How to Make Your Own Wind Turbine From Recycled Materials
Making your own wind turbine from recycled materials can be a fun and educational project. With some simple tools and a bit of elbow grease, I was able to build a small turbine that can be used to generate electricity. Here’s how I did it.
Choosing the Turbine Design
The first step is deciding what type of wind turbine design to build. Here are some of the main options:
Horizontal Axis Turbines
- This is the most common design seen on large-scale wind farms. The blades spin on an axis parallel to the ground.
- Pros: Very efficient at capturing wind energy. The blade design makes them self-starting.
- Cons: Require strong tower support and yaw control. More complex to build.
Vertical Axis Turbines
- The spinning axis is vertical in this design. The most popular type is the Darrieus turbine.
- Pros: Omni-directional. Don’t need tower yaw mechanics. Easier DIY builds.
- Cons: Generally less efficient than horizontal axis turbines.
For my first DIY wind turbine build, I opted for a simple vertical axis design. The simplicity makes it a good choice for small-scale, homemade turbines.
Sourcing Recycled Materials
One of the benefits of DIY wind turbines is that many of the parts can be salvaged or repurposed. Here are some of the key components I was able to source recycled:
- Blades – I used corrugated plastic sheets from old political yard signs. Sturdy and lightweight.
- Support arms – Formed from lengths of PVC pipe leftover from another project.
- Base/tower – An old barstool base provided a solid foundation. Scrap lumber formed the tower.
- Generator – The most expensive component. I used a permanent magnet DC motor salvaged from an old treadmill.
It took some searching at recycling centers, junkyards, and around my basement to find these items. But going recycled really cuts down the cost.
Tools and Supplies Needed
In addition to the recycled components, I needed various tools and supplies:
- Drill and drill bits
- Hex keys for set screws
- PVC cement and cleaner
- Wood screws and bolts
- Electrical wire and connectors
- Epoxy adhesive
- Paint/primer (if desired)
Safety gear like glasses, gloves, and a dust mask are also recommended when working with power tools.
Step-by-Step Wind Turbine Assembly
With the design selected and materials prepped, I was ready to start building. Here is an overview of the wind turbine assembly process:
1. Cut PVC pipe into support arms
I cut 4 lengths of 3/4″ PVC to make the vertical support arms. These were cut to size based on my measurements.
2. Mark and cut outline shapes from plastic sheeting
Next I made cardboard templates of my blade shapes. I traced these onto corrugated plastic sheets and carefully cut out the blades with a jigsaw.
3. Attach blades to support arms
I centered the blades on the support arms and drilled pilot holes. Then I firmly screwed the blades onto the PVC pipes.
4. Connect support arms to base
The barstool base provided a stable connection point for the support arms. I cemented these together with PVC cement.
5. Add tower and top bearing
I cut a length of 2×4 lumber to make the tower. This connects to the base at the bottom and has a skateboard bearing at the top.
6. Connect generator and tail
I mounted my motor generator onto a wooden plate. The generator and tail fin then bolt to the top bearing.
7. Wire up system
Finally, I soldered the motor wires to a bridge rectifier. This converts the AC current to usable DC output.
Testing and Using My Homemade Wind Turbine
After completing the assembly, it was time for testing. I started off slowly in low wind conditions to ensure everything was aligned and spinning smoothly.
Gradually, I increased the wind speed, keeping an eye on vibration and balance. The turbine started generating usable electricity in winds above ~10 mph. Overall, I’m pleased with my first wind turbine project. Not only did I save money going recycled, but I gained hands-on experience with wind energy.
I’m looking forward to experimenting with different blade designs and generators to increase power output. Let me know if you have any other DIY wind turbine tips!