Poor Man Survival
Self Reliance tools for independent minded people…
A Digest of Urban Survival Resources
He who buys what he doesn't need steals from himself.
- Swedish Proverb
- Swedish Proverb
Yesterday I wrote about our most recent power outage and some of the backup resources we use to overcome these hiccups. Today, we’re bringing another option for you to consider.
Home Wind Power: Yes, in My Backyard!
by Megan E. Phelps
Is home wind power a good choice for you? The answer may surprise you, because living in a windy area is not necessarily the most important factor. In fact, many properties are not a good fit for installing a wind turbine even if they have a lot of wind. On the other hand, if you want to go off-grid and produce your own electricity, you almost certainly want to consider installing a home wind turbine, even if your location is not notably windy.
Here’s the deal: For a home wind turbine to be worth your investment, you really need to live on an acre or more. Living in a rural area helps, because if you’re in a residential neighborhood, you’re likely to run into conflicts with zoning and local homeowners associations. You’re more likely to find a high average wind speed in wide open spaces far from windbreaks such as buildings and trees.
That’s the case for Cam and Michelle Mather, who live on 150 forested acres in rural Ontario. The Mathers live in an off-grid home powered by solar panels and their micro wind turbine, a 1-kilowatt (kw) Bergey Excel 1. On such a large property, they’re nowhere near their closest neighbors, so there’s no one who might be upset.
The Mathers’ local wind speeds are not ideal, yet home wind power works beautifully for them. The biggest issue with the Mathers’ property is that they have too many trees, and even though their small wind turbine is easily 40 feet above the tree line, the landscape slows down the wind. Wind still makes sense for them, though, because they’re off the grid, so their only electricity is what they produce and then store in batteries. They started with solar panels, but adding a wind turbine to the mix made the whole system much more stable and efficient — a major benefit when you’re solely responsible for generating your own electricity.
If your main goal is energy self-sufficiency, you may want to be off the grid. But if you’re simply interested in producing your own residential wind power, a grid-connected system can make a lot of sense. With this setup, anytime your wind turbine produces more power than your home needs, that power goes onto the local utility grid. When you need more power than you’re generating, you draw power from the grid. Grid-connected systems are often cheaper, because without the responsibility of producing all of your own electricity, you can install a smaller, less expensive system.
That’s how it works for John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist on their rural property in Browntown, Wis. About 10 years ago, Ivanko and Kivirist installed their 10-kilowatt Bergey Excel turbine on a 120-foot tower. They’re now generating about 10,000 kilowatt-hours (kwh) per year, an amount just slightly below the average annual household electricity use in the United States.
The couple invested in home energy efficiency before they started installing renewable energy, however, and with an efficient home, they now generate more electricity than they need.
Exactly how this relationship with the utility works depends on state regulations. Wisconsin, like most states, has net metering regulations that help make grid connection a good deal for homeowners. When you use electricity from the utility, your meter runs forward, and when you put excess electricity onto the grid, it runs backward.
Ivanko and Kivirist estimate that the total installed cost of their 10-kw wind turbine was about $39,500, but their out-of-pocket costs were less than half of that, thanks to a state grant and other creative financing.
The Mathers chose off-grid living for environmental reasons, but the decision to go off-grid can sometimes make sense purely in financial terms. To begin with, if you live in a truly remote area and want to go off-grid, installing renewable energy systems will often be less expensive than paying the utility company to extend a power line to your property. In fact, some states require that the utility provide information on renewable energy alternatives whenever a customer requests a power line extension.
One of the easiest factors to calculate is individual renewable energy incentives. In the United States, small wind turbines currently qualify for a federal tax credit of 30 percent, which is scheduled to continue through 2016. The Department of Energy’s wind guide recommends 10 mph as a minimum average wind speed if you want to consider installing a grid-connected turbine.
What else do you really need to know if you’re considering wind energy? Paul Gipe, author of Wind Power: Renewable Energy for Home, Farm and Business, has been researching and writing about wind turbines since the mid-1970s. While he’s a big supporter of renewable energy, he’s also an outspoken consumer advocate.
Here’s his short list of things consumers need to know about small wind turbines.
Tower Height. First, yes, you really do need that tall tower, because average wind speeds increase substantially with height. “For a small, residential-sized turbine, it should be at least 80 to 100 feet tall,” Gipe says. You’ll see wind turbines mounted on shorter towers, and they may be producing some electricity — just likely not as much electricity as you’d want, and making the financial side of wind work out is difficult if you’re not producing enough power.
Roof Mounting. “Never put a wind turbine on the roof,” Gipe advises. This comes up all the time, because a big part of the expense of the turbine is the tower, and people are looking for ways to save a little money. This isn’t the way to do it, however.
Certification. Avoid being seduced by a new wind turbine design that sounds wonderful but doesn’t have the test data to back it up. Look for established manufacturers with a proven track record and certified test results that show how much electricity you will be able to produce.
Safety. “Make sure that the turbine can be safely serviced and operated,” Gipe says. “Based on available technology, that means making sure that the tower can be safely lowered to the ground.” In other words, consider a tilt-down tower rather than one that requires you to work on the wind turbine 100 feet in the air.
Ivanko and Kivirist have a few additional words of wisdom: Get insurance. They didn’t have to do anything special to get liability insurance — it was just one more item listed on their homeowners insurance policy, Ivanko explains. However, they also insured their wind turbine against damages, and were grateful they had done so when the blades cracked during a severe storm last year.
And some final words from Cam and Michelle Mather: Don’t be intimidated — you can do it! When the Mathers went off the grid 15 years ago, they couldn’t find anyone in their area who knew about solar panels or wind turbines, so they had to learn everything themselves.
Excerpted from MOTHER EARTH NEWS, the Original Guide to Living Wisely. To read more articles from MOTHER EARTH NEWS, please visit www.MotherEarthNews.com or call (800) 234-3368 to subscribe. Copyright 2014 by Ogden Publications Inc.
Find how-to and DIY wind plans and pre-built [plus estimation] at these sites:
I found a 400W system for $285 [didn’t include batteries or stand] but will operate at wind speeds as low as 7mph at:
Additional useful gems for making life better
Grab These Useful, Free e-books
· The Have More Plan – a classic from the 40s
· Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning
· Pro-Canners Quick Start Guide
Reduce your grocery bill with printable coupons from SmartSource - click here - and MySavings - click here.
Bruce ‘the Poor Man’
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