Home Wind Energy

Having studied the site location issues and being satisfied that your site is favourable for a home wind energy project, we can proceed to the selection of components. At this point much depends on how far you intend to go on the DIY front.

There is always a lot of DIY involved, even in preparation

There is always a lot of DIY involved, even in preparation

effectiveness.

A host of websites give the impression that ‘almost anyone’ can build a wind turbine, many of them with their ‘buy my plans’ and similar sales agendas. I disagree. I recommend that very serious consideration be given to this issue before ‘jumping in’. I have seen many a ‘hopeful’ attempt to build a turbine  only to face exasperation in doing so and/or total disappointment with the finished result; be it poor output, failed performance or the unfortunate unit falling victim to the elements within weeks. How often I read: ”just nip on down to your local scrap yard and pick up your parts………!” Sounds so easy? For most of us, there is more than enough DIY work on the tower, the careful assembly of the purchased turbine, putting it all with together with care; and then successfully erecting it.

Almost all wind turbines aimed at the home wind energy market are configured for 12 or 24 volt DC battery bank charging. Bigger turbines may also offer a 48 volt DC option. An inverter is then used to convert the stored energy to 110 or 220 volts AC for household supply.

So let’s look at acquiring quality components for the overall project. There is no need to consider ‘kits’ for the general component requirements for your home wind energy system, and no real cost saving in doing so, except perhaps at micro turbine level. The most important item is the tower. It must be strong and sturdy. Galvanised steel pipe or scaffolding is the accepted ideal, with a diameter ranging from 2 to 6 inches depending on the turbine make, size and weight. These are readily available at building supply outlets. Do not buy old, well used or partially rusted tube just because it’s cheap. You may well regret it.

Next comes the decidedly important steel guy wires for tower support and for this I would ideally head to a boat yard and source premium quality stranded wire used for masts. Failing that a construction yard serving utility and telephone companies is also likely to have sound quality, (if thicker) stranded wire. Again don’t shortcut. Have the yard make up the approximate wire lengths you require, complete with professionally crimped eyelets at one end for shackling to sleeve anchor points on the tower. Good quality wire bulldog grips (2-3 at each end) may then be used at the ground anchor ends to allow for adjustment, particularly if a tilt-up gin pole is to be used. The ground anchors should be well embedded in adequate concrete footings.

Hardware stores can be a great source for fittings, fixings, wiring, fusing, multi-meters and tooling etc. for your home wind energy project. But obviously more specialist suppliers are best for control systems, quality DC breakers etc.

The question often arises as to whether there are distinct power output differences between a reputable commercial turbine and DIY turbines. In my opinion, yes there are! The commercially produced turbine will almost always outclass the DIY turbine, even if only on its weather proofing features.

The question of noise also arises often. Larger turbines can be noisy, particularly at high speeds. Smaller and mini turbines make more of a non-invasive ‘whirring’ sound. Then there is acoustic and vibration noise. This can be bothersome and is one reason why I would never install a larger turbine on a house roof.

Finally, the question of the aesthetics of wind turbines is often raised. My answer is straight and to the point. I am opposed to commercial wind-farms for many reasons, but mainly for their negative impact and visual pollution of our commonly owned landscapes and seascapes. On the other hand I find the privately owned small home wind energy turbine both aesthetically pleasing and very comforting.