Vertical Wind Power Generators

Lizzie asks…

What kind of alternator should i get for a small windmill?

I’m making a vertical- axis wind turbine for a physics project, low cost, and i need it to light a lightbulb at least, something just to show that it makes energy.

what kind of alternator should i get? what rpm? what wattage? we don’t get very intense winds.
Also, where can i get one of these alternators?

Windmill Farms answers:

You could take a small motor out of a battery powered toy, like a toy car or train, and use it as a generator. It will produce enough power to light up a flashlight bulb.

David asks…

good science fair ideas?

ok im in 7th grade gifted classes and i need a good science fair idea so please help come up with some so i can get a good grade please! thank you all! =D

Windmill Farms answers:

In China they are doing a lot of work to design wind powered generators. The key element in the new technology is ‘mag-lev’ bearings which support vertical turbine blades. They look sort of like a lamp shade made out of vertical blinds. The whole generator is suspended above a friction-free magnetic bearing. It makes electricity with a very small amount of wind. Have you noticed the solar panels which power some traffic lights? Those are pretty expensive. The new mag lev turbines are so efficient and cheap that they are thinking about putting small wind turbines along the highway to power a wide array of lights at night powered by the wind from cars going past.

So can you design a mag lev bearing and demonstrate a useful application? Ceramic magnets are strong, cheap and easy to get. Figuring out the self-balancing aspect will be a major accomplishment.
:-D Good luck!

Jenny asks…

Anybody in Finland know about this Finnish wind turbines? Any good? Long-term users, chime in, please.?

I’m interested in the Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWT) produced by a Findland company called “Windside”. Can anybody who has one, or knows of someone who operates one, actually attest to the viability of their low-RPM alternator/generators, and wind turbine designs?

I’d like to use a small VAWT on a condo roof, or to power an electric car or truck, like this one:

Thanks for all feedbacks.

Windside’s windmills:

Windmill Farms answers:

I think if you want a wind driven system to charge a heavy, conventional vehicle you are going to have to put out about $100,000 to put together a reliable system that can provide that much energy. VAWTs might be an elegant design, but you are looking at putting up at least one commercial unit, which likely won’t be permitted on the roof of your condo.

If you look at this wind chart from windside … Http:// …
You will see that bout 80 – 90% of the time the wind was between 2-5 m/s … Then you have to look on the performance data sheets to see how much power each model produces at those wind speeds … You are going to need at least a WS-4 and probably at least a WS-30 to get sufficient energy to charge up enough batteries to power a pickup truck.

Think small … Buy an electric scooter.

Linda asks…

New household wind turbine, VERY cool!?

Those who have read my Q/A before know that my husband works on the commercial wind turbines. You also know that we eventually plan to build our home totally off grid.

My husband is always doing research on homeowner sized wind turbines.

This is one my husband just learned about. It’s pretty darn cool! Basically it works a lot like the electric bullet trains. This allows the turbine to spin MUCH faster than most can withstand, because there is no friction due to the magnets!

Here’s the link:

Comments on this new wind turbine?
I’m going to have to have my husband answer some more specific items, since frankly I do not understand all of it.

I will say this, my husband learned about these turbines yesterday. He learned about them from a Swedish engineer who is currently at my husbands wind farm. The Swedish guy is brilliant, and has been working in the wind engery field for years.

If he (the Swedish engineer) is excited about these turbines, and plans to install one on his own home, I think they probably have a great deal of merrit.
D_Offio is my husband. Having him type a reply was WAY easier than me trying to re-type what he was explaining to me. So for more detailed answers to the question, be sure to check D_Offio’s comments. I’ll keep this question open a few more days in case anyone has more detailed questions or comments.

Windmill Farms answers:

In response to engineer’s comments:

It looks like a sophisticated Savonius rotor. I concur.

These rotors are not very efficient (they operate by drag, not lift) and they are both small and down low in relatively slow-moving air. They may look cool but they will not generate much energy. ~~My comment on this starts thus: what on this earth does LIFT have to do with a wind turbine???? MY background is aviation, lift is what allows an airplane or helicopter to fly, not turn a rotor on a wind turbine. There are 4 main factors in Aviation: Lift, Thrust, Drag, and Weight. Since we are not lifting anything off of the ground, weight is a moot point, as is lift. Thrust is what propels the plane, be it from a propeller or from a jet engine. Drag is the airplane’s resistance to the wind. Thrust must overcome drag, and lift must overcome weight. Everyone with me? Excellent!

Wind force is what turns a rotor on a wind turbine, be it a conventional horizontal axis wind generator, or a non conventional “s-rotor” vertical style.

Commercial scale wind generator manufacturers have not introduced a vertical turbine yet for one main reason. First some background information. Homeowner scale turbines can produce DC (Direct Current…what a car makes for example) power, commercial scale generators must produce AC (Alternating Current…house power). In the US, this power must be 60 HZ (Hertz, also referred to as 60 Cycle.) This is the frequency. By way of comparison, part of Japan is on 50 cycle, as are parts of Europe…if not all, on this I am unclear. Airplanes use 400 cycle power. Frequency is dependent on how fast you are spinning the generator to a large extent. Each manufacturer has their own system for keeping the power going out to the “grid” at 60 cycle…be it regulating the speed of the generator or “cleaning up” the power before it leaves the turbine.

Here is the reason: S-rotors are very hard to regulate the rotational speed on according to the engineers I have spoken to that have worked on these projects, as well as the few articles I have read on them. This makes them CURRENTLY impractical to use for utility scale wind generation.


Since homeowner systems can be used to generate DC current, this problem does not apply. Your car’s alternator does not care if your engine is turning 500 Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) or 12,000 RPM. (note: other than Top Fuel Dragsters and some motorcycles, most engines will get nowhere near 12,000 RPM) So, the output off of this vertical style rotor can be used in a small scale system.

According to the information on the website, their cut-in speed, (the speed it starts to produce power) is under 5 MPH wind speed, most commercial machines do not start to produce power until wind is at least 12 MPH. The really interesting thing about it is that they are using magnetic levitation to cut friction by a large amount.

Commercial Scale wind turbines shut down at windspeeds of 50-75 MPH depending on the brand. These guys are claiming that it will run and hold together at over 100 MPH. That is pretty impressive.

I would really like to speak to someone that has used one..I am curious. For those of you that read this far, Yes, I am Garnet’s Husband!

A note to Engineer: Please try to keep your terminology straight, when people use the wrong terminology, it really makes them look…well, let us go with “Not so Bright.”

Hope this helps some folks,


Richard asks…

Why should we increase nuclear power use when geothermal and solar thermal are available?

Google announced today that it is investing $10.25 million in an energy technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS). According to an MIT report on EGS, only 2% of the heat beneath the continental US between 3 and 10 kilometers (depths we can reach with current technology) is more than 2,500 the annual energy use of the United States.

Geothermal can provide baseload power just as well as nuclear, at much lower cost (5 cents per kWh as opposed to over 10 cents per kWh).

Similarly, many industry experts believe that solar thermal will likely deliver power for well under 10 cents per kWh fully installed in the next decade.

Geothermal and solar thermal plants can also be built much more quickly than new nuclear plants.

So why should we dramatically increase our use of nuclear power (as many have recently suggested) when it’s more expensive, has a greater environmental impact, takes longer to build, and is more dangerous than solar thermal and geothermal, which can also provide baseload power? What’s so great about nuclear?

Windmill Farms answers:

WE shouldn’t, I am not a great fan of nuclear energy, on A recent question I mentioned the waste from the nuclear plant and was told I needed to study nuclear waste because it was recyclable, well of course it is recyclable, into plutonium whit is still radioactive, and even those countries that are mixing it with inert ingredient so that it cannot be used in Atomic bombs, are still coming out with a radioactive product that can be converted back to plutonium.
Geothermal is a great way to go, where it is available, but is restricted to a few geological areas.
Solar power is limited to day light hours but can be stored for night time use, except in the northern hemisphere, where the only get a half hour of day light in the winter,
And you forgot to mention Wind generation, with the Vertical wind generators that are being developed, but do need wind speeds of 4 to 6 miles an hour to produce power.
By combining those 3 sources, we can come up with a balance of electric output that would supply all of our power needs.

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