Homebrew Wind Power–A Review

By Paul Gipe

Finally, a detailed-some would argue exhaustive-treatment of how to build your own backyard wind turbine. The authors, do-it-yourselfers who actually know what they’re doing, are the powers behind www.otherpower.com.

In the mold of Michael Hackleman’s series Wind and Windspinners (yes, that does date me), Dan Bartmann and Dan Fink take a romp through wind theory, technology, and yes, how to build your own axial-flux wind turbine.

I get a lot of books shipped to me. Most go on the shelf unopened. But there was something about this book. First, it was big. Having written a few books myself, I know big books are one serious commitment of time and temperament. Second, there was something whimsical about it, something that said “fun”.

It’s been a long time since wind energy has been fun. That needn’t be the case, but is for most of us who work with it professionally. The Dans, as they call themselves, made wind fun again. There are numerous historical quotes, a bit of poetry-yes poetry-and not a little bit of poking fun at their own mistakes. You can’t help but like that-at least I can’t.

I even got out my magic marker when I became fascinated by their description of horsepower. (It’s been a long time since I last got my marker out for a wind book.)

They also have a very useful sidebar on using a multimeter (volt-ohm meter). I haven’t “let the smoke out” of my expensive meter yet, but I’ve come close so I found their tips useful.

And I haven’t seen any better description anywhere of the development of permanent magnets. Their sidebars on rigging terminology, wire rope clips, and “organic towers” were useful as well.

I am a sucker for glossaries, and the Dans have a good one.

They won kudos again with their inclusion of the Griphoist as a means for safely raising and lowering hinged towers. I wish they would have left vehicle towing out of the book, but you can’t have everything. Every author has their own take. Lots of do-it-yourselfers can’t resist using a truck.

Nevertheless, I do have some quibbles. One is the title. I’ve never cared for the term “homebrew” as applied to wind energy. Beer, yes. Wind turbines no. It’s a term that’s a little too cutesy for the serious matter of building, raising, and operating a 10-foot diameter wind turbine. But Hackleman’s “windspinners” got his message across successfully, so the Dans are not the first to try and make wind energy folksy.

Another, is the Dans defense of wind energy by arguing that there’s no evidence that small wind turbines kill birds. Sure, the “quisinarts of the air” is hyperbole but we don’t have to go out on a scientifically questionable limb to debunk it. Yes, wind has received a bad rap in the media, but that doesn’t mean that wind turbines don’t kill birds. As I’ve reported elsewhere, I may have logged a kill on the turbines at my test site. And there’s every scientific indication that small wind turbines kill a proportionate number of birds as the big machines. It’s not a lot, but we shouldn’t dismiss it cavalierly.

I am glad they included a prominent sidebar on Hugh Piggott. He’s not only one of the true pioneers of small wind, but he’s also a patient teacher who has had to put up with a lot people asking the same question over and over again. He never seems to lose his cool and his development of the axial-flux generator for do-it-yourselfers has made the Dans’ Homebrew Wind Power book possible.

This is a fun book. It’s well written and informative too. If you plan to build your own, this is the one to have.

Note that the Dans have taken on some internet scams promoting an Ebook. Read their Review of Earth4Energy to avoid a deal “that’s too good to be true”.

Homebrew Wind Power, by Dan Bartmann and Dan Fink, Buckville Publications, 2009, 320 pages, soft cover, 8 x 10 inches, 395 illustrations, ISBN: 978-0-9819201-0-8, www.buckville.com.