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  1. #1
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    Default personal energy independence

    Since this was discussed in another thread I thought we could take it into a separate one.

    Why do you want to be off the grid and how.

    My personal plan is to incorporate wind and solar for electricity. Ethanol, biodiesel, methane and/or wood for fuel. Conservation through insulation and house design (south facing windows, wind breaks and the like).
    I do not plan on cutting the power lines to the house, but I do want the practical knowledge and the infrastructure to have the ability to be energy independent. This is a 10 year plan, as my wife has made it clear that a new house comes first, but we are currently working on being able to have the ability to produce our own food through heirloom plants in the garden, a large greenhouse (next year), composting, fruit and berries (23 fruit trees in last year and we are doubling that this spring) and nut trees (12 coming this spring).

    For me this is a hobby, like beekeeping, that will allow me to be independent of the modern supply system. While I do not think that it is likely that I would ever have to depend on the plans how many civilizations knew the end was just around the corner?
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 12 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  2. #2
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    Nov 2006
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Why did this thread go dead? I was busy with the Big Bee Buzz and missed it.

    I would like to go off the grid, but I don't know how. I think it would be awfully hard to do in August in Oklahoma (the play title August, Osage County can only be appreciated by people who live in a city that includes part of Osage County). We already turned on the AC for a few hours, although we usually do without until May. Also, my wife is a thermostat Nazi, so we are cold in winter and hot in summer.

    However, I like the idea of both the security and self-sufficiency that would be involved.

    Although I don't see this as being totally obtainable in summer, I have seriously considered getting a fireplace insert for one end of my house and installing a Buck Stove-type pot-bellied stove in the other end for winter. There actually is a green dump for the city where I could go in the summar and cut all the firewood I want. I recognize that's not exactly "green" from a greenhouse gas perspective, but it is off-grid.

    I also have looked into having a water well drilled on my property, at least for outside irrigation purposes and maybe as a backup water supply.

    I don't even know where to start on electric stuff.

    My fundamental problem is that I am pretty useless when it comes to building stuff and technnology.

    Are there any simple, cost-effective things that I could do to generate some electricity off grid?

    Neil
    Last edited by NeilV; 04-04-2012 at 07:30 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Solomon would be the man to jump in on electricity production, his event horizon on energy independence is closer to mine. I am counting on advances in the technology in the next 5 years before I can feasibly put in energy production systems. Solar systems are not that hard to install, but there are usually a lot of regulations that must be met. You would be in a unique position to research and understand the rules, I would hire someone to install the electrical component, but could easily install the panels themselves. The same goes for wind power.

    A cooling solution that uses very little power is swamp cooler, but I don't know how effective it would be in your area as they don't work good in areas of high humidity.

    Quote Originally Posted by NeilV View Post
    Are there any simple, cost-effective things that I could do to generate some electricity off grid?
    Neil
    I think you can pick one of the two, unless you get your neighbors to chip in (Government grants and subsidies).
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 12 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  4. #4
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    Farmington, New Mexico
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    I don't want to be off of the grid, I want to own a larger portion of it.
    Nobody ruins my day without my permission, and I refuse to grant it...

  5. #5
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Why not both?

  6. #6
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Thank you for the move.
    Last edited by RiodeLobo; 04-05-2012 at 09:17 AM.
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 12 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Didn't Mr. "Most Likely to be Wrong" start this in Tailgater? (If I'm wrong, does that makes me "Most Likely to be Wrong in the Coffee Klatch"?)

  8. #8
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Quote Originally Posted by RiodeLobo View Post
    Why do you want to be off the grid and how.
    Why is a much more in depth question than how. In short, I have always wanted to. When I was a child and I first found out you could make electricity from the sun or wind or steam, I wanted to. In fact, around the age of ten or so, I built a wood fired boiler. My father, social Darwinist that he seems to be never helped me figure out the plumbing, but it had a firebox made of a big rectangular steel tube, a boiler made of some sort of firetube water heater he found in the junkyard, and a chimney made of steel tube. I cut and welded the whole thing together and it burned stuff well (without the boiler attached in line.)

    So now that I'm older, the how starts to enter into it. My interest has been renewed by taking Renewable Energy (an industrial engineering class) this semester. We have done (and have still to do) several research reports on the economic viability of certain specific projects. I recently read 'Homebrew Windpower' by Bartmann and Fink and I am certain I could build the wind turbine for which the provide plans. And if I want an offgrid system incorporating wind power without breaking the bank, I'll have to. Because I've done the math, and there's hardly a turbine on the market which will pay for itself within its lifetime. They built a 20 foot version of their wind turbine (about the size you'd need to power a house) for about $5000.

    Through the wonder of the Chinese stuffing the market with solar panels, solar has dropped quite well. You can get American made solar panels for under $1.50/watt now which when operated and installed correctly offer a payback period of under 15 years with a lifespan of over 25. Batteries are reasonable with the best lifetime priced ones being forklift batteries, available delivered in any voltage you want or you can string them together to achieve the same.

    If I could find a piece of property with usable micro hydro capabilities, it would be really sweet, but they're not so common here in the Ozark 'Mountains.' Highest point in Arkansas is under 3000 feet. In Oregon where I grew up, I had a 4400 foot mountain right across the street (as it were.)

    Recently, I've been rethinking the backup generator. Typically, people run a 240 volt AC generator with which the inverters need to sync. I find this a little problematic for adapting to more interesting forms of power because you need to maintain voltage and hertz. So I naturally went to DC generators. You can buy diesel ones, used on fishing boats or APUs from semi trucks, but they are expensive. You can make your own using engines you might find around and converting a car alternator (or other) to permanent magnets. I already built a generator for the house using a rototiller engine, a Cadillac alternator and a reconditioned inverter. My next one is a half finished diesel version. But it's harder to make diesel than to use wood for instance, so I started looking into steam engines (coincidently like the guys who wrote (homebrew Windpower). There are still makers of small steam engines, 5-20 hp or so, but they are quite expensive. You might as well buy more solar panels. So unless I could find a used one for cheap, I should keep looking. Finally, I happened upon wood gas. Well, I had known about it for a while, but thought about it only for cars. So at this point, I'm looking at a wood gas fueled gasoline engine (V-twin would sound nice) pushing a DC alternator using waste heat to heat the house or water.

    I've already taken a big step of going off grid water wise, by not using the water toilet. My household is down to around 2000 gallons a month. My roof could capture 50000 gallons a year in rainfall, so the solution is right there.

    This is definitely a hobby for me as well. I don't expect it to pay off necessarily, but I'm not the type to blow money just for kicks and giggles. I'd really like to quit burning coal for electricity.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  9. #9
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    Weeki Wachee, Florida,USA
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Check this guys lifestyle out!

    www.osemountainalaska.com

    Health issues have forced him to sell, he's home now getting things ready.

    He does have fuel flown in but I'm sure he could go it alone for a very long time!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Great log house. My grandparents owned a log house (next door to my father's house). They don't hold heat very well. As long as you're willing to maintain a large collection of firewood, you're okay, but I'd rather superinsulate.

    I also want internet access.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  11. #11
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    As long as you're willing to maintain a large collection of firewood, you're okay
    You mean like this?
    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/38518075/Mabel%3Afrisbee.jpg
    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/38518075/Woodpile.jpg
    Buy the ticket, take the ride. -H.S. Thompson

  12. #12
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Quote Originally Posted by NeilV View Post
    Didn't Mr. "Most Likely to be Wrong" start this in Tailgater? (If I'm wrong, does that makes me "Most Likely to be Wrong in the Coffee Klatch"?)
    Yep, and for the same reason I won the trophy. I am open to reasoned arguments. Apparently a rarity here
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 12 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Quote Originally Posted by Solomon Parker View Post
    I've already taken a big step of going off grid water wise, by not using the water toilet. My household is down to around 2000 gallons a month. My roof could capture 50000 gallons a year in rainfall, so the solution is right there.
    I am lucky on this note. I have 2 shallow wells on the property producing 10gal/min each. Unless there is a massive drought my water supply is endless, and as it all goes back into a septic and drain field the net water loss is nominal. We also have an ample wind supply so we can really crank out the wind-power, my concern is to much wind, as it can really blow through here. We have had winds that approached 100mph this year.
    Solomon how well do they predict the home built wind turbine would deal with high winds?
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 12 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Solomon,
    Shoot him an email.
    I met him though a blog a had, he's a trapper and sent me some skulls he has almost everything one could ask for in the way of technology. I've talked to him at his cabin on Skype the video drops out some but otherwise works fine.

    Though I don't want to live like that...I admire that he went and carved out and built the life for himself that he wanted. It must feel so good to be so totally self reliant.
    It a courageous thing to get what you want!

  15. #15
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    Dec 2002
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Quote Originally Posted by cg3 View Post
    You mean like this?
    Yep, something like that.

    Quote Originally Posted by RiodeLobo View Post
    Solomon how well do they predict the home built wind turbine would deal with high winds?
    The tower is usually of more importance than the turbine itself. Any turbine of any note is designed to 'furl' or turn sideways to get out of the wind when it gets too high. They usually start furling at 25 and are totally furled by about 35. The amount of power in the wind goes up with the cube of velocity, so you can get some pretty amazing forces at high winds. So it's usually the tower which is more important in the design. The tower has to withstand the force of the turbine at the top, but also all the drag on the tower itself and guy wires. They're usually rated to above 120 or so, but you can have them designed and/or built for anything you want. I want one that tilts up rather than needing to be climbed. They recommend buying your first one, but they build their own. Their 20 foot turbine is on a 10 inch steel tube 75 foot tower. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZ2VyfzJYnI

    Quote Originally Posted by Mbeck View Post
    It must feel so good to be so totally self reliant.
    I'm more of a community minded person. Not like high density city type, more like country farm type where your neighbors are just out of the range of a bullet. But still close enough to borrow stuff and talk from time to time. I'm in a decent spot right now, two neighbors are still too close, but the rest are about the right distance.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  16. #16
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    Jan 2011
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    Clackamas Oregon
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    781

    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Just want to mention that a lot of the Solar systems that are to line voltage require the “grid” to sync the output. When the power goes out the solar goes out as well (safety issue for the linemen). They may not all be that way but if you are going solar for that purpose take a look at that feature.
    “Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up” Alfred Pennyworth Batman Begins (2005)

  17. #17
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    It's not just a feature, it's the law!
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  18. #18
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    Update: I'm saving up for a wood gasifier. Hope to either have it cut out at a local machine shop this fall, or order the kit from All Power Labs www.gekgasifier.com

    Also going to be buying a 30 watt solar panel for my children's Power Wheels Jeep next time we need a new batter which is coming soon. That way I don't have to take it inside and charge it all the time. I'll probably be the first person in Arkansas with a solar powered electric car!
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  19. #19

    Default Re: personal energy independence

    It's been my experience that for me to install a solar system (without battery backup) is going to cost $50-60K initial investment. The things like inverters are what get you. Then extras like switch boxes and battery backup systems add a little more to the up front costs.

    It's kind of price prohibitive for me right now. If the price drops lower, I might be interested.

    I think it's kind of like when calculators first came out. They were hundreds of dollars for simple ones. Now you can buy solar powered solar calculators for $2 or $3.

    Maybe the cost of solar will come down one of these days.
    Greg Whitehead, Ten Mile, TN
    Blog - http://gregsbees.blogspot.com/

  20. #20
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    Default Re: personal energy independence

    When was the last time you checked on solar panels? Prices have dropped significantly in the last few years. They can be had below $1.25 a watt these days.

    Other options that help with the cost are micro inverters which allow you to add single panels at a time.

    Add to that federal subsidies and state subsidies (which you may not have) and the price gets much more reasonable.

    Speaking of off grid though, you are right. Battery systems can be a bit expensive. For a home, you're probably going to need $10k in inverters and wiring, 10k in batteries, and a generator. That's why I wanted to structure a plan with cheap generation first and then I can move forward from there. Then I can add smaller solar arrays, homebuilt wind turbines and add water heating to the generator.

    But before any of this, conservation should come first. Solar panels can pay back in 10-15 years. Efficiency upgrades can sometimes pay back in under a year.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

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