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2011.09.29 - Added CAD files for custom fabrication of the metal parts.
2011.03.30 - Added a printable magnet layout template.
2011.02.02 - The Zoetrope construction guide is published.
The Zoetrope
The Zoetrope is an open source, vertical-axis wind turbine made from common materials.
Status: Complete
Construction Guide CC-BY-NC-ND
Images CC-BY-SA
Attachment(s): Construction Guide (PDF) Construction Guide (DJVU) Magnet Layout Template (SVG) CAD Files for Metal Parts (SVG + DXF)
Fig.1 - The Zoetrope framed by autumn colors.
Fig.1 - The Zoetrope framed by autumn colors.

The Zoetrope is a vertical-axis wind turbine made from common materials such as stove pipe, metal brackets, plastic sheet and a trailer hub. Many of the materials can be found at local hardware or home improvement stores, the rest can either be made at home or purchased online. The Zoetrope was commissioned by Washington (USA) resident and renewable energy supporter Mike Marohn to provide supplemental water heating.

Applied Sciences made the decision to open source the wind turbine and provide a freely available introduction to wind power, thereby allowing others to improve the design and functionality. The construction guide represents a realization of the open source decision. It details the build process and includes a complete materials list as well as recommended tools.

Something to keep in mind is that the power output of The Zoetrope is specifically tailored to the site where it is located and the application for which it is being used. Water heating is a cumulative process that can accommodate wide fluctuations in power and voltage. This is ideal since the site can routinely experience 25m/s (60mph) wind gusts. Putting that potential energy to use without burning up the stator means lower efficiency in light wind as a trade-off. During limited testing, power outputs of 150-200 watts were observed, but with a unidirectional anemometer and varying load resistance, those numbers are definitely approximations. The "official high" sustained wind speed during the testing period was 9m/s (20mph). In building your own turbine for your own application, you could tailor it to get better low speed performance than The Zoetrope.

Fig.2 - Images from the design and construction phase.
Fig.2 - Images from the design and construction phase.

Some decent wind turbine action. NOTE: Tightening the guy-wires would reduce or eliminate the "wobble" seen in the video, but would not help with the shaky camera work.

Close-up of the alternator. The air-gap was later shortened.

The coil winding apparatus in action.

Q & A

How much power does it produce?

As with all wind turbines, the power output depends on how fast the wind is moving (and many other factors). Many commercial turbines like to state their absolute maximum power rating before they fail or begin "braking", despite the reality that they would only produce that amount of power in a typhoon.

How much does it cost to build?

That depends on the tools and materials you may already have, the current price of magnets, the place where you live and many other factors.

You should have done this or that to make it better/more efficient/more attractive.

We hear that quite a bit. First, that is not a question. Second, ponder for a moment the concept of having a limited budget and limited time to execute a project. Now reflect on the generosity and kindness it took to make the things that were learned during that project publicly available for free.


References - One of the more popular DIY wind (and renewable) power sites; an excellent source of information. - A purveyor of a good selection of materials for building wind turbines.