Introduction: Ted Baer's Bicycle Wheel Windmill

Picture of Ted Baer's Bicycle Wheel Windmill

Ted Baer has created a series of small windmills designed for third world use over a period of three decades. This first in the series has evolved in simplicity and power. The aluminum vanes are constructed from a building flashing roll utilizing the pre-existing bend of the roll in construction. Two 16 " sections are riveted together to make one vane. The vanes clip on the spokes of the bicycle wheel using a "bent nail" and a bend in the vane. Detailed pictures will be provided shortly. The generator is a surplus permanent magnet motor and the uv resistant endless belting is purchased to length from online sources.

Output is a respectable 2 amps at 12 mph (18-20 volts) providing a cost effective alternative to a solar photovoltaic panels (if wind is available). The total cost of the windmill was less than $80 purchasing most items new (off-the-shelf). The two most expensive items were the permanent magnet motor (around $30) and the uv resistant round belting typically used in food processing plants to drive conveyors ($3 to $5 per foot).

The windmill does have a tail (see new photo). The frame is made from PVC pipe. It is important to use only a 24 to 27 inch rear solid axle bicycle wheel. The wheel is mounted to a PVC end cap via a hole drilled in the middle of the end cap.

The generator is a 24 volt DC permanent magnet motor. This one was surplus and used in old main frame disk drive units. DC permanent magnet motors are available through Internet surplus resources, but getting scarce. Here is a link that gives you more detail on sources and the types to look for:

The generator is mounted using a simple L bracket. Should be sturdy (not the typical shelf bracket) and both the motor and the bracket are secured with radiator hose clamps.

The windmill pole is electrical conduit that 1.5 inch PVC slides over. A short segment of PVC pipe is screwed into the metal conduit to create a bearing that the windmill pivots on (PVC to PVC).

The tail has to be counterweighted to balance the unit. Ted used a bunch of pennies and got it balanced perfectly. What else are they good for? :-)

I'm adding a couple of new pictures. Sorry we don't have more detailed steps with pictures. This was done some time ago.

Step 1: Testing

Picture of Testing

The test rig is a Windstar van with top rack and platform. The tripod is a roof TV antenna mount. Windspeed, volts and amps are taken and recorded with a digital camera. Video clips will be provided shortly.

Step 2: Vane Attachment

Picture of Vane Attachment

The vanes attach by folding the aluminum flashing over one spoke and hooking a bent nail around a second spoke, The bent nail is inserted through a drilled hole in the vane.

Step 3: Blade Attachment Detail

Picture of Blade Attachment Detail

This shows how the blade is attached. The bend is made by hand, simply bending the aluminum flashing over a metal rod about 1/8th inch in diameter. The metal flashing we used (years ago) was thicker than currently available. You will have to laminate (rivet or use two-sided tape) two thicknesses together to obtain a blade that is stiff enough. But you can also make blades out of wood (1/8 inch plywood or door skins) or plastic.

Step 4: Generator Belt Detail

Picture of Generator Belt Detail

This just gives a bit more detailed view of the generator, pulley and endless belting.

Step 5:

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There were many variations of the windmill. Here is the most successful in terms of output. It uses two wheels and two generators. Let your imagination run wild. Our mantra is/was: "how much can you do with how little".

Step 6:

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Here is a variation with only one generator. On both two wheel models the horizontal PVC must be strengthened with rigid metal electrical conduit or water pipe. The balance on this model was improved by having the generator closer to the pivot point. Want more power...add more wheels or start a mini windmill farm. Our concept all along has been the windmill equivalent of a solar panel...modular, friendly and cheap to build.

Step 7:

Picture of

Note the specialty outdoor furniture PVC connectors. Two such connectors were used...a five way connector and one way slip connector. The connectors were secured by screws so they could be disassembled. The five way connector is the one used in the back supporting the horizontal cross piece and the tail. The horizontal bar has a metal pipe in the center to provide the needed rigidity. The top PVC connector supporting the generator is a three way connector cut so that it forms a cradle and the generator is mounted to it with radiator clamps. All the pulleys used the models are hardware store grade.

The special fittings can be ordered over the internet at:


k8snr (author)2016-07-05

Hi Ted, do you have a contact email I can send you a request directly on?

- Kate

ChetsJug (author)2015-01-11

This is brilliant. I was trying to use the chain sprocket and then the
gearing was too slow. A gearbox to speed up a motor takes too much
energy away. This way you adjust the genny speed with the size of the
pully wheel.

I see on this configuration the motor spins the opposite direction than the twin "turbines". I'm thinking you could use a long V-belt from the truck/automotive store and use a v-pulley. The flat back of the V-belt would have more than enough traction on the inside of the bike rims. You probably would want the kind with the flex notches on the inside of the belt. Generally a V-belt is not intended to flex backwards, but the bike rims are large enough that I don't think it would "break" the back of the belt. A belt is held together with the cords anyway, like a tire.

Com Bow Sling Guy (author)2012-06-08

Well Ted you went from slingshots to wind power. And very good in both. I am your friend who kind of went from slingshots to wind spinners and back again.I would like to talk with you sometime. If you type in combowslingguy or Robert Blair and slingshot my web page will pop up. And we can catch up. Thank you for getting me started on Instructables.

zipperboy (author)2011-11-22

Looks good. The belting issue is a big one though. I was thinking if you used a double wheel set up where the distance between the 2 wheel/windmills could be adjusted, then you could find a combine or farm implement belt that would tie the two wheels as one with a simple loop. As large bike wheels are not going to spin at crazy speeds it might also be possible to make belts out of pre-stretched multiweave rope. As used by climbers. this would require gluing a rubber rim liner in, maybe x2 to get more grab. you would also need to learn to weave two ends together, however there are insructibles for that I am pretty sure.

Then using the rear chain drive gear as used with bike engine kits, on just one of the wheels you could tie the wheel set to the generator with bike chain. The upside here is you could likely use the front bike wheel on the side not attached to the chain drive as it will be taking less torque. For durability it might help to put a torque brace as used with high power electric bike hub motors on the chain drive side.

Still pretty all right at is , good work, Phil aka zipperboy

Computothought (author)2011-09-13


kattorres (author)2011-07-23

What amazes me most is that you have built this out of items that can already be found in most impoverished areas. This is a great thing to get some church groups, environmental groups, youth groups, etc. interested in sponsoring. I would be interested in having someone teach a group of our church members how to construct these, then send them on missions annually. We have sent members to the Bahamas in the past for medical missions and house building, but the problem is getting the supplies necessary to remote locations. You have to carry EVERYTHING you are gonna need to build with, in with you. Alot of times the villages can only be reached by foot. So anything you can actually build out of materials found ON LOCATION is very helpful. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

chrisnotap (author)2011-04-09

I love this instructable. Great idea to make the blades that connect easily, quickly and stay put. You have gotten my brain juices flowing to make a similar unit. Love the Honda wago-van. A great little car!!

samnew (author)2011-02-16

i made one in a few hours and it spins SO FREAKING WELL because it is SO LIGHT. i have tried lots of PVC airfoil type blades and they don't start so fast, they're a bit heavy, and sort of scary in that maybe the pvc will crack and explode. these are light and easy and wow.

otroandres (author)2010-03-25

Is it better to have the generator there? or would it be better to have it with the same axle of the wheel?

stormthirst (author)otroandres2010-03-26

Cons of doing it this way:
You lose a small amount of power to friction

Pros of doing it this way:
Your generator will run MUCH faster. In this rig, for every revolution of the wind wheel, the generator will get 5 revolutions. Faster turning = more power

But less torque.

flying pie (author)2010-05-01

thanks i need that  you rock

danial90 (author)2010-04-28

I just wanna ask can one use a car generator or alternator for power generation in your turbine

killersquirel11 (author)2010-03-26

In this instructable, they made their own generator for the turbine

Pros:  You can spec out the motor exactly the way you need it, more efficient

Cons:  Takes a lot of time.

This article has some different winding configurations if you choose to go that route.

oh, also, it would be awesome to see someone make one like this DIY.

KnexFreek (author)2010-01-30

 cool !!!!

sontos12 (author)KnexFreek2010-03-20

u say "cool !!!" for everything u see! :P

KnexFreek (author)sontos122010-03-20

 LOL cool!!!

mahesh.ganpate (author)2010-03-19

how much  blade fixing on  bicycle wheel

mahesh.ganpate (author)2010-03-19

vaoo..nice  u r brain  can sagess me  generater parameter details

mred2 (author)2009-03-29

What is the belt made from, and how did you connect it into a continuous loop?

bill3504 (author)mred22009-05-14

its called a lace belt you can remove a link or add links

useful1 (author)bill35042010-01-11

Googled lace belt.  I find womens fashion lace belts.  But no lace belts that can be connected made in rubber or sturdy material.

Are you saying the belt is made of cloth? 

If I connect a belt using a staple, it adds a bump.  But not a smooth as a solid rubber alternator belt.

Any web links to a "lace belt?"  or a link to a belt that would work?

brymattcrafts (author)useful12010-01-24

You can find "belts" for this at your auto parts shop. They are made to be used for emergency replacements if you lose a drive belt and you can add or remove links to fit any size pulley arrangements

RENATO.ROSS (author)2009-11-22

se você usasse apenas 3 lâminas ia ficar muito mais fácil o balanceamento. parabéns pelo projeto..........dificuldades da lingua......

melbay49 (author)2009-11-09

This is precisely what I'm looking for. How long do you think it would run on a set of bearings? I vaugely remember a line of thought that said windmills housed in airfoils take better advantage of gusts and reduce axial loading. Comments?

Hycro (author)2009-09-10

Ahh...that's how the belting is run...since it uses the rim, it's not absolutely necessary that it has to be a rear wheel...unless you are using the rear wheel because it has a longer axle than the front wheel (though, not by much) and if it's axle length you chose the rear wheel for, a 24"/26" mountain bike rear wheel would be optimal, since it has a longer axle than a cruiser bike (usually no more than 6 speeds, sometimes only one speed with an in-hub brake, known as a coaster brake), or racing bike (those ones with the narrow tires)

Hycro (author)2009-09-10

Wouldn't it work to fold over all but the trailing edges to make the blade stiffer, that way you use less material, the blade is lighter, and is more aerodynamic that two pieces riveted together?? (thinking of rivets and the seam between the two pieces causing drag, or am I just talking nonsense??)

craig0246 (author)2009-08-16

where did you get the correct size of belt?

craig0246 (author)2009-08-16

this looks very cool! How much power output does this produce? Do you use it to recharge a battery pack or do you have it tied in directly to your power box to your home?

dexknows (author)2009-05-24

can you send me schematics

mcflyalright (author)2009-05-24

using an oversized cheap rubber rim strip would probably work for the belt on a budget. they stretch a whole lot to so maybe even the rimstrip thats already on it would work. Unless you've got some nice velox tape like the rim in the picture

name0 (author)2009-05-11

this is an awesome way to save energy and that is whats important these days:) awesome

ANDY! (author)2009-04-13

You can improve ifficiancy by loosening the bearings on the wheels a bit which was what i did on my bike.

ghans_00 (author)2009-04-11

Sir this is cool, I like it!

Dr.Bill (author)2009-02-09

This is way cool. I was thinking of using dacron sail cloth at one time but it looks like this is better because only one edge of the blade needs to be connected to a spoke. This even looks like it could be used to power a bench sander or grinder or some such.

odiekokee (author)2009-01-22

I may have missed it, but where can i get info on layout and construction of useful blades? Much oblige,

chrisnotap (author)2009-01-22

What a great set up. I want to be able to heat my house with a set up some day once I find the right design. Keep up the great work!!

TimAnderson (author)2008-05-12

We just built one with a bike chain drive, but that seems to rub the rim and make too much friction. What belt diameter do you like? Pulley diameter? Do you do anything to the wheel to make the belt ride in the middle? Are there any belts/wheels on that would work?

callmeshane (author)TimAnderson2008-12-11

IF assuming it's an IF, the rubbing of the chain on the rim is from misaligment, then that's easy fixed. Aside from a direct drive armature / stator, chain drive is about as efficient as it comes - it may not be the absolutely most efficient, what with thin flat kevlar belts etc., but as far as I know it's the most efficient - just below direct gear to gear drive. The BEST method to run indirect drive is via chain, in a DUST sealed GEAR BOX (gears in a box) using a LOW viscosity oil (5W), as a carrier, with a solid lubricant - perhaps some teflon or copper / nickel powder as the actual boundary layer / solid film lubricant. Use contactless labarynth grease / oil seals instead of lipped rubber bearing seals - as the lipped seals create a small amount of drag. Really good efficiencies can be gained through brilliant and quality designs - but who has a team of really trick engineers, wind tunnels and uber clever programmers and super computers on hand; but less than ideal designs can also be radically increased with many small improvements. This is a really good read containing many issues and proven ideas along these lines - not so much the actual drive trains, but the concepts of variations, alterations and the matters of efficiency. NASA/CR-2003-212670 Blended Wing Body Systems Studies: Boundary Layer Ingestion Inlets With Active Flow Control

Cosantoir (author)TimAnderson2008-06-22

Bike chain would seem to make a lot of sense. Rig the rear wheel as a "fixed gear"; someone makes a cheap converter block that replaces the common Shimano freehub body with a solid block, eliminating the freewheel assembly of the freehub. There are spacers available for adjusting chainline, or you can use 1" PVC pipe to make your own. This allows moving the chainline far enough away from the hub that it should eliminate problems with the chain rubbing on the rim. Mounting can then be simplified to just a suitable 10mmx1 bolt replacing the axle. Using a freehub-fixie converter would also make it simple to experiment with different gear ratios in order to tune the generator to the local conditions. On second thought: went looking for the converter: it's called the Surly Fixxer, and they want about $75 for it! Consider Option 2: braze the pawls of the stock freehub mechanism in place, or maybe fill the freehub guts with Liquid Steel or some other sort of epoxy goo? Put the pawls under a slight load while the epoxy sets, to make sure they're engaged. Alternatively, you could use a freewheel rear hub and a track sprocket, held in place by a bottom bracket lock ring. But that's going to cost a fair piece if you have to buy the sprocket new. Once fixed-gear conversions are no longer trendy---which should be any day now---there should be plenty of ex-hipster bikes to be found in dumpsters, at thrift stores, etc. Also worth considering: fabricate a cover for the chain to protect it from the weather and allow oil bath lubrication?

dwarren (author)TimAnderson2008-05-15

We use a 3/8 inch round plastic belt from Fenner Drives called Orange 85. Our tests were conducted with a 4 inch V belt pulley and a 26 inch bicycle wheel. Bicycle wheel rim tape helps keep the belt in the middle of the wheel. We haven't checked with McMasters Ted

franzwa (author)2008-11-26

nice job on the Instructable!!!

good_as_matrix (author)2008-07-13

omg what a great job u have done!! i have the same sort of idea but different design... i will upload it soon.. Everything will b recycled! from the rubbish day :o)

finnindian (author)2008-06-16

you can attach the vanes to the spokes useing (hog rings and a set of hog ring pliers.This is a total investment of about 12 dollars US funds. Both the tool and the rings are agricultural products , available a any farm supply store.The rings intended use is to attach them to a pigs nose to prevent them from digging in the ground for roots!

mroper (author)2008-06-04

\Trying to have a go at this now but I am a bit confused as to how the vanes stay in place on the wheel spokes. I can see both the fold and the hooks but what would stop lateral movement of the vanes along the spokes? is it that they are pulled outwards and as the spokes taper outwards friction holds them in place? How robust would this be?

dwarren (author)mroper2008-06-05

The vanes stay in place through the tension created by one spoke and bent nail secures the tensioned vane to the same spoke that creates the tension. A hole is drilled in the vane directly above the spoke, bent nail is inserted and the vane is flexed to secure the nail around the spoke.

andrew_29 (author)2008-04-11

how dose he hook it up to the generator bike wheels have free wheels

jlmowery (author)andrew_292008-05-30

ummm. . . mostly you don't. The wheel is not bolted to the generator, but rather the generator is run by a belt driven at the wheel rim. Look at the illustration in step 4.

IamBob (author)2007-07-29

Does this have a rudder and furling system?

A respectable 2 amps and how many volts**??? You kind of need to know how many watts this puts out in order to compare it to anything else.

** (amps*volts=watts)

If this really only cost you $80, then....

If it's generating 2amps at 48volts, that's 96watts; $0.83 a watt.
If it's generating 2amps at 24volts, that's 48watts; $1.66 a watt.
If it's generating 2amps at 12volts, that's 24watts; $3.33 a watt.
If it's generating 2amps at 6volts, that's 12watts; $6.66 a watt.

I expected more from someone that's been working on windmill design for three decades.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a retired (32 years) community college instructor in Digital Media. I'm an aspiring artist in wood and metal.
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