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How we built our wind turbine – Part 2

Posted: January 13th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Cool Projects, Energy | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Raising the turbine

For the first part of this article, see How we built our wind turbine – Part 1.

So we had ourselves a wind turbine, but no place for it to go. What’s more, for the turbine to cope with the wind and rain it would be subject to, it would need a good coat of protective paint. Over the next few weeks, the finishing touches were put to every part of our turbine – de-assembling, painting, sanding, painting again, checking and then re-assembling.

The turbine head was painted with Hammerite for maximum durability. The rotor disks were taken apart and re-assembled several times, making slight adjustments each time to make sure the disks were parallel and spinning with as small a gap as possible between them. When we were finally satisfied with the assembly, the blades were attached and the bolts were secured in place with a generous application of threadlock. The turbine blades were then painted, each one given several thin coats of gloss paint, to make sure the final coat was as smooth and even as possible.

To connect the turbine to our existing power system, we had to run armoured cable from the base of the scaffolding tower that we would be mounting the turbine on through the greenhouses to where our batteries were stored in the living space. The turbine would be generating 3-phase electricity, so the supply would have to be passed through a bridge rectifier to convert it to 24V DC power. A charge controller connected to a 1000 Watt heater acting as a dump load ensured that the batteries wouldn’t be overcharged on windy days. To make the power system as accessible as possible, a new display board was created to show how everything was wired up, which included an ammeter connected to the wind turbine supply to show how much power it was generating at any given moment.

The Grow Heathrow power cabinet

With all these tasks to complete as well as the other commitments we had going on, it wasn’t until after the Christmas and New Year break that we were able to sort out a weekend for the final installation of the turbine. The last few details were seen to – designing and building a custom hinge to allow us to raise the turbine into position on the pole that ran through the middle of our scaffolding tower, cutting steel cable to the right length for our guy lines, balancing the turbine blades, and lifting everything up onto the tower platform. And so it was that a few hardy souls braved the cold, crisp January weather to stand on a platform high above the Grow Heathrow greenhouses to raise our turbine into its final position.

Success! The turbine was up! And just in the nick of time, too. As the evening shadows lengthened that Sunday, the first visitors arrived to begin a week long arts residency at Grow Heathrow. As excited as we all were to have our turbine finally up, we had to wait a couple more days for the wind to pick up enough for it to start spinning, at which point we could be sure that it was all working according to plan. And then the following weekend a howling storm blew in from the North Sea, and our turbine was given a thorough workout that proved it could handle strong winds without a hitch.


In the year since the Grow Heathrow turbine was erected, it’s harnessed the energy from the wind to provide us with much-needed power, especially during the winter and on grey, overcast days when there’s not much sun around. The turbine has become one of the most prominent features of the site, being easily visible from the road outside, and it’s something we always look forward to showing off to visitors whenever we give tours of the site.

We’re now thinking about how we can add another turbine, to give us even more energy. Now that we’ve done one, building another should be much more straightforward. And we’re keen to share what we’ve learned – if you know a community-based project that would like to build a turbine of their own, please contact us and we’ll do what we can to help.

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