Several years ago I bought some remote property in Arizona. I am an astronomer and wanted a place to practice my hobby far away from the terrible light pollution found near cities of any real size. I found a great piece of property. The problem is, it’s so remote that there is no electric service available. That’s not really a problem. No electricity equals no light pollution. However, it would be nice to have at least a little electricity, since so much of life in the 21st century is dependent on it.
One thing I noticed right away about my property is that most of the time, the wind is blowing. Almost from the moment I bought it, I had the idea of putting up a wind turbine and making some electricity, and later adding some solar panels. This is the story of how I did it. Not with an expensive, store-bought turbine, but with a home-built one that cost hardly anything. If you have some fabricating skills and some electronic know-how, you can build one too.
Step 1: Acquiring a Generator
I started by Googling for information on home-built wind turbines. There are a lot of them out there in an amazing variety of designs and complexities. All of them had five things in common though:
1. A generator
3. A mounting that keeps it turned into the wind
4. A tower to get it up into the wind
5. Batteries and an electronic control system
I reduced the project to just five little systems. If attacked one at a time, the project didn’t seem too terribly difficult. I decided to start with the generator. My online research showed that a lot of people were building their own generators. That seemed a bit too complicated, at least for a first effort. Others were using surplus permanent magnet DC motors as generators in their projects. This looked like a simpler way to go. So I began looking into what motors were best for the job.
A lot of people seemed to like to use old computer tape drive motors (surplus relics from the days when computers had big reel to reel tape drives). The best apparently are a couple of models of motor made by Ametek. The best motor made by Ametek is a 99 volt DC motor that works great as a generator. Unfortunately, they are almost impossible to locate these days. There are a lot of other Ametek motors around though. A couple of their other models make decent generators and can still be found on places like Ebay. This web site talks about the virtues and vices of various Ametek motors when used as generators. http://www.tlgwindpower.com/ametek.htm
I managed to score one of the good 30 volt Ametek motors off of Ebay for only $26. They don’t go that cheap these days. People are catching on to the fact that they make great wind generators. Other brands will work, so don’t fret about the price Ameteks are going for. Shop wisely. Anyway, The motor I got was in good shape and worked great. Even just giving the shaft a quick turn with my fingers would light a 12 volt bulb quite brightly. I gave it a real test by chucking it up in my drill press and connecting it to a dummy load. It works great as a generator, putting out easily a couple hundred Watts with this setup. I knew then that if I could make a decent set of blades to drive it, it would produce plenty of power.
There is more information on how to choose a motor for use as a generator on my web site at http://www.mdpub.com/Wind_Turbine/