Introduction: Camping Wind Turbine

Picture of Camping Wind Turbine

Camping's all about enjoying the outdoors; but let's face it - electronics are hard to power in the outdoors...There's nothing worse than pulling out your camera to snap a photo of a great view and finding out your battery's dead! Generators are heavy and difficult to lug around, and so the perfect solution is a green source of free energy: the wind!

Although this turbine -because of its small size and lightweight nature- isn't exactly going to run at 120V, it's capable of charging batteries and such. But when the whole thing weighs only 16 ounces, i'd say that's a fair trade off. With access to some fairly simple materials and tools, you can make your very own camping wind turbine!

Even in a low breeze, this turbine is capable of creating a good amount of voltage (see video). A leaf blower is used in this video to create the "wind", however, it is far enough away from the turbine that it only creates the equivalent of a light breeze. The units on the voltmeter are in thousandths of volts and in this video the turbine creates over 1/3 of a volt.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

1/2 inch PVC "T" joint
1" ABS Rod
1" to 1/2" PVC Coupler
3/4" Aluminum Pipe
DC Servo Motor 
1/16" Thick ABS Sheeting
1/8" Stainless Steel Rod
1/8" Threaded Hex Screws
Insulated Wire
Electrical Tape
Black Spraypaint
Green Spraypaint

You won't be able to find a lot of these items at your nearest Home Depot. It took me a bit of scrounging to get these materials; luckily you don't need large quantities of them.

Scrollsaw or Bandsaw
Lathe or drill press (or crazy good drilling skills...)
Locking pliers
Soldering Iron

Step 2: Motor Setup

Picture of Motor Setup

The central "hub" originally had 6 holes drilled equidistantly around the 1" ABS piece. After experimentation with the blades, however, I discovered that 3 blades works more efficiently than 6 with my setup. These holes receive the bolts that the blades are attached to.

Drill a hole axially into the center of the ABS "hub" piece to receive the "corkscrew" end of the motor. Once the hole is drilled, glue the "hub" to the motor.  

I'll have to admit I got rather lucky on this one; the motor i found was incredibly small and -after some work on the lathe- fit into a slightly modified 1/2" PVC "T" joint. Push the motor in far enough so that the leads are visible through the bottom of the "T" joint. Once the motor is situated correctly and evenly, glue it into place.

Once the motor is glued in, solder wires to the leads on the motor (these wires should be rather long as they will have to feed down the length of the stand and out the bottom). Next, attach the 1" to 1/2" coupler to the bottom of the "T" joint.

On the other end of the "T" joint, cut a slot for the "tail" piece.

Step 3: Blades!

Picture of Blades!

As mentioned earlier, some tests brought me to the conclusion that 3 blades would work better than 6 for this turbine. My blades are 7 inches long and a little bit over 1 3/4" at the widest point.

Cut the blades out of the 1/16" thick ABS sheeting and sand the edges to remove any burrs. I decided to paint my blades green so that they would stand out from the rest of the apparatus. Drill a hole about a 1/2" from the base of the blade. Then attach the blade to the ABS hub with a 1/8" Hex Screw

Follow the same process with the "tail" piece, however, cut out two from the 1/16" sheeting and glue them together so that they fit snugly into the slot on the PVC "T". I left the last 1/2" of the tail black so that it would match the PVC "T" when pushed into the slot.

Step 4: The Stand

Picture of The Stand

Cut the aluminum pipe to a 12" length and then cut 4 equidistant slots into the bottom. These slots should be about 1 1/4" high. Then, cut two rectangular pieces out of the sheeting and cut slots about halfway through both of them. These should fit nicely together and be long enough to extend about an inch past the aluminum pipe (see pictures for clarity).

As shown in picture 5, cut 8 of these pieces (about 1 1/4" wide and 12" to 14" long). Drill three holes in each of these pieces: one on each end and one about 4 inches in from the side without the angled cut.

On the side of the more closely drilled holes, cut a rounded corner (this will allow the "legs" to fold upwards toward the aluminum pipe).
Attach the 8 pieces (in pairs) to each of the four corners of the cross-piece that is attached to the aluminum pipe (see pictures for clarity). I used the 1/8" Hex screws but really any bolt or screw should work. The hole on the side of the angled cut will be for attaching the stakes.

Step 5: Painting!

Picture of Painting!

I have a turbine and I want to paint it black....

This is probably the most simple and yet most fulfilling of all the steps. Once it's painted all nicely, it takes on a real sleek, professional look. I used black spray paint and put on a layer or two just to be safe. Make sure to paint the "legs" of the stand in the extended and the folded positions.

Step 6: Stakes

Picture of Stakes

Cut the 1/8" stainless steel rod into 4 6" lengths. At about 3" down the piece, begin the triangular bend for the stake. After some finagling with the locking pliers and a pair of needle nose pliers, I was able to get it bent into shape. It may be a little tricky at first but you'll get the hang of it. 

Leave the triangle open at the bottom so that you can run it through the hole on the "leg" pieces. I actually left mine about 1/4" open to allow free movement when folding of the legs. any smaller, and the stakes would get stuck and get in the way.

Step 7: Test It Out!

Picture of Test It Out!

Fold it out, stake it down, and test it out!

Using a leafblower as my controllable "wind" source, I tested out the wind turbine to make sure everything worked nicely. The camera isnt quite able to keep up with the spinning blades, but in case you're wondering, they're going REALLY fast (over 1000 rpm, and generating over 1.6 Volts in the process). 

This wind turbine isn't exactly for charging your phone, however, it works perfectly for charging rechargeable batteries and such. It's portable nature makes it easy to carry around and it's lightweight design makes it an option even for backpackers. The motor and blade setup weighs only 5 ounces and can be very easily detached from the stand and attached to a hiking pole. In short, there's a lot of flexibility with this design and I can't wait to use it on my next backpacking trip! 


ReeseH6 (author)2017-02-23

does anyone know if the measurements given are for radius or diameter?

TusharD7 (author)2015-10-13


Paracord Ninja16 (author)2012-05-15

You could hook up a really high voltage rechargeable battery to it and tape the turbine to the top of your car and then go drive on the interstate to your camping destination and when you get their you will have lots of free energy!

The energy isn't free; you'd have paid for it in gasoline. Also, you might as well just use the 12 V you can get from your car's alternator.

KimmyP (author)2012-12-28

I'm a tad confused about the gluing the motor to the hub and then gluing the motor to the pipe. Would the motor be inside the hub cap piece already when gluing it to the pipe?

milosapiz (author)2012-07-04

what is the serial number for DC servo motor..

dimtick (author)2012-03-27

I'm coming late to the party here with my late comment.
from the video's and photo's I see that you have a wind direction vane on the hub but it doesn't appear that the hub unit can turn to follow the direction of the wind?
if it can how does that work?

XxMechTechxX (author)2012-01-17


Bank_rob (author)XxMechTechxX2012-03-01

you can get way better ones out of old printers. i go to our local AMVET store, they sell for $5 for a complete printer! at least that's the brushed dc motor i use to get around 7 volts dc on a typical sustained wind here in buffalo.

B_randon (author)XxMechTechxX2012-02-21

remote control cars usually have them. check that or an old gameing system controler with the "rumble" vibration motors.

you could tear apart a battery toothbrush. it is a smaller motor, but you probably have one in your bathroom.

I'm terribly sorry but i'm not sure i can explain to you where to find one; I was lucky enough to come across one after some serious searching and scrounging. Hopefully you can find something similar online but unfortunately I can't offer you a lot of help. Good Luck!

eulamue (author)2012-02-26

You can get the motors from most hobby shops. I went to Toys R Us in the 90's and bought a dozen of them on clearance for less than $2 each. They may still have them there. They are used to drive small battery powered cars.

XxMechTechxX (author)2012-01-09

i really need to know where you get this motor to build my science project I have a dead line where i have to build it repeat an experiment 10 times then record it, write it down make a graph, make a discussion, post it ALL on a poster board and turn it in by Jan, 25

XxMechTechxX (author)2011-12-28


kerec6 (author)2011-11-24

Where did you get the motor?

cdawson2 (author)2011-11-14

this is awesome! thank you! we were considering buying solar panels but this better. might make 2! and for all those people who keep saying stuff about how camping is meant to be for getting away from this kind of stuff. you people must not like light, music or taking pictures. you need power for these things. why not get it for free. and im not sure when and where you guys camp. but we primitive camp, and extendly, and often in the winter. so i would love to be able to have free power for watching movies at night with my warm cup of cocoa. we all camp for different reasons. some times its since to have power. thank you for this instructable!

ammonihah99 (author)2011-09-08

This is awesome! Why don't automakers put these somewhere on cars to help charge the battery?

because you would lose more energy trying to re-charge the battery than you would actually charging it. that's if you are talking about electric vehicles.

Gas vehicles re-charge the battery already.

Yeah I'm talking about electric or hybrid. Why would you lose more energy? Because of wind drag?

brewgyver (author)ammonihah992011-09-13

Yes. EVs and Hybrids have HUGE storage capacity, because moving the vehicle takes an extremely large current. It is NOT POSSIBLE to generate such current with a WTG on a moving vehicle. In other words, the idea of using a WTG on the roof of a car which is being moved by an electric motor, is physically impossible. That would be perpetual motion.

ammonihah99 (author)brewgyver2011-09-13

Not being able to charge the battery for lack of enough current is one thing, but wind drag producing a neutral or negative effect seems to be another issue altogether. As far as lack of current goes, wouldn't anything help? The solar panels on the roof of a Prius help, why not a WTG? And as far as drag goes, would optimal placement reduce drag inefficiency? Or would that not matter?

Aside from all of that, the conservation of energy theory will also come into play. Even if you had solar panels around the entire vehicle, wind turnbines and even motors that charge the vehicle when the vehicle moves. You still would be losing energy :/

Hi. Just to add into this question here. I see that one would be losing energy with this setup, but if done correctly wouldn't you be losing that energy slower than if without it? Just a thought.

da winksta (author)siafulinux2011-10-08

no. bad idea

strods (author)da winksta2011-11-12

in regards to this whole wind turbine recharging a electric car let me offer this, coming from a man who had the same thought. Then I did the homework and, without going into math, there are two problems.

1. Generators you could practically fit on a car generate electricity in the watts range. An electric vehicle needs KILLOWATTS worth of power, 1000 times what generators could produce. To give you a comparison, we want to fill a traditional car with gallons of gas, the generators would only give it in ounces, and no, not fast enough to be worth it.

2. Drag, from weight or air resistance, whatever you put on the car is going to reduce your accelleration and your distance. Distance is the problem most electric cars are trying to overcome most

da winksta (author)ammonihah992011-10-08

cool instructable, not sure if its super useful...

and you guys are rediculous for suggesting to add one to a car..... makes no sense at all. the only thing it could be good for is keeping the battery charged when not in use for loooong amounts of time... but in that case you should disconnect the battery anyway.

The amount of electricity this produces is near negligible when compared to the amount of electrity it takes to power the vehicles electric motors. literally... negligible.... it would probably take a weeks worth of gail for winds for a mini windmill to produce enough elcetricity to move a car half a mile.
sorry but.... BAD IDEA mounting wind mills to cars.... just plain old bad idea.

placement does matter in terms of drag. but again, there woud be NO benefit of adding one of these to a car. And the solar panel roof on a prius, pretty much useless as well.

looking at toyotas website it says the prius motors are 27kw. the solar panel probably makes 50 watts at the very most. at this rate, it would take you well over three months of solar collection to drive one hour. The wind mill would take probably ten times longer. the solar roof on priuses is a gimmick

blodefood (author)ammonihah992011-10-05

I think a tiny turbine or two on the vehicle would be useful to power things like daytime running lights and such. It would make more sense to have a solar panel as part of the roof and hood to supplement power or to provide power when the car is parked with the motor off. This would ensure that anything you plug in during daylight won't drain the car battery. It might be useful too, if you run out of gas, you have auxilliary power to get you to a gas station. I'm no expert, but I think one should be able to design a car that does not need refuelling for thousands of km.

Maybe instead of charging the battery, you could use it to power the radio or recharge the phone while on the road.

triumphman (author)2011-11-11

Camping: to get away from all the stuff that complicates life! Leave it home! Take only basic needs! Relax, unwind, keep it simple! Let your mind and body re-charge, not your toys and games! That is my philosophy, anyone else agree?

acoleman3 (author)2011-09-08

if you made the ends wider then the base and researched/practice with the armouring technique called dishing, im sure your blades would be more efficient since the larger cupped surface would catch more of the wind.

brewgyver (author)acoleman32011-09-13

Doesn't work that way. Look at the big commercial WTGs - the ends of the blades are always MUCH smaller than at the hub.

acoleman3 (author)brewgyver2011-10-18

i was thinking along the lines of taking the blade design of a handheld anemometer and dishing the ends slightly (with the center of the dish closer to the edge if the rotational direction), it would catch more air and be driven easier with less wind.

flagoworld (author)brewgyver2011-10-07

At a first glance, it probably has something to do with catching an equal volume of air per unit of time in motion, as well as having less drag.

javajunkie1976 (author)2011-09-19

I think you're missing the point of going camping. People go camping to get AWAY from the electronics and usual day to day equipment!! Good idea anyway.

wheelslbc (author)javajunkie19762011-10-12

You better throw away you hi-tech tent and clothing too. If I am not mistaken people went camping and mountain climbing before there was much of anything electronic(I doubt they brought the Gramaphone) What were they "getting away" from? Try to think of it as going to rather than getting away from. Today I think we are getting in to nature more so even if you bring your iPod etc because of how light we can travel. Unless you go down under and go on a "walk about" were do you draw the line?

javajunkie1976 (author)wheelslbc2011-10-12

I usually draw the line at bringing the portable game stations, nintendos, radio/Mp3 players, etc. As for the high tech tent? I take an old Army blanket and some rope; I use branches for the supports. Clothing, I wear cotton fabric as I have problems with synthetics. I made my own backpack and fish or trap my own food.

strods (author)javajunkie19762011-10-15

I lead a scouting outpost and do believe in "unplugging" the boys while we're out there. However, as I am the leader and therefore the one responsible for the boys, I keep my phone on me for emergency contact both ways. (from us or the parents.) For a single overnight a full charge before we leave will do, but any longer and I need some recharge. This is the kind of project I've been thinking of myself to keep my phone charged for long trips for "just in case purposes". Parents are happier when they know we keep in touch.

javajunkie1976 (author)strods2011-10-17

Emergency stuff is ok, never have a problem with that. My problem with having electricity while on a camping trip is the kids are so addicted to having their gamestations and such. Of course for a great practical joke, make a copy of their portable pads/pods/etc. that looks just like them with dead batteries...

juiceman74 (author)2011-09-16

Also, you haven't mentioned the bolt in your part list. I presume these are short bolts with washers and nuts. They get screwed to the PVC pipe with the holes?

paqrat (author)2011-09-09

I must admit to being completely ignorant of items electrical. Why couldn't one use an electric fan with different blades to make it more efficient?

brewgyver (author)paqrat2011-09-13

Typical fans have induction motors. In simplest terms, the flow of electricity through the stator windings creates a strong magnetic field which temporarily magnetizes the rotor, and the cyclic nature of the Alternating current through the different windings in the stator causes the rotor to turn. When the flow of electricity stops, the magnetic field collapses. This kind of motor cannot be used to generate power. The type of Direct Current motors that can be used as generators have permanent magnets for stators, and windings on the rotor. Electricity is connected to the rotor windings through commutators (also called brushes), to sequentially energize windings, and the resultant magnetic fields interact with the Stator fields to make the rotor turn.

krogina (author)brewgyver2011-09-15

speaking of the motor. where did you get your d/c motor?

paqrat (author)brewgyver2011-09-14

Thank you, I believe I understand. It seems to me then that if one replaced the regular fan motor with a dc motor it would then work. One would possibly have to modify or replace the blades but wouldn't the rest of the mechanics work pretty well? If this is the case, I think there are a number of older fans that might be utilized . Making it less necessary to scrounge a variety of parts.

Rayzor910 (author)2011-09-14

Great turbine but I have a quick question.
How did you atach the hub to the motor shaft?

colin55 (author)2011-09-08

The motor in this article is not classified as a "servo motor." It it simply a 3v 3-pole DC motor.
If you get a 6v or 12v 5 pole motor, it will produce a higher voltage at lower RPM.
The way to find out the number of poles; turn the shaft with your fingers and count the number of "bumps" or "resistances" in one revolution. This respresents a pole (called a pole-piece) passing the north-south poles of the magnets surrounding the armature.
To work out the voltage of the motor is very difficult but the motor I use has a DC resistance of about 10 ohms and operates on 12v.
It produces 5v at low RPM
This is the secret behind getting this type of arrangement to work.

Colin Mitchell

DeepCycle (author)colin552011-09-08

THANK YOU sooo much, colin55!
This is the kind of knowledge I come to instructables FOR.

espdp2 (author)DeepCycle2011-09-11

I'll second that!

snoopindaweb (author)2011-09-10

- =////=======> Yo' Mama gonna' spank You, that's so OOl..YUP.! I beleve I'll follow Along. Thanks. G-G

fmasi (author)2011-09-08

Some random thoughts:
1) that motor is made for spinning a lot faster
2) even that small, a 1000 rpm rotor is far from being the safest thing ever (also difficult to balance perfectly)
3) the ground drags the wind down a lot

In my point of view, a 2.0 version would be:
- 3 ft tall (hub height), the pole could be in 3 pieces
- blades would be 2 or 3 times longer (hub axle should should point a few degrees upwards, or bending blades could hit the pole) this would cut the rotor speed to half or 1/3rd (more manageable) while making it 2 or 3 times more powerful
- a small, simple, gearbox would keep the motor in a range of rpm higher than actual while the rotor spins slower, taking real advantage of the increased rotor power.


About This Instructable




Bio: I enjoy building and inventing; I love creating new things and improving on old ideas. I am a student at BYU and am studying under ... More »
More by ineverfinishanyth:DIY Metal StampingBed in a BoxTactical Multitool
Add instructable to: