Backyard Wood Powered Generator

Free electricity? Free heat? Yep, you can have both with a wood powered generator.

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by Unsplash/Garett Mizunaka

Sometimes it’s difficult to decide just which is a bigger financial burden: the expense of operating a motor vehicle or that of providing a household with power and heat. So, in an effort to ease the strain in both cases, the folks out at MOTHER EARTH NEWS’ research center have spent the past several months designing and testing various systems that use inexpensive–or sometimes even free –wood scraps as a replacement for costly fossil fuels.

In “Wood Gas Truck: Road Power From Wood Gasification,” we detailed how to make a wood gasifier small enough to power a car or pickup for about $125 in parts and materials. In that report, we also mentioned that we were in the process of adapting the technology to a stationary generating system. Well, just days before the deadline for this issue, our research crew put the finishing touches on that wood powered generator. And–although we haven’t yet had a chance to devote enough working hours to the unit to convince us that the design is as good as we can make it–our initial testing seems to indicate that it’ll perform as well as any conventionally fueled standby generator of similar output in addition to providing a sufficient amount of hot water to actually heat a home!

From the outset of this project, we not only wanted to build a working demonstration piece that would allow visitors to our Eco-Village to see–and, in some instances, later duplicate–what we had done, but also wished to set up an honest-to-goodness functional AC power source that would fully supply our maintenance shop, thereby reducing our dependence on the local utility’s services.

As it turned out, we were able to accomplish our goals … and to do so using inexpensive scrap or junkyard parts, which we mated to the 10-kilowatt, 120/ 240-volt alternator originally purchased for a hydroelectric installation. (See “Mother’s Hydroelectric Plant.” Since the head and flow at our water-power site offer a potential of little more than 2 KW, we decided to replace the oversized AC generator there with a more suitable 2.5-KW alternator, thus making the larger unit available for use with the wood-gas plant.)

wood powered generator at night
  • Updated on Jan 5, 2022
  • Originally Published on Jul 1, 1981
Tagged with: gasifier, wood, wood generator
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