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Building Your Own Wind-Powered Generator


Please exercise due care when working with electricity

The Non Rocket-Scientists Guide To Building Your Own Wind-Powered Generator.

As you’ve probably found out by now unharnessed energy sources are literally all around us. Be it solar power from the sun or geothermal energy from the Earth’s constant core temperature we are definitely wasting money and resources when we rely on utility companies for power. Another huge asset that we can tap into, which is arguably the most reliable of all sustainable resources, is wind power.

Think about it for a second, we can’t create sunlight and digging 4′-8′ into the Earth’s surface and running geothermal tubes is a very costly and invasive process. On the other hand every time we ride a bike or wave a newspaper back and forth in front of our face on a hot day we are essentially creating wind. This wind can be harnessed to create electricity for perhaps the most self-sustainable of all resources. For example a fan turns creating electricity which can then be used to power a different fan so that more electricity can be made – the ultimate example of a perfect energy cycle.

The potential for wind powered generators is far and wide and large-scale operations can effectively supply current to homes and even industrial operations. Like any project dealing with self-sustainability building a wind powered generator involves a 3-pronged approach of – 1) starting small, 2) getting familiar, and 3) building your knowledge base and expanding. Therefore this guide will show you how to build a modest wind-powered generator to power a lightbulb so that you can see first hand how power can be created free of charge. Once you’ve mastered the bare essentials you can move on to powering your furnace with the bitter wind of Winter.

How Do Wind Turbines Work?

To gain maximum success with building your wind powered generator it’s first important to understand how they work. The easiest way to think of the process is imagining a fan working in reverse. Instead of power running to the fan to blow out wind, flip that to envision the breeze coming in to produce the electricity. A fuel-operated generator uses an alternator to create movement between electric and magnetic fields to produce current but the wind-powered generator is going to use the rotating fan blades to turn a shaft which will in turn produce current.

The fan in reverse is the basic premise that needs to be remembered when creating your own wind powered generator. As it is when you feed electricity into a motor it starts to spin but when you spin the motor it in reverse creates electricity back. You can hook up a DC motor to a power source to run it but when you spin the shaft by hand the DC motor can actually power other objects like lights. The goal of a wind generator in a nutshell is to spin that shaft with breeze instead of your fingers.

The Basic Principles of a Wind Turbine Build?

Around the lovely (and sometimes scary) village we call the Internet you’ll find numerous ways to go about constructing your first wind powered generator. Some builds have used 2-liter soda bottles to capture the wind while others integrated old bicycle tires to spin the shaft. Either way there are a few common denominators involved in nearly every adaptation of a wind powered generator including:

Fan Blades – whether it be a single blade or multiple blades or even pop bottles you need something that blows in the wind to spin a shaft that ultimately creates current.
Motor – while the project as a whole is considered a generator a motor in the system works as sort of a generator within a generator. As the blades spin they rotate the shaft of the motor which generates current.
Tower – for optimum success you’ll also want to mount the blades into the air as much as possible with a stable tower.

Depending on how elaborate you want to get with your wind-powered generator there are add-ons that can be implemented such as multiple batteries to store the created power and a controller to operate the various systems. Once you’ve mastered the basics however your specific system can be upgraded and renovated depending on what you’re powering and how your setup is laid out.

Fan Blades

You can be as creative or as basic as you want with the fan blades depending on your resources. At its core the fan blades need to be long enough to capture the wind and also feature a hub that it can spin on. There is no shortage of replacement fan blades available online or they can be built with some loose parts in a garage as well. Something else to remember is that the fan part of the wind powered generator can either be top-mounted like a weather vane or front-mounted like a standard window fan.


For your first wind-power generator build smaller motors will be powerful enough. You’ll need a direct current (DC) battery ideally with the permanent magnet operation. Of course these types of motors weren’t intended to be used as generators although they will work as such. Therefore finding the perfect model involves investigating some details such as being rated for high DC voltage, having high current, and operating on low RPMs. Look for the lowest RPM rating (300-500) with the highest current output (24 – 30 V).

Knowing what to look for in a motor is one thing, finding them is another. Many consumers have discovered just how ideal these items work for homemade generators and have largely scalped the market. That being said for a small project just to learn the basics of wind-powered generators there are plenty of affordable options available but generally in very small voltage.


The mounting tower isn’t an overly important or detailed aspect of the wind-powered generator but it does serve a function. After all the best way to capture wind is to be high in the air and free of obstruction. You’ll want to have space for the blades to spin safely but at the same time keep the device somewhat discreet or hidden, especially if you’re cobbling together a generator using scrap parts. Of course the specifics of more permanent wind generators can always be haggled out in-depth once you’ve learned the basics about how the system works.

Putting the Unit Together

For our example we’re going to show you how to build a wind-powered generator to operate a lighbulb for placement on an outdoor deck. While solar energy would be the ultimate resource for this application whose to say somebody doesn’t want automatic extra light on a windy night?

Building the Tower

Why not start the project by putting the tower together? Really anything can be used to build a tower but what many people have found is that PVC pipe works as a great way to customize the tower to the size you need. PVC pipe and couplers are readily available at any plumbing or hardware store and are pretty inexpensive overall. Plus PVC can be easily drilled through to run the electrical wire and to mount the tower to the surface below.


As for the construction of the tower that is completely flexible. Since the blade can spin pretty intensely on windy days a wider base would probably work the best and prevent tipping over. The great thing about PVC pipes and couplers is that they go together almost like a Lego set. You’ll want to buy at least 4 corner couplers as well as three “T” connectors to put a piece of pipe down the middle and to direct the tower up into the air.

Finally you’ll need a corner coupler on the top of the mount where the motor / blade assembly can slide into.

Routing the Wires

The next thing to do is route the wires through the PVC tower so that you can run from the top of the mount out through the bottom somewhere. This is a big reason why PVC is a great choice for a tower as it is very easy to drill through and you can exhaust the wire on whatever side works best for your individual setup.

As far as what wire to use there are a number of different factors to take into account normally. For instance wire comes in different gauges (thickness), and is rated for varying levels of amperage and wattage load. Since for this project the electrical current is going to be minimal the most basic of 14-gauge, 15 amp wire will work as it’s often rated for up to 120 volts. This type of wire is very common in residential light fixtures and receptacles but will need to be re-evaluated when you start to increase the size of the generator motor and the equipment being operated.

Connect the Motor to Wiring


Once the wiring is routed it’s time to hook up the motor. Match up the two short wiring strands from the motor with the corresponding splits from the wire ran through the PVC (positive to positive, neutral to neutral, etc.). Some people choose to solder the wire connections together so they don’t come disconnected but electrical wire should work for now just to make sure the setup is correct.

Attach Alligator Clips to the Outlet Wire

One thing you can do now to make sure your wired connection and motor setup will work is to attach two alligator clips to both ends of the outlet wires. These clips are a smaller version of what you’d find on a pair of battery jumper cables and are used to transfer current into what we’re intending to operate (radio). They can also be used at this point to hook up the build to a voltmeter and spin the shaft of the motor to see if it can actually create current in reverse. Once this is confirmed the finishing steps are ready to be completed.


Putting the Fan Blade Together With the Motor

The small shaft sticking out of the front of the motor is where the fan blade attachment will be secured. Depending on what you decide to use for a fan and blade it should at least have a hub in the middle to both attach to the motor shaft and allow for spinning in the wind. Hobby propellers often come with spinners that work in much of the same way as a hub but as always it may take some trial and error for the best setup.

Secure the Motor

The last thing you’ll want to do as far as the wind-generator setup is concerned is to secure the motor in the top coupler. If there is some wiggle room electrical tape can be used to thicken the motor diameter and create a secure fit.


Hook Up Wires To Bulb Holder and Test

The final step is to hook up the outlet wires to the bulb holder. Connect the positive wire to the associated spot on the bulb holder and the black or ground wire around the other screw. Make sure this connection is secure and then put in a (LED) lightbulb. Then point a fan at the wind-powered generator’s blades or wait until a breezy night and enjoy the free light source (hopefully).

The direct connect source of creating power definitely has some limitations mostly for things producing some sort of light. Once you’ve mastered the basics of how wind power works though you can start to evolve. You’ll eventually start hooking up the (larger) wind turbines to 12 volt car batteries and then run a wire from that battery to a socket. With the addition of a small AC inverter you can then use wind power just like you would a regular home outlet to use for charging cell phones on the beach or listening to Air Supply on the radio outside.

In essence, an air supply essentially brings you Air Supply.

One Comment

  1. “Once you’ve mastered the bare essentials you can move on to powering your furnace with the bitter wind of Winter. ”

    Um, don’t think so. You’d need a mega wind turbine for that plus massive battery bank for non windy days. What you need is good insulation, plenty of windows on sun-facing side of your house, and possibly a wood burner to use the calories of summer in time-honoured fashion.

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