My name is Roy Rakobitsch and I enjoy dabbling around with wind turbines -“dabbling” is an understatement, as it has mostly become my life over the years. I don’t limit myself to wind, as I have lots of experience with other types of energy and electronics, but wind energy seems to hold its intrigue and has a bit of romance associated with it in my eyes. Wind energy -as an art form- is somewhat of a happy marriage (balancing act) between electrical and mechanical designs -Its very useful and quite challenging to make work correctly, and I think that’s why I enjoy it so much.
I am certainly not alone in feeling this way
My interest in electricity started when I was very young as soon as I could crawl and walk. I developed an affinity for shiny metal things and wires. I would make my mom read me stories about electricity. I would drag old appliances around with me everywhere I went. I would try and sleep with them, as another child might sleep with a teddy bear. These were my favorite “toys”, not wooden blocks and toy cars. Despite my mother’s repeated attempts to remove them, she ultimately gave up. I’m fortunate for that.
My backyard growing up, was an organic farm on the east end of Long Island, NY -which my parents operated since 1976 (Beaverdam Organic Farm). It was there that my three younger siblings and I would run around and get into trouble.
Eventually I would use that space to start experimenting with electronics, towers, antenna systems, radio transmitters and eventually wind energy systems. I didn’t really have anyone in my early years who influenced me per se, so much of what I have learned I had to figure out on my own- by reading books, and experimenting. I really enjoy learning, and I still try to learn through experience to this day.
When I was 14 years old, I wanted to get my Ham license (Amateur Radio). I studied for my Technician ticket, and passed the test. A few years down the road and I would learn Morse code (CW) and upgrade license classes. I spent a fair bit of time exploring the woods around the farm (Suffolk County Pine Barrens) as a kid and wanted to have the ability to operate portable radio equipment remotely. This, -for some strange reason- seemed fascinating to me, so I set out on trying to figure out how to make this work.
I had learned enough I had thought, about batteries and started learning a bit about wind generators and building small turbines out of small DC brush motors and brushless stepper motors that I had scavenged from old printers. I had a childhood friend that was sort of into similar things, so we would build these little wind powered charging devices and float them on homemade rafts in the bay. I quickly learned that it was a tough environment for that sort of thing to survive in, let alone work reliably. Ultimately some sank, some survived and none really worked very long. Quite the valuable learning lesson.
I started to get interested in solar PV as well-for charging batteries, but this was still fairly expensive and as a kid, it was not attainable to me in the same way that a wind powered generator was. I could simply take apart a television, unwind the yolk coils and rewind into a crude alternator using some salvaged hard drive magnets.
Over the years I’ve had some formal training in electronics, worked for various companies, repair shops, two-way radio shops, fixed many types of things, designed some test equipment…
Around 1999 or so I met a group of people over the internet that would channel my interests in renewables forward. This was Dan Bartmann and Dan Fink from Otherpower.com. By this time I had started to experiment with building bigger turbines and charging systems that would power my lights and refrigerator. These early 12v systems were a mess, and far from code compliant, but they were fun, challenging, ever-evolving and dangerous; but for the most part they worked. These experiments presented the opportunity to learn and so I began to live off-grid as a great way to challenge and ultimately prove my designs. I’ve spent many years on their Fieldlines forum (under the username: Electronbaby) and have shared many projects I have built with lots of great folks all around the world. Although I don’t make it onto the Fieldlines forum as much as I used to in the early years, I was always attracted to the open source approach to sharing and figuring this stuff out. Lots of folks collectively benefit, and learn…It’s very inspiring!
I quit my day job around early 2006 and got involved in installing grid-connected PV systems. I happened to live in a good market for this (eastern Long Island), as kWh from the utility is one of the highest in the Nation. The utility company (LILCO/LIPA) could not build new power plants on the East End and a handful of folks could afford this sort of thing which was fairly expensive at the time ($8-$9/watt) It was a great learning experience and quite profitable. Ultimately, after about a year of doing this, I started Windsine and continued to sub-contract installs for a bit, but ultimately went out on my own. In addition to Windsine’s local wind and PV work, I started to take on more small wind work around the Northeast. I made a lot of great friends and worked on a ton of cool projects.
Around 2010 I started working a bit in the Midwest. I also got to attend my first Small Wind Conference, which is an annual gathering of small wind turbine designers and installers. This was exciting for me because I got to meet lots of like minded folks and discuss ways to make the industry better. By this time I had been working a bunch on small wind systems as well as PV; mostly grid connected systems, but also a handful of off grid systems.
I began to make a lot of friends and work on many more systems, from various manufacturers (and other installers), mainly in the Northeast US, but eventually all over North America. I’ve also attended every small wind conference since!
I started working for Endurance Wind Power as a subcontractor (Windsine) in mid 2011 and about a year later (mid 2012) decided to relocate to Southwest Wisconsin. When we moved, I went full-time with Endurance. It was during this time I got to travel quite a bit of North America and although it was exhausting at the time, I sort of miss it now. It was a lot of fun.
Currently my wife and I live off-grid on a ridge top in southwest Wisconsin. We keep a few animals, grow some vegetables but mainly I stay busy with the renewable energy stuff.
Windsine is still my creative outlet for my renewable energy interests. Honestly, although I don’t advertise much, I seem to stay pretty busy. I am available for hire at some pretty reasonable rates, so if you need help on a PV or small wind system, shoot me an email.
I have been fortunate to have worked on many of the commercially available small turbines out there, (literally hundreds of sites around the US) and I look forward to new opportunities to learn new turbines as well as building and collaborating on new turbine or system designs.