How to Make Your Own Backyard Wind Turbine

How to Make Your Own Backyard Wind Turbine

Building your own backyard wind turbine can be a fun and rewarding project. With some planning and the right materials, you can harness wind energy to help power your home. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to build your own backyard wind turbine from start to finish.

Selecting the Right Location

Choosing the optimal location is crucial for maximizing power output. Here are some key factors to consider when picking a wind turbine site:

  • Wind Speed – Look for an elevated, open area with consistent annual wind speeds of at least 10 mph. The higher and more consistent the winds, the more power your turbine can generate.

  • Obstructions – Avoid locations with obstacles like trees or buildings that can create turbulence and block wind. Give your turbine plenty of clear, unobstructed access to wind.

  • Accessibility – Pick a spot that allows easy access for construction, maintenance, and repairs. Being able to easily reach your turbine will make the project much simpler.

  • Property Setbacks – Check your local zoning laws and property lines. Make sure your turbine will meet all required setback distances from property lines and neighboring structures.

  • Soil Condition – The spot should have stable soil that can properly anchor the wind turbine foundation. Avoid loose or shifting soils.

Selecting the Right Turbine Design

Once you’ve identified the perfect site, the next key step is choosing the right wind turbine design. Here are the main options and factors to consider:

Horizontal vs. Vertical Axis Turbines

  • Horizontal Axis – The rotor spins horizontally perpendicular to the wind. More efficient design that generates more power. Better for high wind speed sites.

  • Vertical Axis (Darrieus) – The rotor spins vertically parallel to the wind. Omni-directional and more suitable for turbulent winds. Lower power output than horizontal designs.

Number of Blades

  • Most DIY turbines use 2 or 3 blade designs.

  • 2 blades are simpler to build. 3 blades are more efficient and smooth.

Rotor Diameter

  • The larger the rotor diameter, the more power it can harness.

  • For DIY builds, rotors range from 3 to 10 feet in diameter. Size it based on your location’s winds and your power needs.

Generator Type

  • Permanent Magnet Alternators (PMAs) – Best for direct-drive DIY turbines. Simple and don’t need additional electronics.

  • Automotive Alternators – Require a gearbox but are low-cost. Readily available as scrapped car parts.

  • Induction Generators – More complex but can output AC power directly. Need additional electronics.

Sourcing Materials and Components

Here are the key materials and parts you’ll need to source for your wind turbine build:

  • Blades – Wood, PVC, fiberglass, carbon fiber. Match material strength to rotor size.

  • Generator – PMA or automotive alternator. Select based on power output needs.

  • Pole/Tower – Metal, wood. Minimum 15 ft height recommended. Must support turbine weight.

  • Batteries – Deep cycle lead-acid or lithium-ion to store power.

  • Inverter – Converts turbine power from DC to AC for household use.

  • Controller – Regulates turbine output voltage and charging batteries. Prevents overcharging.

  • Wiring – Use proper gauge electrical wiring for connections.

  • Hardware – Bolts, screws, nuts, bearings, couplings, flanges etc. Stainless steel recommended.

Many components can be sourced affordably from scrap yards, hardware stores or online retailers. Custom fabricating blades and other parts yourself can further reduce costs.

wind Turbine Tower Design and Foundation

The tower elevates your turbine to access stronger, unobstructed winds. Key tower design considerations include:

  • Height – Standard minimum is 15 ft. The higher, the better – aim for at least 30 ft.

  • Diameter – Optimal is 1/3 the rotor diameter. Enough space for turbine yaw and blade clearance.

  • Material – Galvanized steel, aluminum, wood. Must support turbine weight and winds.

  • Foundation – Reinforced concrete pad or pier. At least 18 in below frost line. Anchor bolts to secure tower.

Proper tower design prevents vibration and wobbling that can damage components. Work with structural engineering resources when designing your foundation.

Assembly and Installation

Once you’ve collected all the parts, it’s time for assembly and installation. Here are the key steps:

  • Assemble the rotor hub and blades according to your design. Use proper bolt tightening and alignment.

  • Attach the rotor hub to the main turbine shaft/bearings. Ensure proper balance and smooth rotation.

  • Mount the generator, gearbox (if needed), and tail vane onto the frame.

  • Electrical Connections – Wire the generator, controller, batteries, and inverter according to the diagram for your specific components.

  • Bolt down the guy wire anchors into the ground around the tower site.

  • Lift the assembled turbine and mount it securely atop the tower. Attach guy wires for lateral support.

  • Secure all electrical connections. Double check the wiring is correct before powering on.

Take precautions when working at heights and lifting equipment. Having an assistant makes installation much easier.

Operation, Maintenance, and Repairs

Once installed and wired properly, your turbine should begin spinning and generating power as soon as the wind blows strong enough. However, ongoing operation and maintenance is crucial:

  • Monitor your power output and listen for any new vibrations or noises that could indicate a problem.

  • Inspect blades, bolts, bearings, and electrical connections periodically for wear or loosening.

  • Clean debris and dirt buildup on blades or rotor regularly so they can spin freely.

  • Check guy wires and ground anchors for proper tension and secure attachment.

  • Replace or repair any worn or damaged components as needed. Keep spare parts on hand.

  • If your battery bank becomes damaged or won’t hold a charge, you may need new batteries.

Routine inspections and repairs will extend the life of your wind turbine and optimize power production.

Conclusion

Constructing your own functional wind turbine requires research, careful planning, and quality components. But the ability to harness free wind power makes it a very rewarding DIY renewable energy project. Positioning the turbine in the optimal location and elevating it high in the air can allow you to maximize your power output. Maintaining your turbine properly will keep it running smoothly for years to come. With a well-designed and installed backyard wind turbine, you’ll be producing eco-friendly electricity to help power your home.