Boys will be boys, and they are always looking out for new ways to keep busy. Many people think that everything that can be invented has been; that doesn’t mean that people can’t be inventive. If there is a budding inventor inside you, using your back garden to generate small amounts of power at a safe, low voltage is a great project to take on.
The thought of messing around with electricity sends shudders up the spines of many people, but it is possible to generate enough power to charge a leisure battery, safely.
Here are a few great projects that anyone can try out for themselves with basic tools such as a saw, hammer, hot melt gun from glue guns direct, and a cordless drill.
The principles Behind Generating Electricity
In order to generate electricity, we need to convert one form of energy to another.
Solar Panels take the energy of the sun’s radiation and convert it into an electrical current. Other forms of generation turn a rotating force into an electrical current. So the biggest challenge with this form of generation is creating that rotation.
Once a reliable rotating force is created, a generator can be attached to the shaft. The generator itself is a permanent magnet electric motor. If you put electricity in, it will rotate. If you rotate a permanent magnet motor, it will turn into a generator and create electricity.
Here are some great ways to make a shaft rotate and drive a generator.
Having a stream in the garden is enviable. Not only because it is a beautiful feature, but the constant water supply can be put to good use. By building a water wheel that is driven from below by the moving water, a shaft can be outputted onto which a small generator (24v) can be attached. A water wheel driven from below isn’t as efficient as one driven by water falling. If the stream is running at a slope in your garden, maybe you would consider building a small dam so that the water can raise to a higher level. Then, at the top of the dam, water can be allowed to run down a chute or pipe and fall onto the water wheel at the top. The weight of the water will cause the wheel to turn with more power and speed, thus driving the generator with more speed and force, creating more electricity.
Perhaps there is no stream in your garden but you have a waterfall as part of a water feature. The water is pumped to the top of the waterfall so why not claim back some of the energy it has taken to do this? Place a small water wheel below the waterfall and generate power as it turns.
Once a generator is making power, wire it up to a charge controller in your shed. This is very simple as there are only two wires to connect. Then connect the charge controller to a leisure battery with another two wires. The connections are labelled on the controller so you can’t go wrong. The leisure battery, when charged, will give enough power to run 12v led garden lighting, for example. No, you aren’t going to save the planet with this scale of generation but it is a great hobby. Next, try creating rotation by using a propellor and catching the wind, or drive a generator by peddling a bike. The possibilities are endless.