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A home made wind machine, using an automotive alternator. Mick built the machine and took the photo.
So You Want To Build A Wind Generator?
here seems to be a renewed interest in wind energy. The last few years have brought increasing T numbers of inquiries by do-it-yourselfers about the availability of plans for building wind generators. Whenever anyone asks about building a machine, my usual advice is to buy a new one. Too
expensive for a limited budget? Then buy a used unit and rebuild it.
Some Wind-system Basics
Normally, I try to discourage folks from building their own wind generator from scratch. My reasoning? The failure rate of home-built wind systems is extraordinarily high.
The principle reason for these failures is a lack of understanding of the two major laws of physics concerning wind power. In simple terms, the first law states that the power available in the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind speed. This means that if the wind speed doubles, say from 5 to 10 miles per hour, the power available at the wind generator blades increases by a factor of eight! Even small increases in wind speed yield major gains in power. An increase in wind speed from 10 to 11 miles per hour results in a 33% increase in the power of the wind.
The second law states that the power available to the blades is proportional to the square of the diameter of the rotor. In other words, if you double the diameter of the rotor by making the blades twice as long, you increase the power by a factor of four.
Many folks think, "As long as I'm building by own blades, why not make them twice as long as I think I need them?" You will get more power when the wind is blowing lightly, but unless everything in the windmachine is designed to support the larger blades, it will be destroyed by the first violent windstorm.
The purpose of this discussion is to warn the prudent to err on the side of caution. We all know what happens to weak links. Something flimsy or underbuilt will probably be the downfall of the project. Remember that you are dealing with machinery that may weigh as much as an automobile engine, mounted high in the air, with extremities that are rotating at several hundred rpm.
Generally speaking, it can be said that the more advanced the design, the longer the components will last. "Advanced" does not mean complicated. (Remember the KISS rule: "keep it simple, stupid".) The wind systems that have lasted through the decades almost always have simple designs. Stay away from complex electronics, hydraulics, and mechanical systems on the tower.
Home Power #17 • June/July 1990
Image | A home made wind machine, using an automotive alternator. Mick built the machine and took the photo.
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