A great introduction to wind turbines is to build your own VAWT – a vertical axis wind turbine – a design which copes well with the turbulent winds typically found in built-up areas. They are easier to build than the more traditional horizontal axis wind turbines (the ones that look like windmills), and can be constructed from cheap easily obtainable materials such as PVC pipe (see our guide: PVD Wind Turbine Blades) and plywood. When completed this turbine easily generates sufficient power to charge a couple of rechargeable AA batteries or to light up a string of LEDs.
This simple wind turbine generator requires 6-8 hours of building time ideally spread over a couple of days to allow paint and glue to dry. Here is a summary of the materials required:
1 8 inch diameter 14 guage steel disk with 3/8 inch hole in the centre.
16 disk magnets – ceramic or NdFeB (neodymium) magnets.
750g of 20AWG enamel coated magnet wire.
2 pieces of corrugated plastic 24 x 8 inches – ideally 2mm thick, but 4mm is acceptable.
…and a selection of electronic components – diodes and resistors etc, some plywood and plexiglass, glue, paint and fixings.
This turbine can be assembled using just a screwdriver, power drill, pliers, a jigsaw, and some sandpaper. Unless you have steel cutting equipment – which most people do not! – you will need to pay a metalshop to prepare the steel disk. The rest you can do yourself.
The plans explain in great detail the full construction process from making the rotor and stator, to making the frame that holds everything together and the blades which catch the wind and spin the turbine. Full wiring details are also provided explaining the difference between star and deltaconfigurations (choose between higher voltage or higher current – see our guide and calculator at Star Delta Wiring for Alternators), and three phase alternator wiring.
These wind turbine plans are excellent and very educational. A fantastic introduction to basic wind turbine construction which can be used in the classroom or at home.
Download the Free PicoTurbine Plans
PicoTurbine Windmill Plans – 27 page PDF document including plans, instructions, templates, and everything else you will need to make your own wind turbine
The original link to the plans supplied above is no longer valid. Thanks to Dan for finding the new link to the 27 page PDF with the plans, instructions, and templates: PicoTurbine Windmill Plans.
(Another copy of the same document is available here for downloads.)
Other VAWT Plans and Resources
Here is a video showing how to build your own vertical axis wind turbine. It is split into three parts – just click on the in screen links at the end of each part to move to view the next part.