How to Build a Basic Wind Turbine

off grid living

Making the decision to build your own wind turbine is certainly a noble one. Perhaps you want to save money on your electricity bills or want to reduce your carbon footprint. Whatever your reasons, learning how to build a basic wind turbine is often not as difficult as many people imagine. It is certainly not simple, but with the right planning and research, you can build a basic wind turbine in a short space of time.

The first thing to consider is how suitable your environment is for a wind turbine. If you live inland and in a very sheltered area for example, a wind turbine may not be a viable option. However, if you live on the coast and can’t step out of your front door without your hat blowing off, you’re likely to be a prime candidate.

The second thing you need to consider is how much electricity you want to generate, as this will determine the type and size of turbine you build. Most households use around 5000kW of electricity every year so depending on how much of this you want to save, your turbine will have to be the right size and have the correct efficiency level. Bear in mind however that the bigger and more efficient you want your turbine to be, the more complex and difficult to build it will become. To give you an idea of the type on energy you can yield from different turbine outputs, here are some key stats:

• A 1.5kW turbine produces around 3,942 kWh per year, and saves 3,390 Kg of CO2 emissions.

• A 5kW turbine produces 13,140 kWh per year, and saves 11,300 Kg of CO2 emissions.

• A 15kW turbine produces 39,420 kWh per year, and saves 33,900 Kg of CO2 emissions.

Basic wind turbines really only consist of three main parts – the blades, the mount for the blades, and the generator. Here is some advice for building these three elements for a for a simple wind turbine.

Blades

Homemade wind turbine blades are normally constructed of either fibreglass or wood. This is really because these materials are easy to come by and easy to carve, but they are also both strong. Carving turbine blades is an art in itself, but with a little practice and patience you can soon be producing some efficient propeller blades. Regarding the size of your blades, this depends on how much power you want to yield from your turbine. Roughly speaking, a 5m rotor diameter (from tip to tip) will produce approx 5000kW a year in ideal conditions. However, it is rare for a home-builder to be able to make a turbine of this size, so you are better off aiming for a 2-3m rotor diameter for your first attempt. For more information on carving wind turbine blades, here is the first in a series of useful videos on the subject:

Mount

The mount is basically the part of the turbine that holds the blades in place and keeps them upright. Many people underestimate just how strong this needs to be, but the force being placed on large blades by the wind means you need to reinforce thoroughly. Because the mount does not need to be light, steel is usually the best material to use and it is generally advised that there is at least one meter of ground clearance for the blades at their lowest point. As altitude tends to result in higher wind speeds it is common for turbines to be raised much higher above the ground however.

As you can see from the image at the top of this article, the mount is often reinforced with high-tension cables in all directions to prevent the turbine from blowing over. You’ll also notice that a tail has been fitted and the blades are mounted on a pivot to allow the turbine to adjust its position relative to wind direction and always achieve maximum efficiency.

Generator

For most home-built wind turbines the alternator from a car makes a convenient and semi-effective generator. However, as car alternators are designed to be fully efficient at more than 2000rpm, they are often not the ideal match for homemade wind turbines, which rarely exceed 300rpm. It is therefore necessary to gear them up to achieve a higher RPM, or instead use a purpose built generator. Permanent magnet generators are the best option, but they are not always easy to build so buying a pre-made option is often a good idea unless you really know what you are doing. The generator is the key to whether your wind turbine will be a success or not, so this is the area that deserves the most research before you begin your build.

Hopefully this article provides a good starting point for those who which to undertake a wind turbine construction, and I wish you the best of luck in your quest to reduce non-renewable fuel reliance.

Source: Living Off Grid

This looks like a project worth trying, especially if the components can be sourced cheaply or free of charge.  Domestic wind turbines are really useful in windy areas such as the coast.  Many homeowners and lodges along the Mozambique coastline use small wind turbines to generate electricity for low-draw appliances (in most of these cases main grid electricity is unavailable or unreliable).  Another excellent alternative energy source for southern Africa is solar energy.  Our high irradiation rates combined with solar energy subsidies make this form or renewable energy more accessible.

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