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Build a Model Turbine: Ride the Wind!TM
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Savonius Wind Turbine
These plans are for the construction of a machine called a Savonius wind turbine. Wind turbines come in two general types, those whose main turning shaft is horizontal and points into the wind, and those with a vertical shaft that points up. The Savonius is an example of the vertical axis type. It consists of two simple scoops that catch the wind and cause the shaft to turn.

This type of turbine is simple to build, but is not nearly as efficient as a well-designed horizontal axis turbine. The Savonius turbine relies solely on drag to produce the force that turns their shaft. One side of the turbine catches the moving air more than the other, causing the turbine to spin. This design does not allow the turbine to spin faster than the oncoming wind, which makes them a poor choice in areas where winds are light.

A Savonius wind turbine
A Savonius wind turbine.

Horizontal axis turbines are by far the most common kind of wind turbine. They can be seen at several places across Canada and the United States. They are also becoming common in Europe and many other countries around the world. These turbines feature wing-like blades that generate aerodynamic lift as the wind blows past them, causing the central shaft to turn. To operate at peak efficiency, this type of turbine must always face directly into the wind. Many horizontal turbines have a large wind vane that acts like a sail, helping them to stay pointed in the right direction.

Making electricity
A horizontal axis turbine
A horizontal axis turbine.
Courtesy Vision Quest Wind Electric.

We are surrounded by hundreds of appliances that use electricity to do work. But what is electricity? Basically, electricity is a flow of electrons in a metal wire, or some other conductor. Electrons are tiny particles found inside atoms, one of the basic building blocks of all matter. We call the flow of electrons through any conductor a "current of electricity."

Each electron carries a tiny negative charge. When they move through a conductor, they produce an invisible field of magnetic force, similar to that found around a magnet. The strength of that field depends on how many electrons are in motion. You can concentrate this field by winding the wire in which the electrons move into a tight coil with many turns. This causes many more electrons to be in motion in a small space, resulting in a stronger field. If you then place a piece of iron in the middle of the coil, the electromagnetic field will turn the iron into a powerful magnet.

While it is true that electrons moving through a conductor produce a magnetic field, the reverse is also true. You can make electrons move in a wire by "pushing" them with a moving magnet. This is in fact how an electrical generator works. Electrical generators usually contain powerful magnets that rotate very close to dense coils of insulated wire. The coils develop a flow of electrons that becomes an electrical current when the generator is connected to an electric circuit.

You will be building an electrical generator as part of this project. It uses moving magnets to create a current of electricity in coils of wire. This generator is technically called an alternator because the electrons move back and forth in the wire, rather than flowing in just one direction as they do from a battery. A meter connected to the wire would show that the charge of the wire switches or alternates between positive and negative as the electrons change directions. Such an electrical current is called alternating current or AC. Household electrical current is alternating current. Appliances have to be specially designed to use it. The other type of current is called direct current, because the electrons move in one direction only. Most battery-powered appliances such as calculators and portable CD players use direct current.

Safety Precautions

    • Utility knives and scissors can be dangerous! Use caution when cutting materials using them. The blades of most utility knives can be extended and locked in place. Extend the blades only far enough to cut all the way through the material, no farther. Be sure they are locked in position while cutting.


    • For a safe and easy cutting make sure the blades of your utility knives are always sharp (ask your teacher for assistance in breaking off dull blades)


    • Hot glue guns can cause serious burns, as can the glue if it comes in contact with your skin.


    • The magnets you will be using can cause serious damage to computers or other electronic devices. Be sure to keep them away from credit cards, computer disks, audio tapes, or any other materials on which information is stored magnetically.

Build It!

(Click to continue to the construction plans)

Test It!

    • Set the selector on the digital volt meter to read Volts AC. At this setting, the meter will detect the number of volts of alternating current your turbine produces.
      Photo of voltmeter hooked up to turbine
      The Pembina Institute


    • Attach the test clips on the volt meter to the wire leads on your turbine.


    • Blow on your turbine to cause it to spin. Have a partner watch the readings on the display of the meter. Record your results. A well-assembled wind turbine should be able to produce between 1 and two volts by blowing on it. A more consistent way to test your turbine is to use a stream of air from an appliance such as a blow dryer (set for COOL) or a vacuum cleaner with the hose plugged into the discharge end. Measure the voltage of your turbine and compare with others.


    • You may make small modifications to improve the efficiency of your turbine. Look for sources of friction that might slow down its rotation, or find ways to bring the coils closer to the spinning magnets.

  1. What changes to this design could you make to improve the efficiency of this turbine?
  2. What advantages does the vertical axis turbine have over conventional horizontal axis turbines?
  3. What limits or disadvantages does this design have?
  4. Why must the coils be positioned in a clockwise / counterclockwise manner?
  5. What is the difference between alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC)?

The design of this turbine is based closely on the ingenious "Pico-turbine", published as a free download from is one of the best sources of ideas and resources for renewable energy education in North America.



    • Lee Valley Tools
      7261 - 11th Street SE
      Calgary, AB T2H 2S1
      Tel: 403-253-2066

Ask for 24-gauge enameled magnet wire sold by weight.


    • B & E Industrial Electronics
      444 Manitou Rd SE
      Calgary, AB T2G 4C4
      Tel: 1-800-661-5619 or 403- 243-7211
      (they have a courier service available)


    • Active Components
      2015 32 Ave NE Unit 1
      Calgary, AB
      Tel: 403-291-5626
      (They have 22 and 26 gauge wire)


    • Winford Insullations
      Bay C 4415 58th Ave SE
      Calgary, AB
      Tel. 403-236-3667
Wind Turbine Construction Plans  [PDF Format - 827 Kb]
Printing Instructions for Templates  [PDF Format -37 Kb]

Paper Templates:
Base  [PDF Format - 131 Kb]
Frame  [PDF Format - 179 Kb]
Rotor  [PDF Format - 37 Kb]

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