Energy & Sustainability
Flashback: Wind Powered Generator

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with a flashback to some clean, green wind-powered goodness. Back in MAKE Volume 05, Abe and Josie Connally shared a detailed DIY on how to make their Chispito Wind Generator (Spanish for “little spark”). The Connallys are knee deep in creating an off-grid homestead in Mexico, and they love to share their knowledge and experience online at Vela Creations. Below is an illustration from the article that shows the basics in detail:


The Connallys made the Chispito out of mostly reclaimed parts, including a treadmill motor. Since publication in MAKE, the project has been posted on Instructables (with over 200 comments) and is also available on Vela Creations, with lots of helpful build tips.

Below, watch John Park build the Chispito on Make: television:

The Chispito isn’t going to single-handedly get you off the grid, but it’s a great project to get you started. Happy Earth Day!

34 thoughts on “Flashback: Wind Powered Generator

  1. These small windmills are silly. While they “look green”, they really don’t produce energy that well (small blades = small angular momentum and small fractional collecting area). Plus, they have to turn so fast (again because of their small blades) that they need constant maintenance. A single large windmill can produce 10+ times the amount of power than the cost-equal number of small ones…

  2. Somehow I don’t see how taking an extremely inefficient windmill and hooking it up to a *battery* is good for the environment.

    A cool project maybe, but this is a waste of time. Invest in bigger windmills that hook up without the need for batteries.

    1. Ideally yes. You would want to be able to feed your needs directly. However this is a great idea for going partially off the grid. It’s also a great way to have some power in case of emergencies. Say you are with out power in a storm for several hours. Hook up lights and whatnot to the battery and keep the kids from freaking out ;) or make toast.

    2. gear head:

      I have a few ideas:

      You could create a stop by welding some steel plate shaped like a “L” one “L” above and one “L” below the union mounted so the long part of the “L’s” are overlapping this
      would prevent 360Deg movement.Using some sort of rubber as a bumper would be a good idea.A Piece of cut tire mounted to each side of the “L” could work if you use counter sunk flat head screws/bolts.

      Another simpler idea is that you could a set of pipe fittings to create the “L” using 2 of each 3/8″x1″ nipple,3/8″x4″ nipple,
      90 degree elbow,3/8″ cap,a 3/8″ reducing “Tee” and add some pipe insulation for bumpers held in place with wire ties.


  3. Negative comments about its usefulness and power output aside, I love the video. Nice job detailing aspects of the construction. I see it as a cool learning project that can lead to bigger things.

    But, one aspect was not convered: What about the wiring coming down from the spinning windmill? The wire was just attached to the side of the arm? Which for a car trip may not pose a problem … but in an outdoor setting that windmill is going to spin in any direction a number of times.

    Can we get a follow up video with some options on how to safely and durably secure the wiring … down the center of the support post, I presume.

  4. umm.. when you drive a windmill across town in the back of a truck to charge a battery the electricity is not “free”.

    1. That was for testing and to show that with a 15 mph wind you could get 20 volts. silly person.

      I’m sure you could set this up with a crank attachment in case you need to recharge your batteries on a windless day. Or send the kids out to turn it for a while ;) LOL

  5. Hi, I am Abe Connally, the author of this article and the creator of the Chispito Wind Generator.

    For those of you that think this wind generator is useless, think again. With 3 Chispitos and a small solar panel, we powered our entire homestead, including a shop that made over 150 of these wind generators.

    Most of the people that think this machine doesn’t have a place in the real world are energy hogs. For the majority of the world, this wind generator (or 2, 3 of them) could cover at least 80% of your energy needs. For the folks living in the inefficient homes with inefficient appliances and inefficient habits (most Americans), these windmills won’t make much difference.

    The first step in going green is to conserve and change your habits. Only then can you apply innovative technologies to produce energy.

    If you want to scale up, go with some of the designs from They are still green, can be made from junk, and are a lot less expensive than buying a manufactured machine.

    Savonius blades are less efficient than the Horizontal axis design we use with the chispito. So, for the most bang for your buck, go with horiontal axis.

    So, in conclusion, small wind generators ARE green, cheap, and can make a BIG difference in the energy needs of the world, but only IF they are applied correctly.

  6. Further to icerabbit’s comment I’d like to see how the cabling was secured and what mechanism was used to prevent the generator assembly twisting up the wires. Admittedly I haven’t read the whole article, just watched the movie but I was wondering if you used slip rings or some other method?

  7. Simon:

    Yes! Finally someone agrees that the only reasonable “unsilly” thing to do is only build huge wind generators.

    1. To all you fans out there that think Big wind generators are the only way to go, look at this:

      For every Kwh produced on the grid, you loose 2.2 Kwh in transmitting that energy (that’s less than 35% efficient)

      Grid power can’t be stored! This means that if you don’t use it, you loose it.

      So, transmitting short distances is better, and storing in batteries is most reasonable thing to do.

      Small power systems are efficient, cheap, and doable. You can’t say that for big ones.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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