Harnessing the wind through a turbine to generate electricity can offset some of your home's utility costs, bring electricity to a remote location or charge batteries for backup use later. You can build a small-scale wind turbine, suitable for home or remote use, but it will not replace all the electricity you receive from the grid. You can make a small turbine for as little as £130 as of February 2010. You can buy a car alternator or small motor for as little as £16 online, and the other items should be available at a hardware store.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- 1/4-inch and 7/32-inch drill bits
- Tape measure
- Crescent wrench
- Pipe wrench
- Chalk line
- Blade/hub assembly:
- Saw blade, 5/8-inch arbor continuous rim 8-inch or 10-inch (for hub)
- PVC pipe, 2 to 3 feet of 8-inch or 6-inch diameter (blades)
- 8 bolts, 3/4-inch by 1/4-inch (with washers and nuts)
- 2 sheet metal screws, 1/4-inch
- Diode (10 to 40 amps, larger preferable)
- Can UV protective spray paint
- Rotor and pivot:
- Alternator, or motor with a 5/8-inch shaft
- PVC pipe, 6-inch by 4-inch or 6-inch diameter
- Steel nipple, 10-inch by 1 1/4-inch
- Floor flange, 1 1/4-inch
- 3 feet of steel square tubing, 1-inch
- Steel sheet, 10-inch by 14-inch
- Tube waterproof construction adhesive
- Extension cord (as long as needed to reach final destination)
- 2 bolts, 3/4-inch by 1/4-inch (with washers and nuts)
- 3 sheet metal screws, 1/2-inch by 1/4-inch
- Drop Tower:
- 1-inch diameter steel pipe (threaded ends) of desired length. It's recommended that the tower is about 20 feet to 50 feet, basically 15 feet taller than any nearby obstacles. You likely will need sections of pipe joined together with threaded connectors.
- 3 chain link fence post clamps
- Guy-line or nylon rope
- 3 fence posts
- 2 floor flanges, 1-inch diameter
- 3 threaded steel pipe, 1-inch diameter by 2-inches long
- 2 elbow joints, 1-inch
- Tee, 1 1/4-inch
- Threaded steel pipe, 1-inch by 1 1/4-inch
- Reducing fitting, 1 1/4-inch to 1-inch
- Metal plate or piece of plywood, 2-foot by 2-foot (for base)
- Steel pipe, 1-inch by 1-foot long
Take the 2 foot to 3 foot section of PVC pipe and use the protractor on each end to mark it into 3 sections, two 150-degree sections and one 60-degree section, then mark with the chalk line and cut using the jigsaw.
Measure and mark 1 1/2 inches from along the rim of each 150-degree section of pipe, use the chalk line to mark the diagonal lines on each section, then cut them with the jigsaw. You should now have four triangular-shaped blades, you only need three, but having one extra isn't bad.
On each blade, 1/2 inch from the wide end and 1/4 inch from the long, straight edge, drill one 1/4-inch hole and drill another 1 inch from the first along the length of the blade.
Sand all edges down.
Paint with spray paint to protect the PVC. Let dry.
Use protractor to mark the saw blade out into three 120-degree sections from centre to edge.
Along sections, measure 1 1/2 inches from the centre of the blade, then mark two 1/4-inch holes 1 inch apart, along each section. Attach blades to hub with eight 1/4-inch nuts, bolts and washers, using crescent wrench. Do not over-tighten, it could crack the PVC.
Turbine Blades and Hub Instructions
Using jigsaw, cut the 6-inch length of PVC pipe to fit any mounting brackets of alternator or motor. The alternator should be flush with the front end of the pipe, with the shaft protruding unobstructed. The shaft needs to stick out so the hub will not rub against the generator housing. Remove alternator, then cut a lengthwise 1-inch slot out of the bottom. Paint housing with UV spray paint, let dry.
Drill a 1/4-inch hole through both sides of square steel tube about 7 1/2 inches from its front end. Make sure holes are smooth. Cut off both ends of the extension cord and check to make sure the cord easily fits through holes. Center the 1 1/4-inch floor flange over hole in the metal tubing. Try to get three flange holes on the tubing (you only need two, but a third adds stability). Mark holes, then use the 7/32-inch drill bit to drill pilot holes. Attach flange with screws.
Cut about 8 inches in from other end, on the square tubing's vertical axis. Insert the 10-inch by 14-inch metal sheet into slot, then drill two 1/4-inch holes through the tube and near either end of the metal sheet. Attach with two 1/4-inch nuts and bolts.
Attach extension cord to alternator wiring. Place alternator into the PVC pipe, making sure the shaft extends out of the front then place entire assembly onto metal tubing.
Using contractor's adhesive, glue the metal tube to the pipe and around any cuts made to the PVC for the alternator's mounting bracket(s). Do not get any on the shaft or any other exposed parts of the alternator. Attach rotor assembly to the head unit.
Head and Pivot Instructions
Assemble the bottom. Attach the two 1-inch floor flanges to the short lengths of 1-inch pipe, then attach each to an elbow joint. Slide the 1 1/4-inch tee over the third short length of pipe, then attach elbows with floor flange assemblies. Using metal or deck screws, attach flanges to base. Screw short piece of 1 1/4-inch pipe into open end of tee, then connect the reduction fitting. To that, attach the 1-inch piece of tubing. Attach 1-inch tee (the extension cord will come out here.).
Attach long pieces of steel tubing to reach the desired height.
Attach the 10-inch long 1 1/4-inch nipple to the 1 1/4-inch flange on the bottom of the rotor assembly. This will allow the rotor assembly to pivot atop the 1-inch steel tube tower. Insert tower top into nipple. Push extension cord down through length of tower and pull out at 1-inch tee at bottom.
Place fence clamps above top connector, attach guy-lines. For a taller tower, you may want to consider two sets of guy-lines.
Move turbine to desired location, facing tower on ground in the prevailing wind's direction. Drive two posts into the ground, equidistant from each other and halfway the length (or more) of the tower on either side. Attach guy-lines with adequate slack to tighten. Drive third post into ground opposite from downed tower, creating a triangular base. Use third guy-line to pull turbine upright, tie third guy line to third post. Pull slack out of all three guy-lines. Attach extension cord to battery deck or inverter and begin using it.
Tower and Completion Instructions
Tips and warnings
- Before considering building a wind turbine it's good to know how much wind your area receives annually. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has detailed wind maps of the country.
- Permanent magnet alternators produce power more efficiently than vehicle alternators for a wind turbine. Car alternators also waste about 40 to 60 watts. But permanent magnet alternators, which can produce up to 5kW cost much more---about £168 to £650 for this type of application.
- Height equals stronger, steadier winds. Therefore, the higher and less obstructed the tower your turbine is on, the greater its capacity to generate power.
- To store energy produced by your turbine, use deep-cycle batteries (batteries similar to those used in golf carts) and a charge controller to keep the batteries from overcharging.
- This style turbine is not suitable for direct grid interconnection or direct connection to your home's energy supply. To accomplish either, it would first have to be connected to a battery backup and an inverter to convert the electricity to AC current and at the appropriate cycle-speed.
- Before building a turbine check local statutes to see if there are any regulations on building a tower. The American Wind Energy Association has put together a guide (in the Public Interest How and Why to Permit for Small Wind Systems of its website) for local and state governments.
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