Windmills have been a relevant feature in the production scene for many centuries. Back then, windmills were built to help with production such as grinding grain and pumping water.
Despite the hundreds of windmill fields aka wind turbine farms, personal windmills are still a thing in the rural area.
It’s going to be a vital addition to your home when the hunger for renewable energy surges. Even if you don’t need one now, knowing how to build a windmill will only help you in the times to come.
In this guide, we will be going through certain steps to know about building a fully functional wind turbine. For the sake of convenience, we’ll call it a windmill.
A Brief About Wind Turbine Working Principles
Wind turbines or windmills work on a simple principle. Wind turbines use the wind to produce electricity instead of using electricity to make wind.
When the wind is strong enough to turn the propeller blades of a turbine, it rotates the rotor, which then spins the generator. Finally, we get clean energy in the form of electricity.
And windmills produce mechanical energy meaning the rotation runs machines directly, which is obsolete in this day and age.
Easy Step By Step Guide on How to Make a Wind Turbine
Step 1 – Measure the Wind Speed
The first thing you need to do is measure the wind speed before purchasing anything for your windmill. Why can’t you just build one without measuring the speed?
Well, since there are many variations of windmill parts and configurations for different wind speeds, you don’t want to make an uninformed purchase. This will help you take the rest of the decisions in a calm and calculated manner.
Wind speed fluctuates depending on the season we’re in. Some seasons have high wind and some seasons have almost nothing. You’ll want to have a minimum of 7-10 mph wind speed throughout the year.
Taking the information from the local weather station is a great idea. Or you’ll can get all the required information from top weather sites and apps (depending on where you live).
Step 2 – Check the Local Regulations
Things have changed the last time your grandparents built a windmill beside your home in the countryside. There are rules and guidelines in place now to prevent accidents and also to keep an account of new structures.
For example, in some areas, local law dictates the height of the windmill. It also makes sure that windmills have to be placed at a certain distance away from houses.
Don’t forget to consult and take opinions from your neighbors.
So, check out the local rules and regulations in your area. They should also have a few suggestions to give you on how to build a windmill.
Step 3 – Evaluate the Surrounding
After you’ve checked in with the local authority and got the approval from the neighbors, evaluate the area where you wish to build the windmill. See if there is enough space for your plan.
According to the windmill gurus, larger windmills will require almost an acre of land, while the smaller ones require half an acre.
The area size could be smaller if there are no large trees and buildings nearby. Your target will be to make sure of unobstructed airflow to the windmill.
Step 4 – Choose the Wind Turbine Type
It’s not the olden days anymore. We’re not confined to choosing only the archetypal wooden horizontal wind turbine. We have so many options, especially for projects in smaller areas.
You can choose from the following,
1. Horizontal-axis wind turbine
There are variations in design when it comes to HAWTs. You could only adjust the number of blades.
2. Vertical-axis wind turbine
However, in the case of vertical wind turbines, there are at least 3 popular designs you can choose from. They are,
Step 5 – Pick the Blades
It’s time to pick the most important part of your windmill project. Once you’re done measuring the wind speed and the available area, pick the most appropriate size and shape of the blade.
For horizontal wind turbines, you can choose any number of blades. The conventional number of blades is 2 to 4, while most wind turbines in the world use 3 blades.
The convention is to use a single-sided wind turbine. You can choose to make a two-sided windmill instead. It’s a great idea to take advantage of all the air flowing from two directions through your area. I think the extra cost is worth it. This is when you choose the traditional horizontal-axis design.
On the flip side, for the vertical wind turbines, you can choose supposedly the most efficient single-blade design. There are H-rotors if you like to use a couple of blades in your design.
Step 6 – Choose a Wind Vane to Reorient the Blades
One critical issue with wind turbines is their low efficiency. It isn’t equipped to utilize all of the airflows around it. But wind vanes are here to change the scenario.
Wind vanes do exactly what they were doing in the past; determining the wind direction and pointing towards it.
Using wind vanes to increase the chance of catching the wind in every direction isn’t exactly new. It’s genius, nonetheless. You’re also getting an opportunity to hoist your spirit animal on top of the windmill.
Step 7 – Choose the Generator or Directly Power Your Machines
Now, it’s your choice whether you want to stay with the old windmill design to directly power machines or add a generator to the equation.
Back in the day, windmills were used mainly to grind grains and pump water. It met all the basic needs of a farmer's family. But the expectations are high now, and running only a couple of machines with wind energy is a massive waste of money.
Windmills or their advanced version, i.e., wind turbines, now can produce electricity with the help of a generator. There are a few different options you can choose from.
For example, there are dynamo (DC) generators and alternator (AC) generators, both serving the same purpose differently. What generator should you choose?
Well, that depends on several factors such as:
- Standalone vs. Grid Connected
What would be the purpose of your windmill? If you’ll only be using it for your home, then a dynamo(DC)-inverter configuration would suffice. It’ll help keep your setup cost down.
But if you’d like to add your windmill into a private or public electrical grid, you need an AC generator. You can use an alternator in place of a generator for smaller use cases.
- Power Output
The amount of electricity your windmill generates is a major deciding factor since AC generators are more capable of handling large power outputs.
- Cost Efficiency
Although I wrote this as a different point, it’s directly connected to the points above. If you’d like to increase your cost efficiency, using a DC generator and storing it into batteries, and selling them is a good opportunity.
Or you could use an AC generator and build a private grid and connect your neighbors to the grid. Both are acceptable forms, but the latter is more accepted due to its simplicity.
Step 8 – Build the Base
When every phase of planning is in order, it’s time to start building. First, build the base. Depending on the type of windmill i.e. horizontal or vertical, you’ll be required to construct an appropriate base.
How deep should be the foundation? In the industry, the standard practice is to bury the foundations 30 meters deep. But that is not applicable in your case because your residential-scale windmill/wind turbine is smaller in height.
For example, it’s expected to have a 1.5-3 meters deep foundation for a 1 MW turbine.
And all windmills have one thing in common, it’s the spindle. Secure the spindle against the extreme wind, and you’re done.
Step 9 – Tower Construction
Windmill towers need to be strong enough to withstand the harshest of winds and storms in the area. You could build one using concrete. And I think it’d be the wisest option considering the ease of it, and also the cost.
The industry practice is to use multiple tower sections made of steels shells. Workers assemble the parts on site.
You could use one if you’d like to have a more professional-looking windmill. It doesn’t make a difference which one you choose in terms of value.
Step 10 – Assemble
It’s time to assemble the parts you’ve been collecting. Start with the controller hub. Then attach the flanges, spokes, magnet rotor, nacelle, spacers, and all the electrical components, including the wiring. Finally, the blades will go on to their spots.
You could choose to custom order or manufacture different parts of the windmill. However, in this day and age, building such a complex structure by yourself is asking too much.
Guide to Make DIY Windmill for a School Project
When you think about making a windmill for a school project, don’t think of making a toy without a working function. The target should be to build a miniature version of a perfectly working wind turbine.
Here’s how you can do it yourself,
First, you need a few components and Instruments.
- A large piece of cardboard
- Plywood board
- Low resistance LED light
- Glue gun
- A natural or an artificial source of wind
Step 1 – Create the Blades
Take the piece of cardboard and cut 3 or 4 pieces from it. You have freedom of measurement, But in our model, we’d like the blades to be 8cm by 2.5cm.
Slightly bend the pieces in the middle so that they somewhat look like professional rotor blades.
Step 2 – Cut a Piece of Cardboard and Build the Tower
Go back to the piece of cardboard and cut 4 pieces with the dimensions of 30cm x 5cm. Glue them together to create the tower.
Step 3 – Create Pieces of the Rotor
Again, take the cardboard and draw 4 circles of 3cm diameter. Cut them out and attach two of them. Do the same with the other two circles.
Step 4 – Glue the Blades to the Circular Cardboard
You have two thick pieces of circular cardboards and 3-4 blades. Take the blades and attach them between the cardboard circles and glue the whole thing. Now you have your rotor and blades.
Let it dry.
Step 5 – Attach the Motor
Take the motor and use a piece of cardboard to wrap it around. Make sure to keep the pointy end outside the wrap.
Take the finished rotor and blade configuration. Create a small hole in the middle. This is where you’ll insert the motor’s pointy end.
Connect the wires to the motor. And insert the motor into the rotor and glue them tightly so that when the blades rotate, the motor’s shaft inside will also rotate.
Step 6 – Connect the Light
Take the LED light and connect it to the wires coming from the motor. Pick a place to position the light and attach it.
Step 7- Get It Running
You’ll need a source of wind. Natural wind will be a tough ask for most people living in cities except windiest cities. So, use a fan to blow air towards the turbine blades.
The light should light up momentarily.
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Windmill?
Windmills come in various sizes and shapes. Industry-level windmills can cost up to $1.3 million to $2.2 million per Megawatt. The cost increases with the size of the turbine and the power output you’re getting from it.
So you’re looking at $3,000 to $8,000 per kilowatt for the windmill you’re setting up at home, according to North Dakota State University.
How Much Money Does a Wind Turbine Produce?
While it’s true that windmills or wind turbines are costly projects, they are also highly profitable if you know what you’re doing. If you’re unsure about investing in windmills, you can look at the money your windmill can potentially make.
If everything is done right, you can make $3,000 to $10,000 per year per kilowatt.
According to research, in 2019, a 1 MW wind turbine made almost $62,000 at 35% capacity and almost $90,000 at 50% capacity.
Tips and Caution While Making It
Building a windmill is hard, and it’s even harder if you’re new to the scene. But a few tips from experts can make the process a bit bearable and give you a fruitful output.
Here are a few suggestions to help you out,
- When you decide to make a windmill, you’re undertaking a huge task. Completing it successfully and getting the desired output is a challenge. But you could ensure the success of your project if you do the calculations first.
- Yes, you can calculate the capacity factor to see whether or not a windmill is a good investment.
- We can determine the capacity factor by dividing the average power output by its maximum power output. For example, if a windmill can produce 100watts of power but on average it produces 50 watts, it means it has a 50% capacity factor.
- And when it generates power, you can't store it if you connect it directly to an AC power grid. What you can do is use batteries to store power.
- Buy pre-made parts
- Take professional service to set up the whole thing
- You can do a concrete build easily. So cut costs by building a concrete tower instead of a steel tower
There are at least 5 hazards associated with the construction of a windmill/wind turbine. If you take caution against the following, you should see a safe building phase.
- Hazard #1: Falling from a height
- Hazard #2: Working in narrow spaces
- Hazard #3: Electrocution
- Hazard #4: Injury due to moving parts
- Hazard #5: Fire
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do wind turbines have 3 blades, not 2, 4, or 5?
Having fewer blades will certainly reduce the drag force, but 2 blades don’t allow us to have a stable design. It’ll wobble. With 4 or 5 blades, it’ll be too heavy that it’ll produce less energy.
But wind turbines with 3 blades are the most stable because when one blade is up, the other two are at angled positions. After many tests, 3-bladed wind turbines resulted in the best performance overall.
Can wind turbines be recycled?
Well, yes you could if you wanted to. But the jury is divided on this one. Even in 2020, it was believed that wind turbines aren’t worth recycling.
Can I put a wind turbine on my rooftop?
Yes, you can install the wind turbine on the rooftop. But it’s far from ideal. You should select a spot that’s at least 300 to 500 feet away from any structure or tree. It should be at a height of at least 30 feet.
How long do wind turbines last?
A wind turbine isn’t a monolithic object. It has many parts, and that means it can never die if you keep replacing the old parts. For example, the gearbox needs to change every 8-10 years. With good maintenance and replacements, a wind turbine can last decades.
Can my wind turbine affect my surrounding neighbors?
Even though you’ll be installing the windmill or wind turbine far away from your home it’ll still affect your surroundings, especially your neighbors.
For example, the aerial crop spraying may get halted as pilots will resist going near a towering wind turbine.
However, if it’s a small windmill, you shouldn’t expect any trouble.
Again, windmill and wind turbine — same thing but utilized differently. I suspect you won’t be spending thousands of dollars to grind a few tons of grain and pump water into your house. And truth be told, wind turbines are too complicated to do it yourself.
Still, if you’d like to have total control over the installation process, you should learn about it. I’ve tried to highlight everything there is to know about how to make a windmill. For more info, check out the guideline from the office of energy efficiency and renewable energy.