Homemade Wind Station

With a few hours of tinkering and some readily available parts you can build your own homemade wind instruments.

| March/April 1981

Selecting the right spot for a windplant—or even just choosing a suitably sized generator —can be nearly impossible unless you know how much wind to expect and from what direction it's likely to come. After all, the amount of wattage that such a powerplant will produce is actually related to the square of the wind velocity and thus a small difference in speed can make a big change in the amount of electricity generated. (For example, a 15-MPH breeze will actually yield about twice the energy that a 10-MPH puff does.)

Of course, there are a number of commercial wind-monitoring systems available. Many of them are excellent products, but they tend to be quite expensive. In fact, I was pretty reluctant to spend the $100 or more (in some cases much more) necessary to buy a quality cup anemometer, so I decided to build a homemade wind station myself—both the anemometer and wind vane.

The two parts of the system have many similarities in their construction, and can both be mounted on the same PVC pipe stand. The anemometer, however, is just a bit more complicated than the wind vane, so let's start with it.

The Motor/Generator

The heart of my homemade anemometer is a small electric motor—with permanent magnets and windings—that can also operate as a generator. It's often possible to remove excellent examples of anemometer-sized motor/ generators a from children's toys—after getting the permission of the youngster in question, of course—but the Radio Shack unit I've specified happens to fit perfectly the PVC pipe parts we'll be using.

To turn the little motor into a generator that'll give a readout proportional to wind speed, all you need to do is give the powerplant "wings" to catch the breeze. A DC ammeter will then measure the motor's output, and you can calibrate the gauge to read in MPH.

The Housing

The powerplant specified in the materials list will fit snugly within a 3/4" to 1/2" Schedule 40 PVC cup reducer... but you'll have to cut notches in the fitting's seat to accommodate the wire tabs which emerge from the motor/generator's bottom. A 3/4" Schedule 40 PVC coupling can then be slipped over the motor and cup reducer, enclosing the rest of the generator. Now grind the tips of the eight-sided plastic fitting down until they're flush with the 3/4" coupler, cement the unit into the PVC housing with all-purpose glue, and seal the assembly with silicone adhesive. Becareful that you don't get any of the caulking on the axle.

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