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where to begin with energy sources - hydro, wind, solar? site analysis?  RSS feed

 
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Hi all,

First post here, so please lmk if this is the wrong place for such a question or if there is a better place to find the info I am looking for. I tried searching first but didn't come up with what I was looking for.

I just purchased a 4 acre home, mostly forested, in a semi-rural area of northern VA. I have a *lot* of planning to do. But I don't know where to start when it comes to energy sources. It seems like the land I have could potentially provide a lot of natural energy, even from multiple sources. But I don't know how I can analyze what's worthwhile, and how I could store/transfer that energy for my home.

Hydro - I have a stream with heavy water flow but not much drop, and a creek with a lot of drop by not as much flow. Both about 100 feet away from the home.
Solar - I have about a half acre field out front with full sun, and the roof of a 2000 sq ft house also with full sun (though surrounded otherwise by trees).
Wind - the home sits on the edge of a fairly large hill, and we have fairly regular gusting that could be capitalized on.

There are a million details I'm sure I need to know in order to decide which of these things might be worth pursuing, all I'm looking for right now is where to start. How do I perform a site analysis for these various energy sources? Are there professionals I could hire in order to do an analysis?

Thanks in advance, any and all help is appreciated!
 
pollinator
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Liam Omalley wrote:Hi all,

First post here, so please lmk if this is the wrong place for such a question or if there is a better place to find the info I am looking for. I tried searching first but didn't come up with what I was looking for.

I just purchased a 4 acre home, mostly forested, in a semi-rural area of northern VA. I have a *lot* of planning to do. But I don't know where to start when it comes to energy sources. It seems like the land I have could potentially provide a lot of natural energy, even from multiple sources. But I don't know how I can analyze what's worthwhile, and how I could store/transfer that energy for my home.

Hydro - I have a stream with heavy water flow but not much drop, and a creek with a lot of drop by not as much flow. Both about 100 feet away from the home.
Solar - I have about a half acre field out front with full sun, and the roof of a 2000 sq ft house also with full sun (though surrounded otherwise by trees).
Wind - the home sits on the edge of a fairly large hill, and we have fairly regular gusting that could be capitalized on.

There are a million details I'm sure I need to know in order to decide which of these things might be worth pursuing, all I'm looking for right now is where to start. How do I perform a site analysis for these various energy sources? Are there professionals I could hire in order to do an analysis?

Thanks in advance, any and all help is appreciated!




I would start with what would give you the biggest bang for your buck. In this case, I would research all you can about micro-hydro because that is a 24/7/365 electrical generator. That really adds up compared to only when the wind blows, or when the sun shines.
 
pollinator
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Liam Omalley wrote:

I just purchased a 4 acre home.....



Wow!.....our home is only ~1800 square feet!   How do you heat that thing!??  .... (kidding)

Agree with Travis, but also to add:  Any possibility for home modification for passive solar?  Even with modest sun in the winter, adding more south-facing windows and beefing up the insulation all around can make a lot of difference, especially with the leaves are off the trees during that season.  Does it have a woodstove already?  With the 4 acres, would one part of it be able to provide wood for wood-heating?  If interested, here is a lin to a furnace that does a combination of wood along with fossil-fuel of your choice:  https://napoleonheatingandcooling.com/products/hmf200/

They appear to be made in Canada, but have US distributors.

If that stream flows all year, the I agree with Travis that it could a quite a reliable source for some of your electrical needs.
 
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Hydropower, wind and solar are the most reliable form of renewable energy. These are really eco-friendly and cost-effective resources.

If you are thinking about to install these resources in your land, it will become a huge project and you must analyze these things from the professional expert from the relevant field.
 
pollinator
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hydro is the way to go, look up ram pumps, and etc, however, often you can't do anything to a flowing waterway because of the permits you have to get.    I would explore what others have done in your area to the water ways.    In several areas people just don't go that way because of the regulation.
 
Mart Hale
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I recommend watching this  channel on youtube, TONS of idea on hydro, solar etc   https://www.youtube.com/user/engineer775
 
Liam Omalley
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Travis Johnson wrote:I would start with what would give you the biggest bang for your buck. In this case, I would research all you can about micro-hydro because that is a 24/7/365 electrical generator. That really adds up compared to only when the wind blows, or when the sun shines.



Thanks - good point! I'll start my research there.

John Weiland wrote:Wow!.....our home is only ~1800 square feet!   How do you heat that thing!??



Hahahahah - I couldn't imagine...

John Weiland wrote:Agree with Travis, but also to add:  Any possibility for home modification for passive solar?  Even with modest sun in the winter, adding more south-facing windows and beefing up the insulation all around can make a lot of difference, especially with the leaves are off the trees during that season.  Does it have a woodstove already?  With the 4 acres, would one part of it be able to provide wood for wood-heating?  If interested, here is a lin to a furnace that does a combination of wood along with fossil-fuel of your choice:  https://napoleonheatingandcooling.com/products/hmf200/



I do have a woodstove, and it's awesome but old and not terribly efficient. The home itself, also, does not have good air flow for the warmth and is pretty terrible when it comes to overall energy efficiency (i.e. no storm doors, inefficient windows, etc.,). I definitely have to beef all that stuff up and am in the process of doing so this winter. Also I do think I will be able to harvest the land for wood moving forward, but that's something I'm new to as well.

Amit Bajpayee wrote:Hydropower, wind and solar are the most reliable form of renewable energy. These are really eco-friendly and cost-effective resources.

If you are thinking about to install these resources in your land, it will become a huge project and you must analyze these things from the professional expert from the relevant field.



Mart Hale wrote:hydro is the way to go, look up ram pumps, and etc, however, often you can't do anything to a flowing waterway because of the permits you have to get.    I would explore what others have done in your area to the water ways.    In several areas people just don't go that way because of the regulation.



The permitting is an interesting point certainly. The larger stream with heavier water flow but no real head is on the border of my property and shared by a neighbor. I know the neighbor would be okay with it but don't know my city/county regulations. The smaller creek, though, is entirely on my property (though it does run through, it is not spring-fed), so that could be a different story. Anyway good point to check that out before any further moves.

Thank you all for the helpful replies!


 
Liam Omalley
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Follow-up question: what type of name / office should I be looking for with my local municipality to ask about permitting?
 
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A site analysis is all about the records, if you're going to have a serious generation setup (which is a serious investment) you will need some seriously detailed/lengthy records so that you can plan everything out. Bare minimum you would want a year but it would be great for three to five years. Tracking the water flow in the streams is a bit of a challenge, I'll have to dig out my old Home Power magazines to give details on that. For wind and solar one of the easiest options is to use a weather station that tracks the insolation for the solar panels and the wind speed/direction at the height that you will be installing the turbine. The Best of luck with your energy generation adventures
 
pollinator
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I went to the county building inspector and they sent me straight to  a state   DEQ agent--

My guess would be you could manipulate the small creek (dams etc ) without too much trouble (maybe even without worry about permits and such since it is entirely on your property and less open to scrutiny. Here in Buckingham the inspector that came out and walked around  (I wanted to know about a spring house) told me a dam was ok, but to keep heavy machinery out of the creek,  Having a dam and a nice fall will likely be the easiest hydro, but ask old timers about just how regular the flow really is, has it ever stopped, how often My creek stopped flowing completely for a month or more one year, but has flowed reliably for 12 or so years since then, and it's difficult to remember when it was just a couple puddles in the middle of the creek bed.

Also, whenever thinking about supplying energy, the first step is to track down wasted energy, and develop a good lean system - high efficiency refrigeration, leds everywhere, etc etc. then you will have a better idea how to design your system, without investing in extra unnecessary generation. (a good thing for everyone even if all power comes from the grid)

Hydro is probably the most attractive alternative because it is clean, quiet, and reasonably reliable. Just remember that all machines eventually break and need back ups. dams wash out, debris clogs intakes....

The point is I would want two or three sources to cover all eventualities, and a couple batteries on hand fully charged when all the production unexpectedly falls and you need lights to see what you're doing.
 
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