A Cost-Effective Wind Generator

This cost-effective wind generator is a sound investment for cutting your utility bill.

| November/December 1983

  • Lakeside Wind Generator
    Marshall Price provides some human scale to aid in gauging the height of his lakeside wind generator. The tower is a section of well casing, and the machinery pivots to face the breeze on a simple lolly axis that prevents 360 degree rotation.
  • Windplant's Alternator
    The windplant's alternator and step-up drive are slavaged automative components, and the governing hub and blades are built. The weathervane indicates that the prevailing winds are, in general, westerly.
  • Tail Frame
    As a means of overspeed control in strong winds, Marshall designed his tail frame so it could be folded parallel with the blades if necessary. In the partially furled position, the tail vane directs the rotor into the wind at an angle, thus shunting off much of its force.
  • The Storage Bank
    The storage bank is a combination of 2 and 6 volt batteries wired in a series-parallel circuit to achieve 12 volts overall. An inverter changes the direct current into AC for use in the house.

  • Lakeside Wind Generator
  • Windplant's Alternator
  • Tail Frame
  • The Storage Bank

"Dunkirk Man Builds Windmill at Modest Investment, Cuts his Utility Bill."

That headline, along with a short article, ran in the August 1, 1978 edition of western New York's Dunkirk-Fredonia Evening Observer. It was hardly earth-shattering news, but it did stick in the memory of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' editors . . . one of whom recently paid a visit to Empire Stater Marshall Price's home on the shores of Lake Erie.

And what our staffer saw there was yet another example of commonsense appropriate technology. Mr. Price, a typewriter repairman by trade and a part-time machinist and welder, had pieced together — for about $300 — a wind generator . . . and that power plant has supplied much of his home's electrical needs since Mother's Day of 1976!

Make Do, and Make it Work

Marshall's story really began after the Price family built their lakeside residence some 15 years ago. The constant breeze blowing off the water served as an ever present reminder that free energy was going begging . . . but it wasn't until Mr. Price started collecting information on wind machines, and ran across "a little red book on homemade energy" (MOTHER EARTH NEWS Handbook of Homemade Power), that he finally found the answer to the problem that had been keeping him from building his own plant: the need for information concerning the design and fabrication of the all-important wooden blades. Once he'd uncovered that technique, the rest, for the most part, was a matter of locating junkyard parts and fitting them together so they'd be compatible with one another and with the nature of the lakeside breezes.

"One thing about wind . . . it's darned unpredictable. It can be blowing nicely at a steady 18 miles per hour, and then all of a sudden it whips up to 30 knots without as much as a `how do you do'. On top of that, it changes direction just as erratically . . . and that can play the devil with your equipment. A 12' rotor spinning at 200 RPM or so has tremendous inertia, and doesn't take easily to being reoriented."

It was critical, then, that Marshall Price plan for these contingencies before beginning the construction of his plant. He first scrounged a Delco ambulance alternator that was capable of putting out 147 amps at about 15 volts . . . which figures out to be over 2,000 watts in a very strong breeze. After reconditioning this component, the do-it-yourself started working on a governor system that'd allow his three 6' blades to feather — that is, pivot on their mounts — when wind speeds got dangerously high. (When feathered, the blades are less effective as airfoils, and thus keep the rotor's RPM within safe limits.)

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