Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Hardware Hacking Power Science

How to Build a 17-ft Wind Turbine 335

Posted by timothy
from the perfect-for-annoying-neighborhood-pets dept.
agentfive writes "The people over at Treehugger have found an amazing little article on how to build a 17ft - 3kW+ output Wind Turbine. Apparently this is the latest project of OtherPower.com and the site has a variety of other engergy saving/producing projects including a Homebrew Maytag Gas Battery charger."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

How to Build a 17-ft Wind Turbine

Comments Filter:
  • Beautiful! (Score:4, Funny)

    by 0110011001110101 (881374) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @02:49PM (#13056097) Journal
    I'll take 2 please, mounted side by side, in opposite directions, my current window fan just isn't cuttin the mustard...
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @02:51PM (#13056116)
    DIY stories so far today:
    Homebuilt 19" Mini-ITX Server Rack [slashdot.org]
    The Floating Powerbook [slashdot.org]
    A Practical Guide to DIY LCD Projectors [slashdot.org]
    How to Build a 17-ft Wind Turbine [slashdot.org]

    And it's only 2:45pm EST.
    Did Bob Vila donate a large sum of money to Slashdot or something?
  • Much as I would love to generate my own electricity, a wind turbine isn't likely to be allowed by my town.

    Pretty much the only clean energy that I could generate legally is solar, and that's just not cost effective, especially in Massachusetts.
    • by RichMan (8097)
      Roof Shingle power sources. There are now a number of suppliers.

      http://www.kingsolar.com/catalog/mfg/uni-solar/sh r 17.html [kingsolar.com]

      Uni-Solar shingles are unique and have been honored with thePopular Science Grand Award, " Best of what's new (Environmental Technology)," and Discover magazine's "Technological Innovation Award" for best innovation (Environment).

      The PV shingle permits roofs of commercial and residential buildings to evolve from mere protection from the weather to a source of electric power. The fl
      • Yes, but at $157.50 per 17-Watt panel, you're looking at $9264/KW. At $.10/KWH, you would need nearly 100,000 hours to break even. If you could get 8 hours at 17W per day, you would need 32.5 years to break even.

        That's just not practical.
      • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @04:21PM (#13057105) Homepage
        I look forward to a couple rooftop technologies

        * This fall: Lightweight rooftop solar concentrators [wired.com] will be hitting the market. They use a small amount of high efficiency solar panels, combined with heliostat mirrors controlled by a single motor. Manufactured in China, sized to a shipping pallet, and easy to install, they're projected to reduce rooftop solar costs by 30%, and an additional 20% in two years.

        * 4-5 years: Nanosolar, Nanosys, Konarka, and a few others will all be unveiling their respective high efficiency thin-plastic organic solar cell technologies. Since each company is pursuing a different production methodology, it seems likely that at least one will pay off. Thin-plastic organic cells have the potential to really revolutionize the planet, because they have the very real potential to be cheaper per kWh than fossil fuels (to the end user, at least), and are light enough to install essentially anywhere. I've read over Nanosolar's patent, and it's pretty clever - organic solar cells are normally inefficient because the densities and spacings between the electron donor and recipient often don't fall within the critical range. Their process lays down successive particles inside a nanoscale scaffolding, and then gets rid of the scaffolding.
      • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @04:33PM (#13057214) Homepage
        By the way, here's an idea that I had (it could be completely unrealistic, but I'd be interested in knowing what others thing).

        Solar water heating isn't rare, and sometimes home heating with solar-heated water is done. However, any excess heated water during the summer (especially from a home-heated system) simply goes to waste.

        Backtrack to the 1600s. A "cold drink" craze swept through major cities in Europe. The method of chilling drinks was quite simple: they added saltpeter to a water bath (an endothermic reaction), and cycled enclosed drinks through the sub-zero degree saltwater. When the saltwater had warmed, they would evaporate out the (at the time, quite valuable) saltpeter in evaporation tanks.

        Concept: Use the wasted solar water heat to help evaporate out a warm salt solution by raising it to near boiling. Warm, concentrated saltwater from a heat exchanger inside the home is piped through the solar heating ducts, raising it to boiling/near boiling. From there, it enters a chamber, possibly kept at slightly lower pressure by a low power fan, to encourage salt precipitation. Every few minutes, a scraper runs in the chamber to stir up the salt into the oversaturated solution, making a salt slurry. The evaporated water runs through an outside radiator, condensing and cooling to near ambient outside temperature. Both the condensed water and salt slurry recombine inside the house and run through the heat exchanger again.

        The obvious questions are:

        * Would it work at all?

        * Would the power requirements for circulating the water, running the scraper every few minutes, and potentially running a low power fan to maintain lower pressure be more efficient than running a compressor?

        * Would the energy savings, if present, justify the modifications to a conventional solar heating setup?

        I really don't know the answer to these. :)
    • Much as I would love to generate my own electricity, a wind turbine isn't likely to be allowed by my town.

      I just put one up once a couple years ago, didn't ask permission, apparently the building inspector got a call about it but he said that he didn't see a problem with it... I was all ready to use a "decorative" defense as I was not using it to power my house and it was just above the existing roofline just did a few experiments with it and such, but it wasn't necessary.

      However, Make sure it has wind
  • by LeoDioxide (836870) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @02:52PM (#13056137)
    It's obviously for your dog! Now you can simulate the head-out-the-window-of-your-car experience right in your very own studio apartment.
    • Insightful???

      Now I don't feel nearly so good about when one of my posts is modded Insightful.

      The parent poster is talking about a wind TUNNEL, while TFA is talking about a wind TURBINE. Or, I assume it is, because it's slashdotted already so I couldn't read the article.

      Let's try to restrict Insightful to those posts that actually show SOME insight, okay?
  • by charnov (183495) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @02:53PM (#13056145) Homepage Journal
    Hey, all I want to know is how many birds it'll kill...we have a real starling problem where I live.
  • Links (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dwight0 (513303) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @02:53PM (#13056149) Homepage
    I like some of the sites they link to. Some useful stuff. Like how to make a rocket out of a match.
    http://www.matchrockets.com/ [matchrockets.com]
    Before internet, I once payed $2 out of the back of a comic book to learn that.
  • Perfect! (Score:5, Funny)

    by mogrify (828588) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @02:53PM (#13056151) Homepage
    I've been looking for something like this. Now I just need a death ray to use on my homeowner's association and I'll be good to go.
  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @02:53PM (#13056154) Homepage Journal
    he runs off the grid in Vermont, with a battery-power system, some solar cells, and a river paddlewheel turbine, and has a ridge on his 42 acre property that he could site this on.

    Which is why he uses a laptop instead of a PC - easier to wire it to trickle feed from the battery system.
    • Out of curiousity, but, how hard was it to set all of this up? How much did it cost?
      • ~$4000 will get you going nicely, depending on available resources. It's much easier if you still have a hookup to the grid. In many locals you can sell energy back to the grid in summer. It is limited, in that small lifestyle changes are needed to keep off the grid. No clothes dryer, for instance. A generator is useful for power tools, etc.

        There might be tax breaks available, also.

      • Out of curiousity, but, how hard was it to set all of this up? How much did it cost?

        My father-in-law and one of my brother-in-laws built one of these. I think it was this exact design.

        I think they spent about $750 on materials.

  • by Ubergrendle (531719) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @02:53PM (#13056155) Journal
    ... to power their websites.

    slashdot effect in... er... effect.
  • Solar Power In Wired (Score:3, Informative)

    by Omega1045 (584264) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @02:53PM (#13056158)
    Wired [wired.com] had an article [wired.com] this month about rooftop solar power that was kinda cool. I thought that the project they highlighted (no pun intended) could be DIY with a little money and time.
  • Reminds me off... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by turbofisk (602472)
    this kinda reminds me of a guy made a small powerplant for his stream... He actually got money back from the powercompany as he was now supplying instead of drawing power :) hellacool... I wonder if this will be the same case?
    • I remember a guy doing that back in the 80s, but authorities forced him to remove his equipment because the stream was listed somewhere as "navigable" and therefore it was illegal to obstruct or alter the flow in any way. It was a ridiculous claim of course, the stream being like 8 ft wide, but the bureaucrats insisted on following their rules to the letter. Wonder if it was the same guy?
  • Bad link (Score:5, Informative)

    by kitzilla (266382) <paperfrog&gmail,com> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @02:54PM (#13056170) Homepage Journal
    Bad link in the article text. It's here [treehugger.com].
  • by Coocha (114826) <coocha AT vt DOT edu> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @02:54PM (#13056178) Homepage
    I've been following the work of the Otherpower.com folks for a while now. They're damn good DIY engineers. Not only are their wind turbines quite nice, but my interest was also piqued by their use of single-cylinder Lister engines. Coupled with a biodiesel recipe, it looks like they can run their entire shop for 8 hours on a single gallon of carbon-neutral gas.

    One of my lifelong goals is to live simply, on a large plot of undeveloped land somewhere. I'm glad there are people like the Otherpower folks who are paving the way as far as alternative energy creation, and being considerate enough to document their work as they go.
    • In my experience, living simply is hard.

      What I'd really like to see is cheaper, cleaner energy solutions that work on a large scale, so that people like me who live in HumanHives(TM) (aka, apartments) benefit from something slightly cleaner than coal.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "One of my lifelong goals is to live simply, on a large plot of undeveloped land somewhere. I'm glad there are people like the Otherpower folks who are paving the way..."

      Ah, irony.
    • wicked strong magnets [wondermagnet.com]...well technically, wondermagnet is selling but rumage through the website and see if you can figure out their business relation ship to otherpower, I can't.

      If you are into this DIY power generation, do visit their site...they also homebrew hydroelectric systems. And the participants in their discussion groups include a few very well versed engineers with good ideas for off the grid living.
      • homebrew hydroelectric? Like daming up the creek in your back yard? That sounds like about the coolest thing ever. Do people actually do that? That would be so fun.
      • Magnetics (Score:3, Informative)

        by gr8_phk (621180)
        I've been doing 3 phase permanent magnet motor controllers for many years now, and I find the amount of magnetic material in the OtherPower alternators to absolutely insane. OTOH, I think they do it that way for simplicity of construction and to get zero cogging torque. i.e. They could use only 1 ring of magnets and use metal coil forms on a steel plate. The problem then is that the magnetic poles tend to "stick" to the metal ones and you get what's known as cogging torque - you can feel these sticky spots
    • their use of single-cylinder Lister engines

      I much prefer Rimmer engines myself...
    • Their shop is powered by a composite power system. They got a bank of batts being charged by several wind turbines, the Lister engine, a couple of hydrogenerators that supply a surprising amount of power considering that they were orginally squirrel cage blowers that came out of a central AC system.

      Their power plants are not state of the art, but homebrewing/improvising at it's finest.
    • One of my lifelong goals is to live simply, on a large plot of undeveloped land somewhere.

      Serious reply here. On my way to Vegas last week, I saw a sign in Salina, UT that read "Undeveloped land, $500 per acre". Maybe you should check that out.
    • I on the other hand, have no interest in living terribly simply, just cheaply and with little or no environmental impact. That's why I'm bookmarking them so I can read them once the /. effect is over.

      It would be incredible to be able to live on 10 acres of undeveloped land with almost no environmental footprint for about $6k/year, while still being able to enjoy many of the comforts of modern living.
  • They need to beef up the power to their servers which are already crashing and burning...
  • I submitted this (Score:5, Informative)

    by WormholeFiend (674934) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @02:59PM (#13056242)
    with a more accurate headline.

    The website doesnt really show YOU how to build one.

    Rather, it shows you photos of the various steps taken by someone else to build one.

    Sure, you could probably look at the photos and read the descriptions and use your brain to fill in the missing details and build one yourself, but there would be additional work/calculations needed.

    It's still a pretty frickin cool project though.
  • Wind Power (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dracolytch (714699) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @02:59PM (#13056244) Homepage
    I've never really gotten an answer to this question:

    What are the implications or potential problems from removing energy from Earth's weather systems? Is the energy we're removing negligible enough to be ignored? Could it potentially change weather patterns by blocking/slowing wind?

    Do we have any information about changes in weather from other man-made things such as cities? I've heard beltways can cause enough heat to slow/redirect some weather. (I know that birds of prey use updrafts caused by hot highways to help them gain altitude using less energy)

    Any reliable sources for this kind of information, or are all sides biased?

    ~D
    • Re:Wind Power (Score:5, Informative)

      by glenmark (446320) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @03:05PM (#13056308) Homepage
      What are the implications or potential problems from removing energy from Earth's weather systems? Is the energy we're removing negligible enough to be ignored? Could it potentially change weather patterns by blocking/slowing wind?
      It should have no more effect than a tree does, and in windy areas where wind power is a viable source (my old stomping grounds in West Texas spring to mind), having windbreaks is generally a good thing in terms of reducing erosion.

      Of course, there has been a lot of chatter in the media lately about birds getting killed by windmill farms. Wildlife impact is a definite consideration in the design and placement of the things...
      • Re:Wind Power (Score:2, Insightful)

        by evanbd (210358)
        It should have no more effect than a tree does, and in windy areas where wind power is a viable source (my old stomping grounds in West Texas spring to mind), having windbreaks is generally a good thing in terms of reducing erosion.

        Huh? I think there's a big difference between an inert blob that the air mostly just flows around (with some turbulence and loss of energy), and a windmill carefully impedance matched to the wind to extract the maximum possible energy from it.

        Also, it's not at all clear t

        • Re:Wind Power (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ArsonSmith (13997) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @03:29PM (#13056573) Journal
          Even if you had a giant wind turbine that was 1/4 mile high and across your still using less than 1% of the total wind power available at that point vertically in the atmosphere.

          If they start making large fields of 1000+ foot hight turbines I might start worring about the environmental effects. For now a small forest I'm sure has far much more effect on wind resistance than a field of turbines.
        • Re:Wind Power (Score:5, Insightful)

          by glenmark (446320) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @03:35PM (#13056628) Homepage
          Huh? I think there's a big difference between an inert blob that the air mostly just flows around (with some turbulence and loss of energy), and a windmill carefully impedance matched to the wind to extract the maximum possible energy from it.
          I think you may be underestimating how much energy transfer takes place when wind strikes a tree. Of course it will vary wildly depending upon the species of tree, as well as its size and age, but it takes quite a bit of energy to get all of those branches swaying. Just try pushing a large branch around on a calm day and keep it going. See how long it takes you to get tired. Then extrapolate that effort to all of the branches on the tree...
          Also, it's not at all clear to me that changing weather patterns is a good thing globally just because it helps locally.
          I don't disagree. Predicting the impact of manmade structures is a non-trivial feat. Just take a look at the plethora of journal articles studying the impact of suburban sprawl on temperatures with its huge expanses of concrete and asphalt. I'm simply arguing that the impact of a windmill on wind patterns would be no greater than that of a tree. In fact, I would expect that trees should have a greater impact due to the cooling effects they provice.

          Of course, these are all simply educated guesses on my part, as I am not a climate researcher (my science background is primarily in solid state physics). I could easily be mistaken.
      • I wouldn't be surprised if DIY turbines were bad for birds. Smaller turbines tend to move faster and be more deadly. Modern blades spin far more slowly and result in few bird casualties.

        To put it in perspective you could look at birds getting killed running into smokestacks from your nearest coal-fired energy plant or residential/office high-rise buildings. Even cats are more deadly than turbines.

        I would choose a model carefully if it was installed near habitat for endangered birds. But most of the time,
        • To put it in perspective you could look at birds getting killed running into smokestacks from your nearest coal-fired energy plant or residential/office high-rise buildings. Even cats are more deadly than turbines.

          About 100,000,000 or so birds die each year from collisions with buildings. Some cities, like Chicago are taking steps to turn off a number of lights on their skyscrapers during migration seasons in order to reduce problems. (The bright lights and reflections apparently are very disorienting a
    • Re:Wind Power (Score:5, Informative)

      by smooth wombat (796938) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @03:11PM (#13056380) Homepage Journal
      To help provide some insight into your questions you could start with this BBC link [bbc.co.uk] which talks about microclimates.

      CNN has an article [cnn.com] which talks about the same phenomenon.

      This link [metoffice.com] has not only a discussion of microclimates but pictures and graphs to to illustrate the effect.

      If you really want to numb your mind you could read this research paper [lbl.gov] which goes into a whole bunch of details relating to microclimates.

      The above should get you started. I didn't provide the proverbial link to a Wiki article since there are enough of other sources to provide the same information.

    • I imagine that turning all of the forests east of the Mississippi into farmland probably had a pretty drastic impact on the climate as well. Compared to that, what's one windmill, let alone thousands?
    • Well I would expect that if you put up a massive amount of wind turbines, I mean like everywhere. That it would probably get hotter where it's already is hot, and colder where it's already cold.
      Basically just remove a bit of the balance of nature.
      But then again we've cut down so many trees it would probably put the balance back in ;)
    • One cu ft of air weighs .0807 lb according to http://www.physlink.com/Education/AskExperts/ae65 0 .cfm [physlink.com]

      So the aperture of the 17 ft windmill is 227 ft^2 and a 10 mph wind is moving at 14.7 ft/sec so 3337 ft^3 of air is moving over the windmill every sec. That's 270 lb of air evey sec.

      Since E=1/2 m v^2, E = 29172 ft-lb/sec. I'm not sure if I got my mass conversion factors right but that's about 40 kW kinetic energy.

      So until turbines get way more efficient this is probably something we won't have to worry
  • Looks like their webserver is running from a wind turbine!
  • Not exactly friendly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nytewynd (829901) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @03:03PM (#13056281)
    I'm pretty sure most towns won't let you construct a 17 foot windmill in your yard. There are a lot of ordinances where I live, and I see this as being against at least several of them.

    Also, don't windmills produce tons of noise, to the point where they actually are a cause of noise pollution? That ought to make your neighbors thrilled.
    • by evilpenguin (18720) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @03:41PM (#13056700)
      I don't know about your part of the world, but the limits in my county are that the tower must be short enough that if it fell it would land inside your property lines. I have 2 acres, the narrow part of which is about 350 ft. so I can have (in theory) a 125 ft. tower (although IIRC the FAA gets to intervene above a certain height -- you know -- the red "don't fly into me lights").

      As for noise, I don't know about this homebrew thing, but there is a commercial windmill about 10 miles from my house in minnesota. It is 250 ft high with a rotor span of 150 ft. It produces an annual average of 1.2 million kWhr (enough to power about 200 average homes). You can drive right up to it, which I did the other day. I had to turn of my radio and my carn engine to hear it AT ALL. It made a soft "whoof whoof" sound that was audible when I was right underneath it, but could not be heard from 1 block away.

  • Full article mirror (Score:5, Interesting)

    by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @03:03PM (#13056290) Homepage Journal
    Here [networkmirror.com]

    I keep telling myself I need to learn how to weld. I really do
  • I read the site the other day when it appeared on Hack-A-Day. At that time it was a 400w turbine at 48 volts. I hate when submittors overglamorize the title of the article to get it posted.
  • Dammit! (Score:4, Funny)

    by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug@g e e k a zon.com> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @03:08PM (#13056352) Homepage
    Nice, but I need plans for an 18-ft turbine.
  • In order to make your own 17' wind turbine, you will need the following items:

    1) Seventeen tubes from paper towel rolls. [brawnyman.com]
    2) A roll of Duct tape [octanecreative.com]
    3) Ten cans of Bush Beans [bushbeans.com]

    Next week, we put it all together.
  • Ezz Empossible!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @03:23PM (#13056513)
    making your own generator with magnets and wire is just plain crazy. Designing and building an efficient generator is WAY beyond anybody's homebrew ability. You need to know electromagnetics, have a source of silicon steel laminations, the ability to stamp them out to 0.010" precision, the ability to wind interleaved 6-phase coils, and much more.


    The only wattage mentioned is "36 watts" from turning it by hand, and using not a WATTMETER, but a voltmeter. Voltmeters are notoriously inaccurate at measuring "wattage", especally of weird waveforms you're likely to get from a homebrew generator. Also if thye were turning it by hand as hard as they could, the output should have been around 250 watts, assuming an average efficiency generator. So if we use these figures, it looks like their homebrew generator is only about 12% efficient.


    This is not a great example of good DIY-ing.

    • atleast they are doing something. 12% efficiency may suck compared to what professional power producers can come up with, but it's still better that sitting on you ass not doing anything.

      I'd take 12% if it meant I was saving some money and the enviroment.

      Sean D.
      • >I'd take 12% if it meant I was saving some money and the enviroment. Ah, that's the rub... Let's see how much money we're saving:

        Electricity costs around ten cents per kilowatt-hour. If you had a windmill with a 100% efficient generator, that generated a kilowatt in a good wind, you might average maybe 3 cents an hour of avoided cost, depending on your average wind speed. 3 cents an hour for a year is $262 a year of avoided electricity cost. With a 12% efficient generator you're saving about $30.

    • Your points against the efficiency of this approach are correct, but I think it's great DIY-ing.

      This thing was cheaper than any commercial solution, and might be even more attractive for 3rd world economies. Or what if the oil crash hits and there's a huge run on turbines while the power is failing? It's nice to know it can be done, at least.

    • Yeah, 12% is terrible. I hope he's not powering his home with this thing, cuz the fuel costs will be murder.
    • Re:Ezz Empossible!! (Score:3, Informative)

      by blahtree (55190)
      36 watts was with one coil installed. In the later pages it says they could get 2000 watts in a moderate wind and have seen as high as 3800 watts.
      • Re:Ezz Empossible!! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @04:58PM (#13057406)
        Hmmm, still doesnt smell right... No mention of a wattmeter. A large magnetic gap. No closed magnetic path. No design equations. It's really hard to hit all the right sweet spots when winging it.

        Plus it's really easy to be fooled when charging batteries-- the voltage may measure 48 volts, and the amps might measure 50, but that doesnt make 2400 watts. Batteries draw current only at the top of each cycle, so there's never that many amps and volts around at the same time. Your typical Radio-Shack meter is going to indicate hundreds of percent too hig-- a common stumbling-block for experimenters.

        A true RMS-reading wattmeter is likely to show much less power. Sorry to be a spoil-sport.

        • by blahtree (55190)
          "It's producing quite a bit more power than I can really use"

          It seems that their methodology is consistent with their goals. Sure it's not as efficient as it could be, but they've achieved what they set out to do.

          Not bad, in my opinion.
  • The 10 foot wind tunnel I have now was really starting to show it's age . . .
  • This is a really fascinating article. Power generation is an interesting concept but I've never really seen a detailed explanation of how a generator is built, what engineering trade-offs go into such a construction, etc. I consider myself pretty well educated by I'd be at a complete loss to do this on my own. It's really neat to see the engineering that goes into making power. Suddenly this seems so much more accessible- like something I really could do myself.
  • In the alternative energy crowd it's actually very popular to build one's own wind turbine instead of purchasing one pre-built. There are kits available, but some design them from scratch.

    Often it's rather sobering looking at a wind speed map [awea.org] that your region isn't quite windy enough to make a turbine pay for itself. One needs Class 4 speeds at a minimum, and then you've got to deal with city ordinances about various crap with building a large structure.
  • Hamster power [otherpower.com] is where the real future is!

  • Iiiichh (Score:2, Funny)

    by chrisnewbie (708349)
    My landlord had a stroke when i installed a dish, i imagine he'll implode with that 17 feet fan.

Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves. -- Lazarus Long

Working...