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11-24-2009

How I home-built an electricity producing Wind turbine. Part 5

In operation, the wind turbine is connected to the controller. Lines then run from the controller to the battery. All loads are taken directly from the battery. If the battery voltage drops below 11.9 volts, the controller switches the turbine power to charging the battery. If the battery voltage rises to 14 volts, the controller switches to dumping the turbine power into the dummy load. There are trimpots to adjust the voltage levels at which the controller toggles back and forth between the two states. I chose 11.9V for the discharge point and 14V for the fully charged point based on advice from lots of different web sites on the subject of properly charging lead acid batteries. The sites all recommended slightly different voltages. I sort of averaged them and came up with my numbers. When the battery voltage is between 11.9V and 14V, the system can be switched between either charging or dumping. A pair of push buttons allow me to switch between states anytime, for testing purposes. Normally the system runs automatically. When charging the battery, the yellow LED is lit. When the battery is charged and power is being dumped to the the dummy load, the green LED is lit. This gives me some minimal feedback on what is going on with the system. I also use my multimeter to measure both battery voltage, and turbine output voltage. I will probably eventually add either panel meters, or automotive-style voltage and charge/discharge meters to the system. I'll do that once I have it in some sort of enclosure.

I used my variable voltage bench power supply to simulate a battery in various states of charge and discharge to test and tune the controller. I could set the voltage of the power supply to 11.9V and set the trimpot for the low voltage trip point. Then I could crank the voltage up to 14V and set the trimpot for the high voltage trimpot. I had to get it set before I took it into the field because I'd have no way to tune it up out there.

Update: I am now using 14.8V for the full charge point after further researching the proper charging of lead-acid batteries. I have also switched to sealed lead-acid batteries because I got a bunch of them free from my brother. I am contemplating switching to deep-cycle batteries when the ones I have now begin to fail.

Update: I have found out the hard way that it is important with this controller design to connect the battery first, then connect the wind turbine and/or solar panels. If you connect the wind turbine first, the wild voltage swings coming from the turbine won't be smoothed out by the load of the battery, the controller will behave erratically, the relay will click away wildly, and voltage spikes could destroy the ICs. So always connect to the battery(s) first, then connect the wind turbine. Also, make sure you disconnect the wind turbine first when taking the system apart. Disconnect the battery(s) last.

Update: Finally, by very popular demand, I have a schematic of my charge controller. Click on it for the full size schematic. It only varies a little bit from the one at the above link. I substituted a few parts I had on hand for ones in the original design. That way I only had to buy a few things to build the controller. You could do the same. It is not critical to exactly duplicate this design. I used a different op-amp chip and a different MOSFET than the original design. Most of the resistor values are not critical. If you have the knowledge to do so, feel free to substitute. Also, feel free to experiment. I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who feels they have improved on the design in any way.

At last, all parts of the project were complete. It was all done only a week before my vacation arrived. That was cutting it close. I disassembled the turbine and carefully packed the parts and the tools I'd need to assemble it for their trip across the country. Then I once again I drove out to my remote property in Arizona for a week of off-grid relaxation, but this time with hopes of having some actual electricity on the site.

w I home-built an electricity producing Wind turbine. Part 5

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To be continued

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  • What happened to Parts 3 and 4?
  • Hi - nice project ! I wanna make one myself to charge some batteries - what do you have as a controller between the generator and the batteries ? How much voltage is the generator delivering and what kind of bateries do you have ?

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