be plotted and 
reports to be produced. 

The Eco House has just scooped a top award at the 
prestigious Britannia National Homebuilder Design 
Awards. Beating off tough competition, the Eco 
house was singled out as the Best House of the 
Future, so we may be seeing more of these 
technologies in our own homes. 

Further Reading
More details of the Eco House are on the 
University of Nottingham's web site.

Information on the Microlink 1500 hardware is in the 
Microlink Measurement and Control Systems Catalogue. 
This is available free from Biodata

by Ben Worthy

Resources for Teaching Technology

Windmill is a popular package for teaching technology 
and we give a few application examples at the end of 
this section. But first, other resources giving help and 
ideas for teaching technology and engineering.

Technology in the Classroom
  This site includes case studies describing what 
  instructors are doing with technology in the classroom 
  and the types of problems they are solving

Stamps in Class
  The Parallax BASIC Stamp is a small microcontroller 
  often used to teach robotics and process control. Their 
  website includes examples of educational projects and 

Java Applets for Engineering Education 
  Java applets to calculate, for example, the 
  thermodynamic properties of air or to study shear, 
  moment and deflection distribution over the length of a 
  beam under various transverse loads.

Journal of Technology Education
  A forum for discussion of topics relating to technology 
  education. The Journal publishes book reviews, 
  editorials, guest articles, comprehensive literature 
  reviews and reactions to previously published articles.

International Technology Education Association 
  ITEA supports the teaching of technology. Much of this 
  website, however, requires you to be a member before 
  giving you access to information.

American Society for Engineering Education
  Aims to promote and improve engineering and technology 
  education. A source of engineering education resources.


Windmill in Education

Windmill Software is often used to teach technology. Its 
versatility, ease-of-integration with other packages 
like Excel and, of course, the free download make it 
very popular in schools and colleges. Here are just a 
few of the ways Windmill has been used in education.

Teacher Training
  Otago Schools' Technology Education Centre (OSTEC) are 
  using the free Windmill software in one of their short 
  courses to extend teachers' professional development. 
  OSTEC illustrate how to collect data from an electronic 
  temperature sensor and use it in a spreadsheet on the 
  teacher's PC.

Measurement and Data Analysis
  Napier University (Edinburgh) has used Windmill in their 
  computer spreadsheet-based measurement and data analysis 

Process Control in Further Education
  The free Windmill Graphics simulation software has been 
  seen as essential for further education student's 
  Information Technology core skills. The software lets 
  students control a process from their PC screens. By 
  pointing and clicking they can simulate closing drain 
  valves, filling tanks, starting heating operations, and 
  so on - thus familiarising themselves with process 
  control software.

* Copyright Windmill Software Ltd
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Windmill Software Ltd, PO Box 58, North District Office,
Manchester, M8 8QR, UK
Telephone: +44 (0)161 833 2782
Facsimile: +44 (0)161 833 2190
E-mail: [email protected]


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