Your Questions About Solar Generators For Home Use

Chris asks…

How to make electricity at home?

Hi,

I want to know how to make electricity at home. I have a science assignment to do and we need to make something that will make electricity. Anybody know how to make a windmill or a solar system? What would be the cheapest of these 2?

admin answers:

Hi Jackie,

If you want to make electricity at home the more exciting of the 2 is making the windmill and the parts are easier to get. You will need a few things to make this including the blades, generator. And you can also add a battery.

If you want a helping hand look at : http://www.earth4energy.com
You will get the full instructions with diagrams there.

Jenny asks…

At which height should i be seriously concerned about lightning strikes and how to compensate?

I am building a wind turbine and it is on a steel rod and i will be using a metal pole footed in the ground (4ft as per the local frost line) as its structure.
I have been contemplating on if i need to use a grounding rod to ensure that the generator ($300) or my charge controller/battery bank does not get damaged.
This is a completely homemade project and i plan to have it stand 9-10ft in the air, it is not for major power production but rather just an experiment and i will use the power generated to provide power for garden lighting.

There are trees in the vicinity of where i plan to place the turbine.

admin answers:

Henry, you are on the right track by being concerned about lightning, but there are ways to mitigate the problem. We have a 75 foot metal tower with a turbine on top now. My installer calls our property, “lightning hill.” We had several direct hits the first year or so and damage to our inverter, charger controller and turbine controls, as well as the TV, phone and furnace circuit card. After consulting with a retired radio tower engineer, Xantrex and the electrical inspector, what we learned is that grounding is quite a science.

Your metal post, or tower needs to be earth grounded, but by something better than the bottom 4 feet or so of the post jammed into the ground. Then you want to connect any DC negative if you have batteries, and AC nuetrals to a good ground point as well. The point to grounding the tower is not to attract the lightning, or dissipate it once it hits, the point is to, “de-ionize,” a volume of air travelling over the tower, turbine and wiring. The bigger culprit is static buildup from miles of air rubbing up against the tower building up a charge, much like walking on new carpet with dry shoes, then grabbing a metal door knob. While the spark your hand feels is uncomfortable, it is fatal for the circuit card in your inverter. By constantly, “wicking,” this charge away at the tower base, it doesn’t have a chance to build up and eventually jump across your inverter or charge controller, and better yet, it doesn’t have a chance to build up an ionized air column around the tower, which is what the lightning bolt is looking for in the first place.

In our case, we drove four 8 foot copper ground rods into the earth in an array around the base of the tower, then connected each one to each tower leg and the guy wires with separate bare copper wires. Then the common ground point in our battery room has the chassis frame from all our electronics, the AC nuetral, and the battery DC negative connected together there. After that, we ran a #4 bare copper wire from that point to the top of our steel well casing. Again, we are constantly wicking away static charges, and providing an easy route for a large surge to exit the system as well. We also put surge arrestors on the base of the tower, and incoming lines from the tower and solar array leading into the battery room. It’s been 9 years since then, and after tons of storms up here in the Northern Great Lakes, everything is still humming along nicely. The retired radio tower engineer told us in many instances in areas prone for lightning, such as Florida, they sometimes hired a well company to drill a 200 foot deep well and install a steel casing, but no well pump. Then they would just use the well casing for a ground rod. Think of it as a drain in a bathtub, if it is unplugged, has a large 3 or 4 inch pipe leading out of it, and it is free flowing to the city sewer, than the tub should never overflow. If it has small piping, many kinks and turns, and a partially plugged screen, one day the tub will overflow, you just don’t know when. The well casing is like a really big drain, and the extra electrons keep flowing down it all day and night.

Home Power Magazine ran a side bar article on our systems grounding plan about 10 years ago. If you subscribe, you can look for it on their websites archives under, “Ground Side Bar.” If you don’t subscribe, you should, it’s a great periodical on this materiel and inexpensive. Good luck Henry, and take care, Rudydoo

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