The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Cheap sources of solar and wind equipment

Wind turbineZimmy and his wife rounded out their energy efficient home by producing some of their own power.  They live in northern Ohio where it makes sense to supplement solar power by capturing the wind blowing down off the Great Lakes. 

The couple has been building their homestead infrastructure for about as long as I've been alive, so it's no surprise they've been able to snap up good deals.  "Almost everything we buy, build, install, is seconds. We live in the world of surplus," Zimmy emailed when I asked him the cost of his alternative energy system.  He went on to say that he has two different sets of solar panels as well as the wind turbine.

Electric boxThe solar panels on the ground put out about 3kw.  They came from a demonstration solar power plant in the south California desert.  After being cooked in the sun with concentrating mirrors they were dumped onto the surplus market.  I installed them in 1994. I don't remember the cost, but it was cheap at the time.

The panels on the roof were installed last year by Mary and I.  They are a 1.6kw array, and they came from as seconds.

The [17.5 kw] wind turbine....well that's another story.  It was installed in 1984.  The turbine was bought as a damaged unit that was damaged in a wind storm.  The tower was bought from a scrap yard and they bought it from the local airport.  I also found other sections of  the same type tower from another person.  The tower is 150' tall and I have 20' left over to be used for my water tower when I get time.  The turbine has been hit by lighting several times, mechanical failures, electrical failures, modified and upgraded several times.  I have lost track of the cost, but I have a spare alternator, gearhead, governor, blades, and spare inverter boards.  The turbine had some damage over the winter that cost $3,500 for repairs but insurance paid for it. 

Battery bank for an alternative energy systemWhenever I consider alternative power --- beyond our simple solar backup --- I get caught up in the disposable nature of batteries and whether the unit will really pay for itself.  Unfortunately, Zimmy wasn't really able to answer my questions about the economics of his grid-tied system.  He noted: "I don't keep track of power produced and power used.  We use every bit of power we produce, and have some amount of electric bill to pay.  The utility co. is happy and so are we."

Whether or not Zimmy's system is cost-effective, I can tell he's had a wonderful time tinkering.  Keeping our eyes open for salvage and seconds is a good lesson for everyone to learn.

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This post is part of our Energy Efficient Mobile Home lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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