Energy & Sustainability

Taking a motor from an old exercise treadmill and some PVC pipe, John Park constructs a wind-powered generator. The electrical power may not be enough to get your home off the grid, but the great thing about the project is how it explains in simple terms the technology involved in turning wind into free electricity.

Check out the PDF for details. Plus, take a look at the original article from Volume 5 of Make: magazine

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34 thoughts on “Maker Workshop – Wind Power Generator on MAKE: television

  1. All of the MAKE videos seem to be relatively quiet in terms of volume. Do you implement any sort of audio compression in your audio chain before the final video is made?

    just wondering

  2. I am digging and finding nothing. Where can I learn more?

    How many of these would be needed to power a house?

    Can you run an ‘average’ home off of energy stored in batteries, or would you need to hook these up to the house directly?

    Can car alternators be used instead?

    At what MPH(wind) or RPMs(device) does the device need to spin at and for how long to charge one of those batteries?

    Any good links where I can read/learn/expand more if I need/want to take this to the next level and ‘live off the grid’?

  3. You would need a heck of a bank of batteries to power an average house, with the biggest inverter available. Then water heater, stove, major power draw items would have to be gas/LP. I would start small.. 1 or 2 generators and a bank of batteries in the garage/outbuilding. Make your outbuilding an off-the-grid hobby. Knowlege learned from tinkering out there will teach you more than you could ever learn doing research.
    Also… I don’t like the union swivel point. The collar would eventually work it’s way all the way down and tight so it won’t swivel, or worse, work it’s way up and off. The spinning heavy unit comes crashing down. I’d grease it heavily, and drill/tap a setscrew to keep the collar locked in it’s desired position.

  4. i wonder in which devices you can find permanent magnet motors..
    could you sum up some? like e.g. a washing machine, is that an appropriate motor?

  5. @Andrew, You answered your own question quite nicely! But to recap, and as we mention in the corresponding PDF for the Wind Powered Generator, this project is meant as a simple introduction to generators and wind power. The next steps after that are constructing a suitable tower for holding/supporting your generator, and building a power storage/regulation system. We do not offer instructions on those next steps, so please consult an expert first.

    And like Andrew said, a good place to start if you just want to learn more is

    @briekske, We used a treadmill motor for our generator (260 volt DC, 5 amp). However, any simple, permanent magnet DC motor that returns at least 1 volt for every 25 rpm and can handle 10 amps. But be sure to check out our pdf for more info.

  6. You better get the pipe as scrap! Online and locally, this PVC pipe runs 100.00-131.00 forjust a 24″ section. Lots of websites suggest schedule 40 for diameters under 5′.

  7. hey i was wondering if i made the windmill blades 28 inches long and added a inch to the big end of the blades would it still spin fast

  8. that’s pretty cool…. Now I want to build one. Love the recycled motor as a generator.

    Your choice in batteries got me thinking. I wonder what other types of batteries would work well for this application, other than golf cart batteries? You were generating well over 12V so it’s a shame to waste the excess (or is it being transformed to a lower voltage by the rectifier?)

    I assume that the reason you’re not using an automotive battery is because they are designed to be kept almost fully charged all the time (1% to 5% from full charge), as opposed to equipment that is made to be plugged in, charged fully, and then used and discharged completely.

    A 24V electric forklift battery comes to mind since they are also designed to be “deep cycled”, or discharged down as low as 20% of full charge (80% DOD, or Depth of Discharge). Or, I wonder if there is an advantage, maybe in charging, to use multiple batteries of smaller capacity.

    Regardless, I look forward to building something like this one day.

  9. Having several low voltage high amp/hour rated batteries provides the best of both endurance and reliability. Wiring batteries in a series bank to attain the target voltage then wiring several banks together to get the desired amp/hour endurance. There is also the advantage of not being stuck without juice because of one bad battery. The other advantage is that your generator won’t have to generate the full operational voltage to charge the system, only the rated voltage of the individual batteries.

  10. Home Wind Turbines, solar collectors, super insulation(see straw bale on net), gardening, composting, aquaculture, coupled with a large shift in life-style will get you an early retirement of modest yet secure means, and will insulate your personal economy from the violent shifts happening as we speak.

  11. Very cool but hardly ‘free electricity’ or even necessarily ‘green’. Lots of tools made of metal running with electricity probably derived from burning coal. PVC (oil based) plastic for the blades. Cutting oil. Lead/acid batteries.

    I really wish there were more detailed analysis available to determine which technologies are actually beneficial and which just move the problem further away.

    1. All true, but if not recycled into something useful it all goes landfill, except maybe for the pvc which might be burned for heat at a concrete plant, where do you think old tires go when they die? PVC= poly vinyl CHLORide, nasty nasty.
      If it makes a couple of hundred watts for 10 years, that’s a fair pile of coal right there.

      1. All true and I’m all for the whole concept of RRR. If you have junk laying around and can re-purpose it that is awesome. My point is that it’s difficult to understand when doing something is better or worse than doing nothing. If we looked at his shop, how many RRR projects does he have to complete for the resource investment in tools, electricity, and oil creates a positive outcome? I’m a big fan of drastic population reduction combined with less consumption per capita. This is, unfortunately, not likely to happen so recycling is the next best thing.

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