This tutorial by KidWind teaches you how to make an electricity-producing model wind turbine with PVC pipe, balsa wood, a generator, and a few special parts.
Students, teachers, and hobbyists love using these turbines to learn and teach about wind energy science and technology.
Step 1: Wind Turbine Basics
Wind Turbines harness the power of the wind to produce electricity. Today turbine production is rapidly expanding all over the United States and the world.
To learn more about wind energy, head to the KidWind website
This instructable will help you learn about wind turbines through a hands-on project.
Before we get started, run your mouse over the highlighted boxes on the picture of the turbine. This will help you understand the basic anatomy of a wind turbine.
Step 2: Materials Needed
Hardware Store Parts
5X - 1" PVC 90 Degree Fittings
3X - 1" PVC T Fitting
1X - 1" PVC Coupler
6X - 6" Lengths of 1" PVC Pipe
1X - 24" Length of 1" PVC Pipe
1X - 2" Length of 1" PVC Pipe
2X - Alligator Clips
At least 3X - 15-18" Sheets of balsa wood (You can also use pie plates, index cards, or paper plates)
Special Parts (might want to check out KidWind website for these)
1X - Wind Turbine Generator (Small DC motor...many DC motors at hobby shops and hardware stores do not work well for generating measurable voltage at low RPMs)
4ft - 22 Gauge Hook Up Wire
1X - Crimping Hub (this is a special part sold by KidWind, but you can also use a tinker toy hub.)
At least 6X - 1/4' Diameter Poplar Dowels
Tools and Extra Materials Needed
To test the power of your wind turbine, consider:
Christmas LED Bulbs
You will need a fan or a wind source to make your wind turbine run. Head here for fan recommendations.
Step 3: Building the Tower & Base
First, drill a hole at the bottom of one PVC T. See image below.
1. Using (4) 90 Degree PVC fittings, (2) PVC Ts and (4) 6" PVC pipe sections, construct the two sides of the PVC turbine base. Make sure in this step to use the PVC Ts that do not have a hole drilled in them.
2. Fit the parts together without using glue (PVC glue is really nasty stuff). To make them fit snug, tap them together with a hammer or bang them on the floor once assembled.
3. Next, connect the two sides of the base using the PVC T with the hole. The hole will allow you to snake out the wires from the DC motor.
Step 4: Building the Rotor & Nacelle
1. First, attach the wires to the leads of the motor. You can tie them together. We tie them together and shrink wrap them too.
2. Wrap a piece of duct tape around the outside of the motor. This piece of tape should be about 1/2" wide and 18" long. This will help the motor fit securely into the PVC coupler.
3. For the next step, use (1) PVC 90 Degree fitting, (1) PVC coupler, (1) 2" piece of PVC pipe and the DC motor w/wire.
4. Arrange the pieces as they look below. Push them together to form a solid piece. On a large wind turbine this is called a nacelle. It holds the generator, gear boxes, and other equipment.
5. Insert the wires attached to the DC motor through the nacelle. They should come out of the 90 Degree PVC fitting. The motor will rest in the coupler.
6. Insert the motor into the coupler. It should fit very snuggly. Since the motor is sometimes pushed frequently, it must be TIGHT! If it is too tight, take some tape off; if too loose remove some tape. You can also glue the motor in to make it secure. You might also tape the wires down inside the pipe to prevent breakage if someone yanked on the wires.
7. Make sure the motor is straight and not too far in. If it looks cockeyed, straighten it out. Otherwise it will cause your hub and blades to wobble while spinning.
8. Once the motor is secured, attach the hub. Press the hub onto the drive shaft. It should fit very snuggly.
NOTE : If you want to use a Tinker Toy Hub, head to this page on our website >>
Step 5: Attaching the Tower to the Base
1. Snake the motor wires down the tower and through the hole in the PVC T at the base of the wind turbine.
2. It is sometimes helpful to place a piece of tape over the wires as they come out of the hole to prevent the wires from being broken at the motor if yanked too roughly.
3. Attach the nacelle to the top of the tower.
4. Insert the bottom of the PVC tower into the T at the center of the turbine base.
5. Assure that the PVC pipe is seated tightly into the fittings by tapping together with a hammer or by banging on the floor.
6. Do not use any glue so that you can take it apart and store it for next year!
7. Attach alligator clips to the wires coming out of the turbine to help hook up your turbine to a multimeter!
Step 6: Making Blades
Never make blades out of metal or any sharp edged material because they could cause injury during testing. Blades tend to spin very fast (300-600 RPM) and can easily cut people if they have sharp edges.
1. To make blades, carve or cut different shapes and sizes out of a variety of materials (wood, cardboard, felt, fabric). Tape or hot glue them to the dowels. Students have made blades out of styrofoam bowls, pie pans, and paper and plastic cups. Anything you find around the house or classroom can be made into blades!
2. Before testing check that the blades are securely attached to the dowel. If not secured properly, they may detach or deform as you test your turbine in high winds. We recommend using a combination of tape and hot or regular glue.
3. Insert the dowels into holes on the crimping hub. It is important to tighten the hub when inserting the blades so that they do not come out at high speed.
4. When attaching the blades to the hub consider a few important questions:
" How close is the root of your blade to the hub? What do you think is optimal?
" Are your blades about the same size and weight? Blades that are not balanced will cause vibrations that can reduce the efficiency of your turbine..
" Are the blades equally distributed around the hub? If not you can also have a set up that is out of balance.
" Have you secured the hub after you inserted the blades? If not they can fly out at high speed!
" Want to know how fast your blades are spinning? Get a Hangar 9 Micro Tachometer.
Step 7: Power Output
Once you design blades, you are ready to put your turbine in front of some wind and power small electrical devices.
Make sure you have connected 22 gauge wires to the leads of the DC motor, have snaked them down the nacelle and tower, and through the drilled PVC T at the bottom.
To connect a multimeter to the turbine, attach the ends of the wires to the leads of the meter. To connect an LED Christmas bulb, strip the ends of the LED wires, and attach them to the ends of the wires.
You will have to produce about 1.8 volts of electricity to power an LED Christmas bulb. If you still can't get it to work, try reversing the leads of the LED.
To be clear... This is a turbine that demonstrates wind power. It is not strong enough to light a lamp in your house or a real light bulb. It can only light a small LED bulb (i.e. one light from a set of LED Christmas lights).
Step 8: Going Deeper...
If you would like more information about wind turbines, lesson plans, links and ideas for further research, or would like to check out or wind, solar, and fuel cell kits, please visit:
KidWind Project www.kidwind.org