Backyard Wind Turbine, Part 5: Building and Installing the Wind Turbine (3 of 5)

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Project Table of Contents

  1. What kind of energy should I harvest?
  2. City ordinance and neighborhood considerations
  3. Installing the tower base
  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…

Prototyping (aka, the “Mark 1”)

What started this whole project and launched it from a wild hair into something I could actually do was an old treadmill that we inherited when I got married. The treadmill broke one day and I couldn’t fix it. It was too big to just throw away, so I had to take it apart (read: break it into smaller pieces). In so doing I “liberated” the DC motor, and it was a big one. This motor sat on a shelf in the garage for years until I finally stumbled upon the incorrectly named “Chispito Wind Generator.” There were my plans. I went to work building the thing with reclaimed PVC pipe, a scrap of plywood, a new pumping flange and nipple, and a length of steel tube. Within a few weekends I had a “functional” wind turbine. All in all, materials for the head and tail assembly cost me under $20. I didn’t have a tower or even a post to mount it on, but I was on my way. The assembled head and tail assembly sat in my garage until our good friends donated a tetherball pole to us. I now had a “prototyping tower.”

I placed the head and tail assembly atop the 10-foot pole… and waited for the wind. And waited. And waited. Finally we got a breezy evening and watched the blades slowly spin. It was beautiful. Until the blades unscrewed the hub and fell to the ground. I’d cut my blades the wrong way – rather, I cut my blades such that they spun the wrong direction, you want the rotation to tighten down on the hub, not loosen it. Good to know.

So I cut and mounted a new set of blades, then mounted them atop the pole, and waited for the wind… And waited.

Finally we got a gusty evening. I ran outside and eagerly hooked up my multimeter. The blades were spinning pretty quickly, but the output peaked at 2.4 volts. To charge batteries I needed at least 12 volts. I was devastated, but I finally knew why the treadmill had stopped working: the motor was shot. I left the “Mark 1” atop the pole just so I could see it spin.

By this point in time I’d learned enough about the whole system that I decided to “upgrade” when I built my “Mark 2.”

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