Wind-Power Generator

How to build a residential-sized wind-turbine!

I produced this video while attending a course at Clackamas Community College.  As a class, we set out to construct two wind-turbines.  One with 3′ blades and the other with 6′ blades.

… I dropped the ball on this one!  I do not have a parts/tools list.  But, I can say it was the instructors goal to use as little manufactured parts as possible.  The radial bearing and rare-earth magnets are obvious exceptions.

Caution: Rotor becomes dangerous once the magnets are attached.  One wrong move could have easily broken someones arm!




Rather start with something smaller that has a clear set of directions?!  I don’t blame you.  Try this Mini-Wind Turbine from the Pembina Institute.

..or, you may want to try another form of power generation.

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Hydro-Power Generation

DIY Hydro-Generator

This was a project in partnership with classmate Ryan Denham.  We set out to build a three-phase mini-hydro-electric generator from average easy-to-find materials.  And, this is how we did it..

Tools List:

  1. Saws
  2. Hacksaw
  3. Jigsaw
  4. Miter saw
  5. Table saw or Skill saw
  6. Drill Bits
    1. 1/4”
    2. 1/2”
    3. 1 & 1/8” Spade Bit
  7. Glue Gun
  8. Measuring Tape
  9. Straight Edge
  10. Quick Square
  11. Clams
  12. Wrench
  13. Soldering Iron
  14. Volt-meter


Parts List:

  1. 28 AWG Enameled Magnet Wire
  2. Electrical Tape (Blue, Green, Red)
  3. Hot Glue Sticks
  4. Two Pieces of Ply Wood (12” x 13”) wide and (3/8”) thick
  5. Two Circular Bearings (1/4” inner diameter and 1 & 1/8” outer diameter)
  6. 1/2” Solid Metal Bar
  7. *Epoxy or Alternative Chemical Binder
  8. One (12” x 12”) piece of light wood (3/8”) thick
  9. 12 – 24 Large Washers
  10. 12 – 24 Large Neodymium Magnets
  11. Handles
  12. 4 Bolts (6” x  1/4″) with 12 nuts
  13. Two 1/2” Inch slices of PVC
  14. Sandpaper
  15. Compass
  16. 12+” Diameter Fan Blades
  •  Use Fan Blade style for high velocity (low head)
  • Use Pelton Wheel for high pressure (high head)

NOTE:  Pressure = (Water Density)(acceleration of gravity)(height)



Step 1)   Build Stators

  1. Cut Both [pieces of plywood into (12” x 13”) rectangles
  2. Place tape 5/16” from tip of 1 & 1/8” spade bit
  • Drill 5/16” into inside center of both pieces of plywood
  1. Clamp both pieces of plywood together in alignment with 12” square of light wood
  2. Drill through center of all three pieces of wood at once with 1/2” drill bit
  3. Drill into four corners using 1/4” drill bit
  • Draw 12” diameter circle around the hole just drilled on all pieces of wood.
  • Secure circular bearings into insets drilled into inside center


Step 2)   Wrap Coils

  1. Wrap magnet wire into a coil with 200 turns and approximately an inch in diameter
  2. Tape coil on both sides using colored electrical tape
  • Using the same continuous strand of wire, repeat 3 more times.
  1. Using different colors make two more sets of coils. [Four Coils per Set]
  2. Repeat entire coiling process if both sides of rotor are to be utilized for power production
  3. Use hot-glue to secure coils around 12” circle made around center of stator
  • Wire in three-phase [Diagram]


Step 3) Build Rotor

  1. Cut 12” diameter circle around lightwood using Jigsaw
  2. Secure solid metal rod into center 1/4” hole drilled in step 1
  • Glue 12 large washers evenly around the circumference, repeat on other side if both sides of rotor are to be utilized
  1. Carefully place magnets onto washers, alternating polarity [Hint: compass may come in handy]

Step 4) Assemble

  1. Slide rotor rod into circular bearings of stators using PVC spacers sandwiched in-between.
  2. Place 6” screws into four corners of stators [place nuts on each side of stator]
  • Use voltmeter to test


*Bonus:  For major hydroelectric generators, we need to divert the fish around the dam.  A “fish sorting center” separates BIG FISH from small fish… and can sometimes be traumatic as shown below.




..or maybe you’d like to try your hand at another form of power generation.

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Dye Sensitized Solar Cell

Hands-On Solar

                 The solar industry is healthy and thriving!  Just as traditional polycrystalline photovoltaics (PV) begin to take root, a plethora of new solar ideas flood research labs.  World scientists have been working tirelessly to increase the efficiency of, and integrate new materials into, photovoltaic solar cells.  Some interesting products have come to fruit:  multi-junction concentrators, thin-film solar cells, Power Plastic, and the topic of this article: dye-sensitized solar cells.

It’s one thing to produce electricity from pretty pre-manufactured solar panels out-of-the box, but here at we like to get our hands dirty!  This, due to the manufacturing process, just hasn’t been possible with conventional mono- poly- crystalline solar cells.  We can, however, build our own dye-sensitized solar cells!  Some of the materials, unfortunately, are somewhat special and may only be ordered from specific labs, while others are simple enough to be grown in the backyard.   More importantly, production does not require special machinery or expertise and may be duplicated in schools and at home.  First a brief explanation, then we’ll discuss how to do this ourselves.


Brief Explanation:  We start with two glass plates acting as our electrodes.  This is special glass with a Transparent Conductive Oxide (TCO) coating to make the glass electrically conductive.  The Cathode ( + ) will be coated with a platinum catalyst, and the Anode ( – ) with a Titanium Nano-Oxide paste.  This paste does not readily absorb sunlight, so we dye it red according to the desired absorption wavelength.  We then seal the two electrodes together and seal.  Last, we insert electrolyte between the electrodes to allow electron flow and reduce “carbon poisoning” from air.



Materials:   My colleague, Roma Koulikov, was kind enough to list the materials used in the video on his blog.  Please visit for a complete list of the materials, prices, and even some tips to avoid our mistakes!  Also, I offer the Solaronix do-it-yourself catalog as additional source for reference ~>


Prep Work

First, we need to do some preparation.  We will need to drill into one side of our solar cell to later insert electrolyte.  Take one glass plate, whichever is destined for the platinum catalyst, and drill two small holes through opposing sides of the TCO glass plate.`

Next, tape your electrodes to a work-surface conductive side up.  This tape will act as a guide for applying both the TiO2 paste and the platinum catalyst.  You may adjust parameter and thickness of paste through adjustments made to tape placement.  Leave sufficient spacing to fit a proper seal, a step a bit later in the process.

Apply Paste

IMPORTANT!  Mix titanium nan-oxide thoroughly.  Using a glass stir rod, apply a thin layer of paste to your electrode.  This layer needs to be thin and as smooth as possible.  Too much paste / inconsistencies will cause it to crack and flake off during the firing process.  Repeat process for platinum catalyst.


Fire both electrodes at 450 degrees Celsius for 10 – 15 minutes.  A non-toxic gas may form as titanium bakes to the TCO glass plate.  I used a kiln at my local community college for this.  After sufficient cooling, scrape the titanium layer away from the edges of the glass to provide spacing for a proper seal later in the process.  The fired platinum layer should be invisible to near-invisible.  To test if the platinum has taken effect, apply a drop of hydrogen peroxide and look for bubbles.


We are now ready to make our dye!  For this, crush fresh or frozen red fruit or berries in a lidded container. Envelope titanium electrode into the dye mixture and place lid.  Wait a few hours before removing electrode, and clean thoroughly with deionized water.  Repeat if dye has not fully absorbed into titanium paste.


It is time to seal our electrodes together.  Cut out sealing film to appropriate size, containing the platinum and titanium sections of our cell.  Remember to leave spacing for electrical contacts.  You may use a soldering iron to secure the corners of the film to the conductive side of the titanium electrode.  Now, use a clothing iron (or similar tool) to evenly melt the film as a whole to the glass (see video above).  Remove the protective layer from film, then place your electrodes together.  Reapply heat to secure electrodes together; too much heat will mess with the tightness of your seal.


Inject electrolyte into solar cell through holes previously drilled.  Cut out small squares of aluminum foil, and place over holes.  Place sealing film over aluminum squares, and apply heat.


Bust out your multi-meter and begin testing!  In full sunlight, I received an average of .5 volts for the various 10cm x 10cm cells I made.



..or check out other ways you can generate power!

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2010 BP oil Spill

2010 BP Oil Spill


The US depends upon a constant oil supply in order to remain an economically competitive nation, this much is certain.  It remains questionable whether the push for offshore drilling will grant the security of energy independence.  But in the midst of the largest man-made disaster of our time, visible from space, the dark-side of oil extraction drifts into public view.  I am talking about, of course, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on April 16th, 2010.  Eleven workers of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon were killed, and oil gushes from its broken pipes 5,000ft below the ocean’s surface.  British Petroleum (BP) having ownership of the sunken Deepwater Horizon has been provided sole responsibility of stopping the leak, and cleaning-up the mess.

Over a month after the initial explosion and with the leak still not stopped, this disaster continues to be a large environmental and economic concern for Louisiana and its surrounding areas.  Despite the best efforts of the coast guard, volunteers, and BP engineers, severe damage is being done:


6 million gallons have shown up in Louisiana coast.

Louisiana fishing/beaches have been closed down.

Estimated 20 million gallons spilled so far

Estimated 4million gallons a day

20 times worse than Exxon Valdez

Giant underwater plum of oil/dispersants

Clean-up cost is $450,000,000 and increasing at $10,000,000 a day

Warm water loop current could take it to Florida

(MSNBC, 2010)


A Matter of National Security, or not…


If an American company can sell its petroleum product for $3 per gallon in any other part of the world, there is no incentive to sell for anything less in America.  So while the business of energy remains private, no amount of domestic drilling can save us from the law of supply and demand.  The multinational corporate mindset is to follow the path of highest profitability.    The Deepwater Horizon for example, had been flying the flag of a small group of islands off the coast of Australia named the Marshall Islands.  The oil rig Deepwater Horizon had no official ties to the Marshall Islands, but by claiming a nationality of choice allows corporations to choose which countries regulations their offshore drilling machinery must abide.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has had more influence on the global petroleum market than any single nation. OPEC is a consortium of twelve oil producing countries: Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.  In 1973 OPEC attempted an embargo against the US that lasted less than two months.  “While its members were giving up oil revenues, its oil was still reaching the United States because of diverted shipments from Europe.” Today America spends more money on crude oil imports from Canada and Mexico than we purchase from all of the Persian Gulf.

One can also make the argument that corporations drilling on domestic soil may not necessarily be American, and inversely American oil producers often operate outside of the country.  Prior to the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP had been selling their image in America as “Beyond Petroleum,” presumably to blend-in as a local company and hide an already tarnished reputation.

“British Petroleum was linked to bribery in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in 2001, and 2002, and the Financial Times commented that ‘while the days of government ownership have long passed, BP’s ties with the British government are still so close that rivals call it [Blair Petroleum].”

With support from the US military, American petroleum multinationals have gained access to many of the world’s largest oil deposits.  The Iraq Oil Ministry was the first major building to be occupied by American soldiers in Iraq (Phillips, 2006). This ministry was home to thousands of seismic portraits of oil fields, which provided no strategic military value.  If there had been any question, this spoke loudly to the reason why America was invading Iraq.

For the greater extent of my 26 yr. life, oilmen have dominated the American presidency.  The last decade of which, both the president (George W. Bush) and vice president (Dick Cheney) have commonly referred to themselves as “Texas oilmen.”  George W. used his presidency, in-part, to tie the hands of the American regulatory system. “President Bush has installed more than 100 top officials who were once lobbyists, attorneys or spokespeople for the industries they oversee.”  Minerals Management Service, in charge of overseeing the petroleum industry is certainly no exception.  An infamous “revolving door” was created at MMS when former BP executive Sylvia Baca was appointed head of division of Minerals Management Service.

            Minerals Management Service boasts the second highest income for the American government, receiving $10 billion in revenue for 2009.  Taxes are undoubtedly the biggest income.  During a presidential news conference, 27MAY10, President Obama describes the Minerals Management Service as “plagued with corruption for years and has given the oil industry leverage to regulate themselves.”  As evidence, the president offers that under current law the Interior Department only has 30 days to review an exploration plan submitted by an oil company, which does not give sufficient time to do the review defaulting in a PASS.

            A somewhat less direct way that the oil industry influence political decisions is through lobbying.  British Petroleum reportedly spent $20 million in Washington lobbying in 2009 alone.  This does point to an interesting question.  Should foreign business men be given such access to influencing American political policy?


Effects of Petroleum (Hydrocarbons) on Life


            Petroleum weathers from initial spill-site to shore, going from fluid rainbow sheen to sticky and tar-like.  Near the spill-site, where the oil is still thin, hydrocarbons are volatile, reactive, toxic, and highly flammable.  The stickier weathered form of oil contains cancer-causing Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH).  Plants and small animals along the shore are smothered to death, turtles perish from food-contamination, and birds suffer hypothermia as the oil strips their feathers of weatherproofing.

It is hard to say what effect the Exxon/Valdez oil spill had on marine life, as the area was not well documented before the spill.  Killer whales on the other hand, had been well tracked in Alaska.  A group of 22, known as the Prince Albert Transients, have their own dialect, eat mammals instead of fish, and generally do not intermingle with other killer whale populations. Nine whales disappeared in the first winter after the spill, including two females and two children. This group is expected to die out, as they have no remaining females of reproductive age.  This does not bode well for our cetacean friends in the Gulf of Mexico.


Cetaceans of the Gulf of Mexico




Northern right whale Balaena glacialis




Blue whale Balaenoptera musculus

Fin whale Balaenoptera physalus

Sei whale Balaenoptera borealis

Bryde’s whale (S)a Balaenoptera edeni

Minke whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata

Humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae




Sperm whale (S) Physeter macrocephalus




Pygmy sperm whale (S) Kogia breviceps

Dwarf sperm whale (S) Kogia sima




Cuvier’s beaked whale (S) Ziphius cavirostris

Blainville’s beaked whale Mesoplodon densirostris

Sowerby’s beaked whale Mesoplodon bidens

Gervais’ beaked whale Mesoplodon europaeus




Melon-headed whale (S) Peponocephala electra

Pygmy killer whale (S) Feresa attenuata

False killer whale (S) Pseudorca crassidens

Killer whale (S) Orcinus orca

Short-finned pilot whale (S) Globicephala macrorhynchus

Rough-toothed dolphin (S) Steno bredanensis

Fraser’s dolphin (S) Lagenodelphis hosei

Bottlenose dolphin (S) Tursiops truncatus

Risso’s dolphin (S) Grampus griseus

Atlantic spotted dolphin (S) Stenella frontalis

Pantropical spotted dolphin (S) Stenella attenuata

Striped dolphin (S) Stenella coeruleoalba

Spinner dolphin (S) Stenella longirostris

Clymene dolphin (S) Stenella clymene



            We are already seeing a health-decline of volunteers in the Gulf.    A few have been hospitalized with claims of headaches, nausea, dizziness, coughing, sore throats, and other flu-like symptoms.  These symptoms are signs of chemical poisoning, requiring special health-care.  Only after volunteers started being hospitalized does BP acknowledge demands for protective equipment provisions of any kind, claiming that nobody yet knows the health risks.  Yet in 2007, a study done by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found locals near the Hebei Spirit oil tanker spill suffered from “headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, tingling of limbs, sore throat, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath, itchy skin, rash and sore eyes.”  Hitting a bit closer to home, 6,722 workers of the 1989 Valdez oil spill reported suffering from upper-respiratory illness.


            An impressively well hidden oil spill, 1.5 times bigger than the Valdez oil spill, is centered under a residential area in Brooklyn, New York.  Teresa Toro, who lives just two blocks away from the so far uncontaminated Newton Creek, says “when the wind is just right, I can smell it blowing off the creek. Sometimes we can’t open our windows.”  Vapor tests performed in the area in 2005 relayed dangerous levels of Methane (natural gas) and Benzene.  “It’s up to 35 or 36 people that I know that have had cancer just on this block,” says Tom Stagg, another block resident.  Local residents speculate the source of the leak to be a large explosion that happened in the city’s sewer system in 1950.  The explosion is rumored to have sent manhole covers (avg. 100lbs) “raining down on the populace.”  Chemical analysis shows ExxonMobil to be the producer of the polluting oil in question, though they deny any involvement. No efforts are currently being made to clean up the spill; it is 55-acres and presumably growing larger.

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