Use a do-it-yourself self-made wind turbine on your property to create electricity from natural wind energy.
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Several years ago I bought some remote properties in Arizona. I am an astronomer and I wanted a place to practice my hobby away from the terrible light pollution that is close to cities of any real size. I found a great piece of property. The problem is that it is so remote that no electrical service is available. This is not really a problem. No electricity is equivalent to any light pollution. However, it would be nice to have at least some electricity, since so much of life in the twenty-first century depends on it.
One thing I noticed immediately about my property is that most of the time the wind is blowing. Almost from the moment I bought it, I had the idea of mounting a wind turbine and doing some electricity, and then adding some solar panels. This is the story of how I did it. Not with an expensive turbine bought in the shop, but with a built house that costs very little. If you have some manufacturing skills and some electronic know-how, you can even build one.
Step 1: Acquiring a generator
I started with Google for information on home-made wind turbines. There are many out there in an extraordinary variety of design and complexity. All of them had five things in common though:
- A generator
- A montage that keeps it transformed in the wind
- A tower to lift it in the wind
- Batteries and an electronic control system
I reduced the project to just five small systems. If attacked one at a time, the project did not seem too difficult. I decided to start with the generator. My online research showed that many people were building their own generators. It seemed a little too complicated, at least for a first effort. Others used surplus permanent magnet DC motors as generators in their designs. This seemed like a simpler way to go. So I started to examine which engines were the best for the job. Many people seemed to like using old tape drive engines (more relics from the days when computers had a large reel to rewind tape drives). The best apparently are a couple of engine models made by Ametek. The best engine built by Ametek is a 99 volt DC motor that works great as a generator. Unfortunately, they are almost impossible to identify these days. There are a lot of other Ametek engines around though. A couple of their other models make decent generators and can still be found in places like eBay. I managed to score one of the good 30-volt Ametek engines on eBay for only $ 26. They do not go so cheap these days. People are realizing that they make big wind generators. Other brands will work, so do not worry about the price Ameteks is making. Buy wisely. However, the engine I received was in good condition and worked great. Even just giving a quick turn to the shaft with your fingers would turn a 12-volt light bulb into a pretty bright one. I gave him a real test by pulling it up in my drill and connecting it to a dummy load. It works perfectly as a generator, easily emitting a couple of hundred watts with this configuration. I knew that if I could create a good set of blades to drive it, it would produce a lot of energy.
Step 2: Creating the blades
The blades and a hub to connect them were the next agenda. More online research followed. A lot of people made their own blades by carving them in wood. It seemed like a huge amount of work. I discovered that other people produced blades by cutting sections of PVC pipes and molding them into wing profiles. It seemed to me much more promising. I followed that general recipe. I did things a little bit differently though. I used the black ABS pipe since my local center store happened to have a pre-cut length. I used 6 "pipes instead of 4" pipes and 24 inches instead of 19-5 / 8. I started dividing a piece of 24-inch pipe around its circumference and cutting it lengthwise into four pieces. Then I cut out a blade and used it as a model to cut out the others. This left me with four blades (three plus one in reserve). Then I did some extra sanding and modeling using my belt sander and the hand sander on the cut edges to try and make them better profiles. I do not know if it's really an improvement, but it does not seem to hurt, and the blades look really good (if I say that too).
Step 3: Creating the hub
Later I needed a hub to screw the blades and fix it to the engine. Rummaging in my workshop, I found a toothed pulley that fitted on the crankshaft, but had a diameter that was a bit small to screw the blades. I also found an aluminum scrap disc 5 inches in diameter and 1/4 "thick on which I could screw the blades, but that did not stick to the shaft of the engine: the simple solution was obviously to unite these two pieces together to make the hub.After drilling, tapping and barbed later, I had a hub.
Phase 4: construction of the turbine assembly
Later I needed a turbine assembly. To simplify, I opted to tie the engine to a piece of wood 2 X 4. The correct length of the wood was calculated using the highly scientific method of choosing the most beautiful piece of scrap 2 3 4 from the pile of scrap wood and going with the necessary time. I also cut a piece of 4 "diameter PVC pipe to create a shield to go over the engine and protect it from the elements.For a tail to keep it facing the wind, I used a piece of heavy aluminum again. that would not have been a big enough tail, but it seems to work fine.The turbine blows in the wind every time it changes direction.I added some dimensions to the photo I doubt that one of these measures is critical anyway, then I had to start thinking about a kind tower and a kind of bearing that allowed the head to turn freely in the wind. I spent a lot of time in my home shopping center (Lowes and Home Depot), finally, I found a solution that seems to work well: during the brainstorming, I noticed that the 1 "diameter iron pipe is a good steel inside the 1-1 / 4" diameter. EMT electric conduit: I could use a long 1-1 / 4 "pipe like my tower and 1 "fittings a at both ends. For the head unit I attached a 1 "iron floor flange centered 7-1 / 2 inches from the end of the 2 X 4 generator, and screwed a 10" iron tube nipple to the inside. The nipple would slide into the top of the piece of conduit that I would use as a tower and form a nice cushion. The generator wires would pass through a hole made in 2 X 4 at the center of the conduit pipe / unit and will exit at the base of the tower.
Step 5: Build the base of the tower
For the base of the tower, I started by cutting a disc of diameter 2 in plywood. I made a U-shaped assembly with 1 "fittings, while in the middle of this assembly I inserted a 1 1/4" tee. The tee is free to rotate around the 1 "tube and forms a hinge that allows me to raise and lower the tower, so I added a closed nipple, a 1-1 / 4 to 1 reducer fitting and a 12" nipple. Later I added a 1 "tee between the reducer and the 12" nipple so that there was a place where the wires could exit the tube. This is shown in a photo further down the page. Later I also drilled holes in the wooden disc to allow me to use the steel posts to lock it on the ground. The second photo shows the head and the base together. You can start to see how it will go together. Imagine a 10-inch steel pipe that connects the two pieces. Since I was building this thing in Florida, but I was going to use it in Arizona, I decided not to buy the piece by 10 until I arrived in Arizona. This meant that the wind turbine would not be completely assembled and would not be properly tested until I was ready to field it. It was a little scary because I would not know if it worked until I tried it in Arizona.
Step 6: Paint all the wooden parts
Subsequently, I painted all the wooden parts with a pair of white latex paint I had left from another project. I wanted to protect the wood from the elements. This photo also shows the lead counterweight I added to the left side of the 2 X 4 under the tail to balance the head.
Step 7: The finished head of the wind turbine
This photo shows the main unit finished with the connected blades. Is it a nice thing or what? It almost seems like I know what I'm doing. I never had a chance to properly test the unit before going to Arizona. A windy day, however, I took my head out and held it high in the air above my head, in the wind, just to see if the blades were spinning as well as I hoped. Spin have done. Within a few seconds, the blades turned into a really frightening speed (no load on the generator), and I found myself clinging to a gigantic, spinning top of death, with no idea how to put it down without getting myself cut to pieces. Fortunately, in the end I managed to get it out of the wind and slow it down at a non-lethal speed. I will not do that again
Step 8: Build the charge controller
Now that I had solved all the mechanical parts, it was time to aim for the electronic end of the project. A wind energy system consists of the wind turbine, one or more batteries to store the power produced by the turbine, a blocking diode to prevent the supply of wasted batteries that run the engine / generator, a secondary load to discharge the power from the turbine when the batteries are fully charged and a charge controller to do everything. There are many controllers for solar and wind energy systems. Every place that sells alternative energy stuff will have them. There are always too many on sale on eBay. I decided to try to build mine. So he's back on Google for information on wind turbine charge controllers. I found a lot of information, including some complete schematics, which was very nice and made the construction of my unit very simple. Again, while I was following a general recipe from an online source, I did some things differently. Being an avid electronics engineer from an early age, I already have a huge stock of electronic components, so I had to buy very little to complete the controller. I replaced several components for some parts and I reworked the circuit a little just to be able to use the parts I already had at my fingertips. In this way I had to buy almost nothing to build the controller. The only part I had to buy was the relay. I built my charge controller prototype by bolting all the pieces to a piece of plywood, as seen in the first picture below. I will rebuild it in a weatherproof enclosure later. Whether you build your own or buy one, you will need some sort of controller for your wind turbine. The general principle behind the controller is that it monitors the battery voltage (or batteries) in the system and sends energy from the turbine to the batteries to recharge or discharge the power from the turbine into a secondary load if the batteries are fully charged (to avoid overloading and destroy the batteries). During operation, the wind turbine is connected to the controller. The lines then work from the controller to the battery. All loads are taken directly from the battery. If the battery voltage falls below 11.9 volts, the controller switches the turbine power to charge the battery. If the battery voltage rises to 14 volts, the controller will switch off the turbine power into the dummy load. There are trimpots to adjust the voltage levels at which the controller moves back and forth between the two states. I chose 11.9 V for the point of discharge and 14 V for the fully loaded point according to the recommendations of different websites on the correct loading of lead batteries. All sites recommended slightly different tensions. In a sense, I mediated them and found my numbers. When the battery voltage is between 11.9 V and 14.8 V, the system can be switched between recharging or unloading. A pair of buttons allows me to switch from one state to another at any time for testing purposes. Normally the system works automatically. While the battery is charging, the yellow LED is on. When the battery is charged and the power is discharged to the dummy load, the green LED is on. This gives me minimal feedback on what's going on with the system. I also use my multimeter to measure both the battery voltage and the output voltage of the turbine. Probably I will eventually add to the system or meters of panel or voltmeter of automotive type and charge / discharge counters. I will do it when I have it in a kind of enclosure. I used my variable voltage bench power supply to simulate a battery in various charge and discharge states to test and tune the controller. I could set the voltage of the 11.9V power supply and set the trimpot for the low voltage trip point. So I could turn the voltage up to 14V and set the trimpot for the high voltage trimpot. I had to get the set before taking it to the field because I would not have the chance to set it up. I found out harder that it is important with this controller design to first connect the battery, then connect the wind turbine and / or the solar panels. If you connect the wind turbine first, the wild oscillations of the voltage coming from the turbine will not be attenuated by the battery load, the controller will behave erratically, the relay will start wildly and the voltage peaks could destroy the integrated circuits. Then always connect the batteries first, then connect the wind turbine. Also, be sure to disconnect the wind turbine first when you remove the system. Disconnect the battery (s) last.
Step 9: erect the tower
In the end, all parts of the project were completed. Everything was done just a week before my holiday arrived. He was cutting it close. I dismantled the turbine and I carefully packed the parts and tools that I would have to assemble for their journey across the country. Then, again, I went to my remote property in Arizona for a week of off-grid relaxation, but this time with the hope of having some electricity on the site. The first order of the day was the creation and strengthening of the tower. After arriving at my property and unloading my van, I drove up to the nearest Home Depot (about 60 miles in one way) and bought the 1-1 / 4 "10" pipe I needed to I used the nylon rope to anchor the pole to four large wooden posts pushed into the ground. The rigging on the lower ends of each type line allowed me to climb the tower, releasing the line from both stakes in line with at the base, I could easily raise and lower the tower, but eventually the nylon line and the wooden posts will be replaced with steel poles and steel cables, but for the test this arrangement worked well, while the second picture shows a close-up of how the lines of the type attach to the top of the tower: I used the brackets for the chain link as joining points for the lines of my type. The fence brackets are not fixed firmly on the conducted, which has a d lower diameter of the enclosure where they are normally used. So there is a steel band at both ends of the parenthesis stack to hold them in place. The third picture shows the base of the tower, pointed to the ground, with the wind turbine wire coming out of the tee under the conduit tower. I used an old orange extension cord with a broken plug to connect between the turbine and the controller. I simply cut both ends and put the fork wings. Threading the wire through the tower proved to be easy. It was a cold morning and the rope was very stiff. I was able to simply push it through the length of the conduit tower. On a warmer day I would probably have to use a fish strap or rope to pull the cable through the conduit. I became lucky.
Step 10: Erect the wind turbine
The first picture shows the head of the turbine installed on the top of the tower. I greased the tube on the underside of the head and slipped it into the top of the conduit. He did a good job, just as I had planned. Sometimes I even get surprised. Too bad that there was nobody around to have a photo of raising the Iwo Jima flag of me that raised the tower with the head installed. The second picture shows the fully assembled wind turbine. Now I'm just waiting for the wind to blow. You would not know, it was calm and quiet that morning. It was the first calm day I had ever seen out there. The wind always blew whenever I had been there.
Step 11: Connect the electronics
The first photo below shows the electronic setting. The battery, the inverter, the meter and the charge controller of the prototype are all seated on a plywood panel over a blue plastic tank. I insert a long extension into the inverter and restart the engine at my campsite. Once the wind begins to blow, the turbine head hooks into it and starts rotating. It rises rapidly until the output voltage exceeds the battery voltage plus the drop of the blocking diode (about 13.2 volts, depending on the state of the battery charge). It really works without load until then. Once this voltage is exceeded, the turbine suddenly has a load as it starts to drain energy into the battery. Once under load, RPMs increase slightly as the wind speed increases. More wind means more power into the battery, which means more load on the generator. So the system is practically autonomous. I have not seen signs of exaggeration. Naturally, in case of stormy weather, all bets have been canceled. Changing the controller to discharge the power in the dummy load did a good job by braking the turbine and slowing it down even with stronger gusts. Actually shorting the turbine power is an even better brake. Bring the turbine to a stop even with strong winds. Short-circuiting the output is the way I made the turbine rise and fall, so I would not cut and cut into small cubes from the rotating blades. Beware though, the whole head group can still swing and crack hard on the pumpkin if the wind changes direction while you're working on these things. So be careful out there.
Step 12: Enjoy yourself with power in the middle of nowhere
How sweet! I have electricity! Here I have my laptop installed and connected to the power supplied by the inverter, which in turn is powered by the wind turbine. Normally I only have about two hours of battery life on my laptop. So I can not use it much while I'm camping. It is still useful to download photos from my camera when your memory card fills up, taking notes on projects like this, working on the next great American novel or just watching DVD movies. Now I have no battery life problems, at least until the wind blows. In addition to the laptop, I can also recharge all my battery-powered equipment like my cell phone, my camera, my electric razor, my air pump, etc. Life was very primitive in previous camping trips when the batteries in all my electronic things are over. I used the wind turbine to power my new trailer on a subsequent vacation. The strong spring winds prevented the wind turbine from spinning all day every day and even most nights while I was in Arizona. The turbine provided enough power for the 12V indoor lighting and enough for 120 V AC at the power outlets to keep my charger, electric shaver and mini vacuum (camping is messy) all loaded and running. My girlfriend complained that she did not have enough energy to run her hair dryer though.
Step 13: How much does it cost?
So how much did this cost? Well, I saved all the receipts for everything I bought related to this project.
Engine / generator
Various. pipe fittings
Home center store
Tube for blades
Home center store
Home center store
Home center store
Wood and aluminum
Pile of scraps
Rope and tensioners
Home center store
Already at your fingertips
Auto parts store
Taken from my UPS
Already at your fingertips
Already at your fingertips
Not bad. I doubt I could buy a commercially produced turbine with a comparable output power, in addition to a commercially available charge controller, in addition to a commercially produced tower for less than $ 750 – $ 1000
Step 14: Extra
I completed the reconstruction of the charge controller. Now it's in a semi-durable case and I've also added an integrated voltage meter. Both were purchased at low cost on eBay. I have also added some new features. The unit now has provisions for power inputs from multiple sources. It also has an energy distribution with an integrated 12V fuse for three external loads.
The second picture shows the charge controller inside. Basically I just transferred everything I had originally bolted to the plywood panel in the prototype in this box. I added a lighted automotive voltmeter and fuses for three external 12V loads. I used a heavy thread to try to reduce the losses due to the resistance of the wire. Every watt counts when you live off the grid.
The third image is the scheme for the new charge controller. It is practically the same as the previous one, with the exception of the addition of the voltmeter and additional fuse blocks for external loads.
The photo directly below is a block diagram of the entire power supply system.
Note that now I have only a solar panel built. I did not have time to complete the second one.
Step 15: Other extras
Once again I stayed in my remote property during my recent Arizona vacation. This time I had my wind turbine and my solar panel with me. Working together, they provided a lot of energy for my (certainly minimum) electricity requirement.
The second picture shows the new charge controller unit. The wires on the left side come from the wind turbine and the solar panel. The wires on the right side are going to the battery and the dummy load. I cut an old 100-horsepower extension cord to make cables to connect the wind turbine and the solar panel to the charge controller. The cable for the wind turbine is about 75 feet long and the solar panel cable is about 25 feet long. The battery bank currently in use consists of eleven sealed 12 V lead acid batteries with a capacity of 8 amps connected in parallel. This gives me 88 hours of storage capacity, which is sufficient for camping. As long as it is sunny and windy, (almost every day is sunny and windy on my property), the wind turbine and solar panel keep the batteries well charged.
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