Backyard Wind Turbine, Part 3: Installing the Tower Base


Project Table of Contents

  1. What kind of energy should I harvest?
  2. City ordinance and neighborhood considerations
  3. Installing the tower base (this article)
  4. Building and securing the tower
  5. Building and installing the wind turbine
  6. Wiring up the electrical connections
    • Wiring
    • Preventing “reverse flow”
    • Regulating and controlling the charge
    • Batteries
    • Dump Loads
  7. Afterward…

This is the third in a series of articles detailing my adventures in setting up a small-wind backyard wind turbine.

We’re to the point in the process where one really becomes committed to the process. This step involves cement, so we’re talking a pretty bold and fairly permanent step in the process.

First, why a tower? Why not just slap the think up on your roof? Although you can do that, I’d recommend against it. No matter how much time you spend balancing your blades, you’re still going to have some vibration (or “chatter”), this is going to translate into noise and eventually damage to your structure.

Second, what makes a good tower? Well, if you can afford it, an actual tower, they’re expensive, but they were designed to do exactly what you’re looking for: get the turbine up off the ground and into the open wind. Telephone poles make good substitutes and are substantially less expensive than other alternatives, but are relatively expensive to install. Many small-winders are using metal drain-pipe or even metal plumbing pipe for their tower. Whatever material you choose for your tower will dictate what kind of base you install to support it.

I picked metal plumbing pipe, partly because it’s relatively inexpensive, mostly because it’s what others are using. That’s what I’m going to use.

With all towers, an integral part, and one of the most important ones, is the base. Without a solid base, it doesn’t matter how high or low your tower is, nor does it matter how strong your guy wires are. You need something solid that won’t move around, and will do its job without worry.

Next, unless you have a VERY tall ladder, you probably want to be able to raise and lower your tower, therefore you’ll likely want your base to accommodate this as well.

imageVela Creations has a good example of using metal plumbing pipe to create a suitable base, and a tee-fitting to use as a pivot point. This is what theirs looks like.

I built mine using two 12-inch sections of 1.25” nipple, two 1.25” floor flanges, a 6-inch length of 1.25” nipple, two 1.25” right-angle elbows, and a 1.5” tee.

First I connected the flanges and the elbows to the 12-inch nipples, then connected one of these assemblies to the 6-inch nipple. I then slipped the 1.5” tee over the 6-inch nipple, and connected the other assembly to the open end of the 6-inch nipple. For ease of installation, I installed a 1.5” 6-inch nipple into the tee.

Make sure you tighten all these connections with pipe wrenches! Hand-tight just won’t cut it, and after this next step, you won’t be able to go back and tighten anything later.

Which brings us to cement! The Vela Creations folks recommend a 24-inch nipple going in to the ground and didn’t cap the ends with flanges. My home improvement store didn’t have 24-inch nipple, and I didn’t want to cut threads on the end of a 48-inch section of pipe (cut in half), so I went with 12-inches and flanges. I’ll let you know if I have problems with this configuration.

I dug a hole 2.5-feet deep, filled a half-foot of pea-gravel in the bottom for drainage, then added a bag of post-mix. Onto this I set and leveled/plumbed my base assembly, then added another bag of post-mix. After checking for level and plumb again I doused the whole area with water. I left this sit for two days without touching it, and it’s now solid!

I’d planned on snapping some pictures of the process, but was under the gun to get it done: it had started to rain, and my post mix wasn’t covered, so in the interest of not having chunks of cement rather than post mix, I just got the job in and done.

Then it snowed. So I have yet to progress further in the project.

Next I need to purchase a bracket to attach the tower to the side of my home when it’s in the upright position, several sections 1.25-inch of pipe, and a reducer to take me from my 1.5” nipple to my 1.25” tower sections.

I’ll cover all that in my next segment, Part 4: Building and Securing the Tower. Stay tuned (or subscribe to my RSS Feed).

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