After submitting two new wind farm puzzles for the May/June 2015 Energy Issue of Imagine, it was obvious to me what the next large update to the website should be in the fall. Even though the wind farm puzzles debuted in 2008 (when the website was undergoing its last major upgrade), there was still a lot of work to be done.
Whenever I come up with a new idea for a puzzle, I try to create several of that type of puzzle at the same time, and the wind farm puzzles were no exception. But due to poor planning on my part, I was running out of suitable puzzles for the magazine from the group of puzzles I had originally created. So the first task was to reorganize the available puzzles and fill holes in the lineup by creating some new wind farm puzzles. Thus, for example, the puzzle originally labeled as #4 is now #6. This also meant that some puzzles that were “website exclusives” were taken down, since they are now included in my plans for what will be published in the future. Even though a couple of puzzles were removed from the website, there are now more wind farm puzzles available than ever before. Plus I now have a batch of wind farm puzzles for future publication in suitable issues of the magazine.
Until today, the correct solution to each wind farm puzzle was based on the nonspecific instruction of arranging the turbines to produce the most energy. I always felt that the solver should have a good reason to understand why their solution must produce the most units of energy, but that level of understanding can be difficult to achieve. Concerned that some solvers would never be confident that they had found the solution, all puzzles now include a “good, better, best” energy unit rating scale. This gives the solver some idea of what they should be shooting for when arranging the turbines. This was inspired by mobile games I’ve seen that include a three star rating system for each level. The scale (different for each puzzle) is taken from various possible turbine arrangements, with “best” representing the absolute maximum amount of energy producible.
In addition to the solution, my goal is to always give some sort of solution explanation or problem space, depending on the type of puzzle. When the wind farm puzzles debuted on the website, they did not include detailed solutions. It took a lot of thinking and effort to figure out the simplest way to communicate how we can be sure that the best solution is, in fact, the best. I’m pleased to say that all wind farm puzzles now include detailed solution explanations of how to achieve the best energy output. Some of these (I’m looking at you Puzzle 10) took many attempts to figure out how to clearly and concisely explain the solution. I hope that these and other detailed solutions provide you with a helpful way of thinking about the puzzles.