Off the Grid and blackouts

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Off the Grid and blackouts

Postby djv » Thu Aug 14, 2003 7:21 pm

Which MD owners are totally off the grid and how happy are you about that today?

Does an MD make it easier to be totally off the grid?
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Postby Minnesota » Thu Aug 14, 2003 10:15 pm

Actually I think you are better off being connected to the grid even if you are energy self sufficient. Especially if you can produce more electricity than you use even part of the time. The only time this would not be true is if you are far enough off the grid to make connecting up too expensive.
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Postby Nick Howes » Fri Aug 15, 2003 7:23 am

Ghostwood is "line-interactive": power to the oven/range, washer, dryer, dishwasher, and water heater comes directly from the grid, but all other power runs through a pair of 4kW inverters. We have solar panels and a small wind turbine that charge batteries connected to the inverters. We can run the electric meter backwards if we generate more power than we use (which doesn't happpen since our large solar array failed in a windstorm :cry: ). When the grid fails, we can limp along on battery power for a few days.

In general, I would agree that a line-interactive (grid-connected) system is a better way to go than the typical "solar/wind plus backup generator" system. Many people underestimate the amount of power they will need and end up running their generator a lot, which is expensive and inefficient. Note that there are legislative issues with grid connection - there's a bunch of info on this stuff at http://www.homepower.com/.

Space heating and cooling are big consumers of energy; the large thermal inertia of a Monolithic Dome means that you can lose heating or cooling and the temperature won't change much for several days.
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Off Grid

Postby 3dO » Fri Jun 03, 2005 2:01 pm

I am looking into buying some land to build on that would require being off grid. The nearest power is 19 miles away. Does anyone have experience with being totally off grid. What is the best power generating system to use? Most cost effective? Lowest maintenance. I'm not sure when we would build so new technology (fuel cell) may come along, but what looks the best as of now? Any ideas?
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Re: Off Grid

Postby hitssquad » Fri Jun 03, 2005 3:48 pm

3dO wrote:What is the best power generating system to use?

Usually (as far as non-fuel generating options are concerned), the best is microhydro -- but it depends on the resources in your area (wind or solar resources might be excellent in your area and/or you might not have a river/big-stream on your property).

Homepower.com is a good resource for this type of information:
http://www.homepower.com/

You might find it more cost-effective to use a diesel generator than to install a solar, wind, or hydro system. (I heard that diesel generators can be made to be very quiet if mufflers are run in series.)

If I installed solar, I think I might securely bolt the panels to angled concrete monoliths instead of attaching them to flimsy frames or tracker systems. That would preempt the windstorm hazard, as long as flying objects didn't crack the panels.

Any way you go -- diesel, solar, wind, hydro, or a combination of those -- you are looking at a heavy investment. (Diesel would require the lowest investment, but would incur continuous fuel costs.)
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Postby Minnesota » Fri Jun 03, 2005 8:48 pm

Depends a lot on where you are. Some states give large rebates for renewables. Personally I think a combination of solar and wind is best. I have friends who are taoally off grid and doing very well even tho thier system is small. Bill Clinton said his new library has 330+ solar panels which will pay for themselves in 18 months and should make money for upwards of 30 years. Another friend connects to the grid but sells his excess to the power company. I heard of a guy who was told by the power company it would cost $10,000 to have them run lines to his remote home. After he had his system up and running they offered to do it for free if he would sell them his excess power.
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Bill's excellent (solar) investiture

Postby hitssquad » Sat Jun 04, 2005 1:25 am

Minnesota wrote:Bill Clinton said his new library has 330+ solar panels which will pay for themselves in 18 months and should make money for upwards of 30 years.

Elsewhere, I wrote that solar panels could not pay for themselves if they were free. At the very least, my statement forms an interesting juxtaposition with Bill's.


I heard of a guy who was told by the power company it would cost $10,000 to have them run lines to his remote home. After he had his system up and running they offered to do it for free if he would sell them his excess power.

The latter statement sounds unlikely to me since my understanding is that power companies have no use for the power that they are legally forced to purchase (at retail prices*) from homepower generating stations.


* If you were a manufacturer, would you voluntarily buy your own product from competing manufacturers at retail prices?
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Postby 3dO » Sat Jun 04, 2005 8:49 am

Quote: * If you were a manufacturer, would you voluntarily buy your own product from competing manufacturers at retail prices?

The interesting thing is most power companies are not manufacturers. They are resellers. That is how they justifeid raising rates in California a few years ago. They said their cost to purchase electricity had gone up so they had to raise rates to purchase more power.

So now I am left with the question of economy of scale. How much power do I need? How much excess will it take for the system to pay for itself? How much do I need to generate to be able to live of the excess? What is the cost of solar panels and how much does each panel cost?

Looks like I have a lot of research to do. Then I have to find out if I can finance the construction of a solar farm.
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Postby Minnesota » Sun Jun 05, 2005 8:04 pm

Power companies do not buy power from home producers because they want to. Governments are forcing them to do it to encourage us to produce our own. They also don't have make it easy and they don't! My experience is that they do everything possible to discourage you from hooking up. (This is annecdotal....from a friend who had to armwrestle with them for about 3 months before he got what he wanted).
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Postby 3dO » Mon Jun 06, 2005 9:35 am

I have heard power companies can be a pain, but it is a non-issue at this point. The grid is to far away. At present the best system looks to be a combination of wind and a propane powered backup generator. I plan on propane for cooking and heating. ( Can't cook on electric.) Solar is far to expensive in comparison. But as I said, I don't know when I will build so I'm just checking options. Buy the time I build, maybe they will build the "Mr. Fision" unit from Back to the Future and I'll power my house with garbage. :P (wouldn't the power companies love that!) :twisted:
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Postby Mountain View » Mon Jun 06, 2005 10:10 am

We spent some time looking at alternative power and hydrogen powered generators looked like the future to us but at that time no one had a product small enough for a household application. The units we investigated extracted the hydrogen from water so the output was hydrogen and hot water. Then it used the hydrogen as the power source to generate electricity. It’s a slick idea but not perfected for home use yet.
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Homepower - storing electrical energy

Postby hitssquad » Mon Jun 06, 2005 3:24 pm

Mountain View,

If you mean fuel cells, I have seen mention of a price of $100,000 for homepower size. You could get a nice set of Crown forklift batteries for less.
http://www.windsun.com/Batteries/Crown.htm
http://store.solar-electric.com/crdecyinba1.html

These batteries last 20+ years (according to the first link, above). What would be the advantages of using a fuel cell, instead of a chemical battery, for electrical energy storage?
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