How to Build Your Own Wind Generator With Plastic Bottles in California

Written by david mcguffin
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How to Build Your Own Wind Generator With Plastic Bottles in California
Wind turbines represent a clean, renewable form of energy. (wind turbine image by redrex from

If you want to construct a small-scale wind turbine as a school project or as an experiment for a larger wind turbine to install in your home, then beginning with a soda bottle turbine will allow you to play around with several different variations of blade designs. Ideally, you will want to find a DC hobby motor with a gear shaft already attached to it so that you can attach the soda bottles to the gear. This would be much easier than fabricating your own gear and soldering it onto the shaft.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Soda bottles
  • PVC pipe
  • Zip ties
  • Scissors
  • DC hobby motor
  • Wiring
  • Anemometer
  • LED light bulb
  • Tap and dye set
  • Power drill
  • Multimeter
  • Soldering iron

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  1. 1

    Consult wind resource maps, such as the one found at the WindPoweringAmerica website in order to determine whether wind powering is feasible at your location. Generally, unless you live in southern California, and in some cases directly on the coast, you may not have enough sustained wind power for a larger wind turbine that would provide part or all of your electric utility needs. However, the purpose of a plastic bottle wind turbine is to serve as an educational model rather than a full-scale turbine.

  2. 2

    Check with local regulations about mounting turbines and other RE (renewable energy) systems on your home if you plan to use the plastic bottle turbine as a model for a larger RE system. Many California communities and municipalities require a permit in order to attach any type of RE system to your roof. However, you can get around this by making your plastic bottle turbine portable, which will allow you to put it on a second story window or deck while it is in use. As a result, you will not need to worry about zoning and regulations unless you plan to build a larger, permanent system.

  3. 3

    Mount your DC motor on a PVC pipe section. If your PVC pipe's diameter is larger than the width of the motor, then you may want to cut out a notch for the DC motor to fit into. Drill holes into the PVC pipe in order to use zip ties and string to secure the DC motor to the PVC pipe.

  4. 4

    Cut out the blades for your wind turbine from the soda bottles. If you have different sized soda bottles you can cut out different size blades, experimenting with the amount of leading and tailing edge to see which design gives you the most RPMs (revolutions per minute). Your DC motor should have an optimal RPM setting on its label or its manufacturer specifications. Use the scissors to cut the bottles to produce a sight cupping on the bottom part of the blade. The top part of the blade, as it appears vertically, should point upward without cupping. This will create a lower tip-speed ratio for the wind turbine to spin. Alternatively, you can fashion the blades to the shape of small aeroplane wings that are convex toward the leading edge and tapered in the trailing edge.

  5. 5

    Connect three or four blades to the DC motor's gear shaft. If your DC motor has a high RPM yield, use fewer blades to allow the motor to spin more quickly, or vice versa for a low RPM yield that requires higher torque from the blades. Use a tap and dye set to drill threaded bolt holes into the gear on the DC motor's gear shaft. Use bolts, nuts and washers to attach the blades to the threaded holes.

  6. 6

    Connect a wire to the back of the DC motor using a soldering iron or a screwdriver if the motor has a screw-in terminal. The size of the wire should exceed the expected amperage of the DC motor by 10 per cent to 20 per cent. Connect the wire to a small piece of plywood with an LED light and wire stapled to it. Solder the wire from the turbine to the LED light's wire. You may also want to connect the wires between the LED light and the turbine to a voltmeter to measure the voltage production of the turbine.

  7. 7

    Put the turbine outside in a windy location, such as on a second- or third-story balcony where you can measure the wind speed with an anemometer as well as the voltage production of your wind turbine.

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