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Author Topic: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?  (Read 6593 times)

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Offline sprintfan11

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Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« on: April 01, 2009, 09:53:19 AM »
I've started the process of getting estimates to install solar panels and a small wind turbine. I'm leaning towards going completely off-grid with batteries and a generator along with the panels and turbine. It just seems ludicrous to invest thousands of $$$ just to reduce an electric bill rather than eliminate it all together. Anyone got any 'sperience in this area? ???
Use up, wear out, make do or do without.

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Offline stumpy

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2009, 10:29:31 AM »
I have a cabin in Northern Wisconsin.  We are solar powered with batteries and a generator as backup.  We are off the grid.  I love the system and it works great.  If I could do it at my home, I would stay tied to the grid for the economic advantage.  Not only is it cheaper to build the system, in Wisconsin, The power company buys your solar power for about 10 cents per KWH more than you pay them to buy it back.  I'm sure your state has similar programs.  I'd suggest checking into them.  The other thing I found was that there is currently a 50% rebate for a site assessment.  This assessment is required if you apply for a tax break.  The assessment will suggest the most efficient system to build.
Woodmizer LT30, NHL785 skidsteer, IH 444 tractor

Offline ErikC

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2009, 10:51:50 AM »
  Completely off the grid. Mom and dad also are, and that's why it didn't scare me to do it. I have solar with a generator backup. Hydro is in the works. Dad has solar, 2 pelton wheels, and a generator he never needs.
  I bought all my stuff used. The batteries and panels were never installed from someone who was afraid of Y2K but didn't really follow through. Y2K fizzled, they hadn't installed yet, and after a couple of years sold it to me. The batteries were never cylced and kept charged by a trickle charger. You have to be careful about buying used batteries. My inverter came from another good buy, I bought it, a big diesel generator, and a bunch of tools, and some building materials then sold the generator for what I paid for the whole works.  Free inverter ;D   I also bought a few other things here and there I saw in the paper or whatever. I saved a pile of money (around $10,000) by spending a little effort and being patient. I use a honda eu2000 generator for backup, and only run a few gallons of gas a week through it during winter normally. with the sun out way less than that. Once I'm done with the hydro, that shouldn't be necessary anymore at all. We use electrical like everyone else, have a deep freezer, make coffee in the morning, etc.
Peterson 8" with 33' tracks, JCB 1550 4x4 loader backhoe, several stihl chainsaws

Offline Radar67

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2009, 03:37:42 PM »
Eric, can you give us a run down of your system? How many KW of panels do you have, how many batteries and what size? I want to go off grid with my house, but the wife isn't wanting to reduce some of the high demand systems (ie stove, fridge, ect) Sounds like you have a large enough system to handle it all.
"A man's time is the most valuable gift he can give another." TOM

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Offline ErikC

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2009, 12:04:51 AM »
  Give me a day or so and I will get all the specs. I know they are here somewhere... ::)
Peterson 8" with 33' tracks, JCB 1550 4x4 loader backhoe, several stihl chainsaws

Offline treenail

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2009, 03:58:04 PM »
I don't live off the grid, but have used solar water heating, hot air heating, and have a photovoltaic electric system on my mountain top cabin that is off the grid. Am presently preparing to build a version of the Virginia Tech solar lumber kiln, to speed up the drying process for my sawmill which is at the same location, and will run the drying fans with solar electricity too.  Do own a 500 watt wind turbine that will be installed at some point when time is available.  It has all worked just fine, and I get a real charge out of things when the electric company hires a new meter reader for the neighborhood, and he walks around and around my place looking for a non existant meter. They get quite embarassed when they have to ask. I tell them that the meter is at the neighbors house.
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Offline ErikC

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2009, 11:08:08 AM »
  Here is my system:
   16 united solar panels, total of 900 watts at 24 Volt.
   Lucent technologies gel mat battery bank, 6,580 amp hours. These are 2 volt cells that can be connected in many voltage configurations. I have 2 huge 24 volt batteries, wired in parallel basically. A dozen 2 volt cells in each. I think the total battery weight is 3000 lbs or something like that. 
    Trace 4024 pure sine wave inverter. They no longer manufacture this exact inverter, but have a comparable one. It is all wired on a panel with a 40 amp charge controller and DC disconnect switch from the factory, so you hook up the batteries at one place, and the A/C loads at another, and it works. That part was very simple.
    Honda eu2000 generator for backup. At full load it uses a one gallon tank in 4 hours. I just run a tank every couple days during winter, way less during summer.
Peterson 8" with 33' tracks, JCB 1550 4x4 loader backhoe, several stihl chainsaws

Offline Radar67

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2009, 01:34:55 PM »
Thanks Eric. I figure I'll have to get the wife to let go of some items, like the electric dryer, the electric stove, and the power dishwasher. I plan to delete the electric HW heater and plan the lighting to be more efficient. Another big help will be doing a lot of canning to reduce the extra freezer we have running.

I had actually expected you to list a much larger system.  :)
"A man's time is the most valuable gift he can give another." TOM

If he can cling to his Blackberry, I can cling to my guns... Me

This will kill you, that will kill you, heck...life will kill you, but you got to live it!

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Offline stonebroke

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2009, 03:54:46 PM »
I would think that a combination of a windmill and solar panels would work well. the solar would work in the summer when there is less wind and the wind would work in the winter when there is less sun. Just my two cents.

Stonebroke

Offline Radar67

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2009, 04:40:38 PM »
I'm thinking the same thing. If it is stormy or cloudy, the windmill will be working, if the sun is shinning, the panels. And, if there happens to be a breeze while the sun is up, it is just more production.
"A man's time is the most valuable gift he can give another." TOM

If he can cling to his Blackberry, I can cling to my guns... Me

This will kill you, that will kill you, heck...life will kill you, but you got to live it!

"The man who can comprehend the why, can create the how." SFC J

Offline moonhill

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2009, 10:18:12 PM »
When your lead acid batteries are 8 years old and you have a cloudy spell of say a week and not much wind, I sometimes wish for a grid hook up.  I wouldn't use it as a way to sell energy back to the grid but use is as a supplement, instead of a genny.  This way you can cut the size of the system down and or add to it as cash allows.  Not everyone lucks into a system as ErikC was able to.   If the cost of the system out weighs the cost of running lines from the grid, go with the grid, unless you like to play.   Grid power is just plain and simply, easy.  If you are concerned with the cost of a monthly electric bill make your home more efficient.  To go completely of grid you will need a life style change.

I would like to see a government regulation requiring all new roof systems to be entirely covered with a PV shingle  or sheet roofing, generating power, there would be no asphalt roof shingles available for anyone.  Think how simple it would be, you don't have to choose color, single tap, 3 tab, Chateau, fiberglass, you could have any color you want as long as it is PV blue.  Any excess power during the day is used to convert water to hydrogen and used during the night, like a battery. 

Your electric car is part of your houses battery pack.  When the car is parked at home, work, or anywhere, there is a hook up and it is being filled up.  And the car, it is any color you want as long as it is PV blue, yes the paint is a PV system generating power, it is even metal flake.   

Hydro?  There is so much power just flowing by with no thought what so ever as to maybe someone should tap into it.

Tidal power, wave action?  The masses live near the ocean already, tap into it.
 
Geothermal?

Wind? 

Just dreaming, silly ideas.

Go Nuclear, use the sun.

Tim


This is a test, please stand by...

Offline madhatte

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2009, 05:26:45 PM »
I'm in the process of designing a small micro-hydro plant to take advantage of a stream.  The design is essentially borrowed from a submarine electrical distribution bus, except in this case the motor-generator will be built of automotive parts and regulators and inverters will be off-the-shelf parts.  I'll try to post on the subject as the project develops. 

Offline ErikC

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2009, 02:34:48 AM »
  We are in the process of adding hydro. The battery storage we have is great, and the solar is fine when the days are sunny, but a steady 24 hr supply will add tremendously. That should be enough to eliminate the generator entirely. I still have to run one for 240 power tools and welder though. Also we didn't luck into a system, I put it together from several good finds, over about three years. :) 
  We can do pretty much what we want, but there is definitely adjustments in things to live off grid. If nothing else you have to remember not to leave things on. Appliances with little lights that are always on are a draw you should watch for. Just a lot of things like that.  It isn't an inconvenient or uncomfortable life by any means though.
  I wouldn't do it if we had access, but we are out past services, and would have had to lay out a  bundle for lines to our place. I think it's a couple miles in a strait line to the nearest pole. 
  I don't like the idea of adding more expense and regs to building by requiring PV roofs. I do like the idea of PV roofs though. I have seen a few here and there with some PV that looks like shingles, and they are actually a pretty sharp looking roof.
Peterson 8" with 33' tracks, JCB 1550 4x4 loader backhoe, several stihl chainsaws

Offline StorminN

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2009, 03:08:42 AM »
I've got a small system installed, and parts for a slightly bigger one ready to install at my new place this summer...

The small installed system is just four 55W panels, 220W total, charging four L-16 batteries (6V and 130lbs each) through an old Trace C40 charge controller, everything wired at 12V. I have the panels mounted on a home-made tracker I assembled from an old satellite dish mount with a linear actuator and a $35 tracker controller I bought on the internet. This was more of a "proof of concept" system for me... I'm on the grid and this system is separate from my grid power.

The parts I have for the slightly bigger system are (6) 120W panels, which I'll wire in series / parallel with the four 55W panels, so I'll have 940W total for now. I plan to weld up a bigger pole mount and probably fabricate a tracker for this one, too. I have a Trace SW5548 inverter and the associated AC & DC disconnects. I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to keep this inverter, or go with a 24V Outback. I've installed and worked on a couple of Outback systems, and I like their gear and the way it goes together. I'll probably get their FW60 MPPT charge controller, I've had good luck with the MX60's I've installed and worked on. I have a bunch of Trojan L-16's in varying states of health, and I'm working on pulsing (desulfating) some and also building my own, more powerful desulfator. I'll probably have a bank of eight L-16's for now.

I have a couple of diesel generators, the bigger one is a single-cylinder water cooled China diesel coupled to an Italian 8kW head. The small one is an air-cooled Lombardini diesel I scrapped from a lighted road sign trailer, it's currently coupled to a big alternator for direct battery charging.

The thing I'm most excited about is messing with solar hot water. The evacuated tube collectors like the Thermomax work well in my region, and myself and a couple of friends are signing up for install training for these this spring. Ideally, I'd like to have hot water heating built into my wood stove for the winter... hot water preheat tank above the woodstove, with thermosiphon working from the woodstove, and then for summertime, solar hot water on the roof above the hot water tank, with a little PV panel to power the circulator pump.

I've installed a couple of small off-grid systems, and they work well. I'll have to find some pics and post them. The key to keeping it small is to USE LESS. When things get complicated, just remember that most people got by just fine without electricity just 100 years ago or so, and a good percentage of the people in the world STILL live without electricity...

Oh yeah, I'll be helping with a 1.8kW wind install this spring, too... we need to find the right tower. A friend was looking for a turbine, and I found an old used one in the paper for $500... it's asyncronous, grid-tied... it came with a 55 foot utility pole as a tower, but we're not completely sold on that and we're looking for a proper metal tower now. I'll post pics when we get that going, too.

Micro hydro is the best, if you have the resource... buying the right piece of property is the key...

Good luck everyone, let's see some pics!

-Norm.
Happiness... is a sharp saw.

Offline moonhill

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2009, 08:07:56 AM »
ErikC, I know regulations are a tough pill to get down, I would be willing to swap some other more stupid regs for the PV roof one.  If this happened the cost of PV would go down and better technology would push forward, as we stand today, it is just the opposite that.  For the designers, they can have the North slope of the roof and select the now expensive less used other type of roofing with it's various patterns and colors and what not.  I would even go so far and say it should be free, the PV roof.  It doesn't kill birds or make noise that the neighbors complain about, " I can't hear the bears over the whisper of the wind turbine", a comment from a local concerned resident of a wind farm here in Maine printed in the Bangor Daily News.  It will create power and free (here lies the problem, it is FREE) power over and above the initial cost.  A whole roof of PV will put out a bunch of power.  I have 8- 85 watt panels and on a sunny day we run the washing machine and a deep well pump, and all the rest of the house hold needs, with no concerns of power and have excess to boot, what would 10 times that do?  They have no moving parts, maintenance would be very low, power out put may fade a bit over time but they are still producing free power.   The down side, I have heard is that the PV manufacturing process is rather harsh.

Tim 
This is a test, please stand by...

Offline ErikC

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #15 on: April 05, 2009, 12:09:50 PM »
  I agree with you on the benefits of PV. I love sitting there hearing the creek and the birds while my electricity is being made in silence. I also agree there are useless regs we could swap for this one. But we  don't swap regs in this country, we just add new ones. Other than that fact, I'm with you on the benefits. Still against more rules though.
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Offline Paul_H

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #16 on: April 05, 2009, 12:20:43 PM »
Very well said,Erik. :)
eg  tregar  meste  på  Tulla, for  ho  var  krulla  i  ulla.

Offline StorminN

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #17 on: April 05, 2009, 12:36:42 PM »
I'd like to see PV be more accessible, financially... for everyone. I'm not necessarily talking subsidies, I'm talking loans. Make it as easy to get a loan to buy $40k worth of PV as it is to get a loan to buy a $40k car, and don't make it mandatory that the PV be connected to the grid. As it is now, most state incentives are only for grid-tied systems, and there are only a handful of companies "loaning" for PV installation. I've heard rumblings of utility companies installing PV's on homes, and then billing the customers monthly... but that was last year, before all of the bank dramas.

I'm not a superfan of the "PV panels as an integral part of the roof" approach... mostly because in most parts of the country, those same PV crystals would produce much more power if they just had some air circulation behind them... if they were on a pole mount, or even mounted 6" off the roof... hot panels are much less efficient.

There's going to be no end to more regulations (NEC and otherwise) regarding PV's mounted on homes... GFI's, etc.

I saw a neat prototype panel last week, made by Silicon Energy (Outback's PV panel company, assembled in Arlington, WA)... the panels themself are 48" square and are two layers of glass, no frame... so they can be used as architectural elements... arbors, deck tops, etc... some light still gets through. The Sanyo HIT panels are similar, there is a picture of these panels on the cover of the current Home Power magazine.

-Norm.
Happiness... is a sharp saw.

Offline Fla._Deadheader

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #18 on: April 05, 2009, 01:33:39 PM »

 Back in the 70's, there was a development of homes built, I believe in Arizona, that had total roof of PV Panels. It was hooked to the grid, and you also had an electric car, that was charged from those panels.  Can't remember the payback time, but, less than 30 years, TOTAL, I think. Included mortgage and car payments.

  Now, with better battery technology, it should be a VIABLE option.
  Should be a link on the web, somewhere. I believe in THAT system, a LOT.  8)
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   First, it is ridiculed;
   Second, it is violently opposed; and
   Third, it is accepted as self-evident.

-- Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

Offline ErikC

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Re: Anyone using solar, wind or living off grid?
« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2009, 11:54:56 PM »
 There is a recent subdivision in Redding that I noticed all the homes incorporated PV in the roofs. Not a lot though, I think it was more of a marketing/sales thing in this case. 
"green homes for sale, you ease your consciense while we ease your bank account" :D
Peterson 8" with 33' tracks, JCB 1550 4x4 loader backhoe, several stihl chainsaws


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