Flight of the "Red Baron:" Our Homemade Wind Generator

At last, here's a screw-and-stitch-together homemade wind generator that anyone with hand tools can build.

| March/April 1985

  • homemade wind generator - finished unit spinning in a strong breeze
    Here's the Red Baron, our homemade wind generator, up on it's permanent tower and "flying."
    Photo by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • homemade wind generator - testing in a truck
    Much of the preliminary testing was done at anemometer-verified speeds with the Baron mounted on a truck bed.
  • homemade wind generator - illustration
    Color-coded diagram of the project comprising the generator frame (red), the rotor shaft and main frame (green), the tail assembly (yellow), and the hub and blade assembly (blue).

  • homemade wind generator - finished unit spinning in a strong breeze
  • homemade wind generator - testing in a truck
  • homemade wind generator - illustration

If the letters in our mailbag are any indication, many MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers crave information about building a homemade wind generator. In fact, the response to our three-page feature on Marshall Price's basement-built unit (see A Cost Effective Wind Generator) was so encouraging that we decided to go ahead and launch a test program of our own to determine just how simply and inexpensively a reliable and productive wind generator could be put together by the average person.

We approached the task with the understanding that, though many folks enjoy tinkering, they're not all machinists or engineers. By the same token, we were adamant that the finished product be a useful and durable piece of equipment worthy of the effort it would take to build. What's more, we were determined to compile a highly detailed plan that would leave no questions unanswered with regard to assembling the unit. We believe we've succeeded. Our Wind Generator Construction Plan breaks the project into sections, and uses a combination of text, diagrams, and photos to get across what you need each step of the way.

The plumbing-and-fabric appearance of our windplant earned it the nickname of the Red Baron among our staffers ... but that antique aircraft look belies the fact that the 70-watt plant is fully capable of providing a 25- or 50-watt light source plus a 2-amp battery trickle charge to what was an unpowered outbuilding.

Now, wind power seems intimidating to many people, and in truth it is a formidable subject. In fact, we can't even begin to describe the whys and wherefores of our engineering on this plant, because it'd take several articles. If you're really interested in wind theory and application, we'd suggest The Wind Power Book, by Jack Park, an excellent information source. But in the meantime, if you favor the empirical approach and hanker after something you can afford to get your teeth into, this little job won't disappoint you.

We had set our sights on keeping costs below $50 when planning our prototype, but after purchasing nearly every component new, the bill just topped twice that figure. Still, a quick glance at our materials list should convince even a die-hard pessimist that costs could be reduced by scrounging the common parts; we'd be willing to venture that it wouldn't take a whole lot of effort to assemble the entire plant — minus the storage system and the tower — for $60 to $75.

In a nutshell, we believe that we've come up with a working wind machine that not only will provide its builder with hands-on experience and usable electrical energy, but will serve as an excellent monitor of wind conditions at a specific site, and could thus be an excellent "trainer" for folks who are contemplating the purchase of a more costly plant. All that, for less than most people would pay for a simple anemometer!

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