How to Build a Small Wind Turbine in Your Backyard

How to Build a Small Wind Turbine in Your Backyard

How to Build a Small Wind Turbine in Your Backyard

Introduction

Building a small wind turbine in your backyard can be a fun and rewarding project. With some basic materials and tools, you can harness the power of the wind to generate electricity for your home. In this guide, I will walk you through the entire process of designing, building, and installing your own backyard wind turbine from start to finish.

Determine Your Energy Needs

The first step is to figure out how much energy you hope to produce with your wind turbine. This will help determine the size and specs you need.

  • Calculate your average monthly electricity usage – Review your electricity bills to get a sense of how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) you use per month.

  • Decide what percentage of your energy needs the turbine will provide – Most small wind turbines can realistically provide 20-40% of an average home’s needs.

  • Factor in your average annual wind speed – The faster and more consistent the winds, the more energy a turbine can generate. Use wind maps to estimate your location’s wind resource.

Once you crunch the numbers, you’ll know the minimum power output you need from your wind turbine. This will dictate the size and type.

Choose a Turbine Design

There are two main designs for small wind turbines:

Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines (HAWTs)

  • Have a horizontal rotating axis parallel to the ground.

  • More common and efficient design.

  • Can take advantage of winds from all directions.

Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWTs)

  • Have a vertical rotating axis perpendicular to the ground.

  • Don’t need to be pointed into the wind.

  • Lower efficiency but simpler design.

For most residential applications, a HAWT is the better choice. Focus on models in the 1 to 10 kW range.

Obtain Materials and Components

To build your wind turbine, you will need the following materials:

  • Turbine blades – Usually 2 or 3 long blades attached to a central hub. Can be wood, metal, or composite.

  • Generator – Converts the rotational energy into electric energy. Brushless permanent magnet generators are common.

  • Tower – Elevates and supports the turbine. Can be made of wood, metal, or concrete. Minimum of 15-30 feet tall.

  • Batteries – Store the generated electricity. Deep cycle lead-acid batteries are a popular choice.

  • Inverter – Converts DC electricity from the turbine into usable AC electricity for your home’s outlets and appliances.

  • Wiring and cabling – Connects all the electrical components together. Use 10+ gauge electrical wire.

  • Controllers – Manage electrical load and monitor turbine operation. Usually includes a charge controller, fuses, meters, etc.

You can purchase specialty wind turbine kits or source the parts separately. Shop around for the best value.

Design and Build the Turbine

Once you have all the materials, it’s time to start building. The main steps include:

1. Size and shape the blades

  • Longer blades can harness more wind energy.

  • Use wind speed and power output goals to determine ideal blade length.

  • Choose an aerodynamic blade profile such as NACA airfoils.

2. Assemble the hub and rotor

  • Attach 2 or 3 blades to central hub using bolts.

  • Ensure proper blade pitch for rotation.

  • Mount hub assembly onto turbine shaft.

3. Build the tower mount

  • Weld or bolt steel tube segments to desired height.

  • Add upper flange to bolt turbine mount to top of tower.

  • Include hinge at base for lowering/raising tower.

4. Install components inside tower

  • Place batteries, inverter, and controllers inside tower base.

  • Run electrical cables up center of tower to connect to turbine.

  • Add lightning rod and grounding system for protection.

Follow all safety precautions when working with electricity and at heights.

Install and Connect the Wind Turbine

Once constructed, it’s time to install your backyard wind turbine:

  • Prepare a solid concrete foundation for the tower.

  • Use a gin pole or guy wires to lift tower into vertical position.

  • Securely bolt tower base to foundation anchors.

  • Lift turbine assembly and mount to top of tower.

  • Connect electrical cables from turbine down to components in base.

  • Ground the system properly against lightning strikes.

  • Connect the turbine breaker box to your home’s electrical panel.

Your wind turbine should now be ready to start capturing energy from the wind and powering your home!

Perform Regular Maintenance

  • Inspect blades, bolts, hinges, and electrical connections periodically for corrosion or wear.

  • Check that turbine rotation is smooth. Listen for unusual noises.

  • Replace any worn or defective parts immediately.

  • Clean debris and dirt buildup from blades to maintain efficiency.

  • Have an electrician verify safety systems and performance every 1-2 years.

Proper maintenance will extend the life of your wind turbine and optimize productivity.

Conclusion

Constructing a DIY wind turbine is an ambitious but rewarding renewable energy project. With the right location, materials, and wind resource, a homebuilt wind turbine can generate clean electricity for your home for years to come. Just be sure to do your research, follow local building codes, and take all necessary safety precautions. Then let the wind work for you!