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Horizontal Wind Turbines

Updated on December 29, 2015

The Horizontal wind power generator comes in many designs, some for DIY

The horizontal fan is placed in a chimney design similar to the cooling towers that one sees in some industrial area. The idea is to create a continuous updraft wind to drive the fan connected to a generator.
The horizontal fan is placed in a chimney design similar to the cooling towers that one sees in some industrial area. The idea is to create a continuous updraft wind to drive the fan connected to a generator.
This is a detail of the horizontal fan with a belt driven generator linkup from the fan shaft. Horizontal fans work best where there is lots of sun or in natural updraft regions. However, they can be designed to work continuously anywhere.
This is a detail of the horizontal fan with a belt driven generator linkup from the fan shaft. Horizontal fans work best where there is lots of sun or in natural updraft regions. However, they can be designed to work continuously anywhere.

Home made Windmills have been Around for a Long Time

Wind turbines have a long history. Traditionally they were used to drain excess water from farmland such as in the case of the Netherlands dating from about 1200 AD where they drained water from lands below sea level. With the advent of electrical power came the use of the wind turbine to generate power. But are the configurations that we typically see the best for generating continuous power? Far from it! Yet we see vast sums of money and effort being poured into an outmoded design that may or may not deliver power depending on the vagaries of the weather. Such a plan is in effect by Texas oil billionaire, T. Boone Pickens. He wants to constuct a massive wind farm in the Texas panhandle that will generate 4,000 megawatts of electrical power. That of course depends on the wind conditions. We need to stand the wind turbine concept "on its head" in order to make it a reliable and continuous source of power. There is no shortage of ideas as you will see.

It is not impossible to generate ones own wind to power a wind turbine, but not all locations are suitable for doing this. For the small user, location can be a detriment, but for community and city users, a suitable location can be chosen that will result in the most continuous and efficient generation of power. The idea of generating wind has been tried in the past. In 1903, Spanish Colonel Isidoro Cabanyes first proposed a solar chimney power plant in the magazine "La energía eléctrica". In Spain, a solar updraft tower was constructed and run from 1982 through to 1989.

"The chimney had a height of 195 metres and a diameter of 10 metres, with a collection area (greenhouse) of 46,000 m² (about 11 acres, or 244 m diameter) obtaining a maximum power output of about 50 kW. However, this was an experimental setup that was not intended for power generation. Instead, different materials were used for testing, such as single or double glazing or plastic (which turned out not to be durable enough) and one section was used as an actual greenhouse, growing plants under the glass. During operation, optimisation data was collected on a second-by-second basis with 180 sensors measuring inside and outside temperature, humidity and wind speed. [1]"

"This pilot power plant operated for approximately eight years, but the chimney guy rods were not protected against corrosion and not expected to last longer than the intended test period of three years. So, not surprisingly, after eight years they had rusted through and broke in a storm, causing the tower to fall over and the plant was decommissioned in 1989. [2]"

There are many ways to design a horizontally mounted wind turbine such as in this example

The Principles of a Solar Updraft Tower

The basic principle of the solar updraft tower is to capture solar energy to heat the base of the tower in order to generate and updraft inside the chimney. The updraft wind is captured by a horizontally mounted internal turbine which is coupled with a generator. The tower can be coupled with greenhouses and the heated air vented to the tower. Further, heat produced from the sun can be stored for night-time use and the heat can be delivered by a radiation grid to create a continuous updraft. So in effect, continuous wind can be created by setting up a heat differential between the base and the top of the tower. China has plans to build a tower using superconducting suspended turbines to increase the mechanical efficiency.

Obviously, the best places for such towers is in locations where there is plenty of sunshine year round. Such places are like desert locations and south facing slopes of desert mountains. But any place that has a preponderance of sunny days over cloudy ones are candidates for such towers. There need not be consideration for locating them in windy places as they will generate their own internal wind.

A smaller version can be built for the home or farm and use the same chimney or stack effect that has already been exploited in larger designs. The basic units are the solar heat collector, the heat storage container, the heat exhanger, the tower and the turbine-generator. A heat collector can be something as simple as a greenhouse that has embeded heat collecting tubing. The heated water in the tubing is collected into an insulated storage tank for nighttime running. Otherwise. excess heat buildup in the greenhouse is directed to the tower via ducts and the updraft wind drives the turbine which in turn drives a generator. At night, the heat exchanger provides the heat to cause the updraft and continue power generation. The tower and horizontally mounted turbine are self explainitory.

Another option is to build a small turbine on the cheap using halves of a 45 gallon oil drum. This unit is entirely dependant on ambiant wind, so it is not as reliable as the solar updraft tower wind turbine, which is the ultimate goal in wind turbines. However, it does provide a good jumping off point to gain experimental experience. There are plans that can be referred to in order to build a small experimental wind generator.[3]


1. Schlaich J, Schiel W (2001), "Solar Chimneys", in RA Meyers (ed), Encyclopedia of Physical Science and Technology, 3rd Edition, Academic Press, London. ISBN 0-12-227410-5 downloadPDF (180 KiB)

2. Mills D (2004). "Advances in solar thermal electricity technology". Solar Energy 76 (1-3): 19-31. doi:10.1016/S0038-092X(03)00102-6.


For the DIY Enthusiast, there are designs you can make

The chimney or stack effect put to use


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    • radharenu profile image


      15 months ago from India

      Useful and interesting hub. Readers may also like this related article -

    • KrystalD profile image


      7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks for teaching me something new! This hub was fascinating and well written. Voting up :)

    • syzygyastro profile imageAUTHOR

      William J. Prest 

      7 years ago from Vancouver, Canada

      Start with these ideas.

      Now, to clear up a little possible confusion. There are what is described as horizontal axis wind turbines and vertical axis wind turbines. The word axis is central in the description as this is what the fan rotates upon. In the hub, I describe a horizontal fan as opposed to a vertical fan, which is typical. When shopping or building a wind turbine, the usual description centers on the axis of rotation. Thus, in the hub above, the windmill would be classified as a vertical axis fan, while the fan itself is horizontal to the ground.

    • poetvix profile image


      7 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

      I like it. Useful information that one can actually put to good use. Thanks for the tips. I had to bookmark this and vote it up.

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Very interesting, well put together, and relevant in today's green-centric way of life. Thanks!

    • Zubair Ahmed profile image

      Zubair Ahmed 

      7 years ago

      Wonderful hub. Thank you for sharing.

      I am very interested in these topics with ever increasing prices for gas and electric - i think it would very nice if we can all start looking at building or buying cheaper self generate equipment like you detail in your hub.

      Do you know anywhere online where I can purchase small wind turbine kits?

      Thank you


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