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My off-grid dilemma

 
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Shawn Klassen-Koop wrote:

Su Ba wrote:It's not the panels that need replacing. Ours are 20+ years and still doing fine the last time we tested them. It's the batteries that will need replacing and maintenance. Plus the back up generator. We replace ours every 5-7 years. And if you've never run a solar system before, you'll most likely ruin your first battery bank rather quickly. We did!  



This is a great reminder. Thank you! Any tips on not ruining the battery bank quickly? Is that in its own thread somewhere?



Man this thread got huge! HA, not sure if this was talked about yet. You can look into NiFe batteries which are very forgiving and long lasting. Again, like everything they have their advantages and disadvantages. Some have said they discharge at a faster rate. I haven't had a chance to compare the two yet. They are more expensive but then you never replace them. In the end they are less toxic and the chemical in them is alkaline not acid so it preserves the metal inside the battery unlike lead-acid. I have experience with this company. http://www.beutilityfree.com/
 
gardener & author
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I have reflected a lot on all of your feedback.

I have decided (for various reasons) that the plan is to prioritize finding a way to not need to commute before I move out to the land. Then I can install a system that is much cheaper and has a smaller footprint.

Thank you for helping me sort through this.

Shawn
 
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Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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For what it's worth, Shawn, one of the things that will add the most value to your property is a grid electrical connection.  So even if you have to spend $30,000 to do it, it will increase the value of your property at least that much, if not more.  It won't get any cheaper if you wait.  It gives you the option to sell if you want to, or get a bigger loan if you need one, and to actually make a real profit off of a remote place.  

I've had solar for 20 years, and it's got some real maintenance expenses.  Five days without sun and you've got to have alternative energy sources.  I thought I'd be able to run a bunch of stuff on the solar, but instead I have an electrical hot water heater that's unused, an electrical hotplate that's unused, a 700-watt microwave that's not strong enough to do popcorn (sometimes you just want quick popcorn!),and  a smaller refrigerator than we're used to (which is not bad, actually).

I wouldn't even think about charging a car on our house solar set-up, and it's been a very good system.  A separate car-charging station would also be something that would add value to your property.

We have 25 gallons of gas always stored, 2 seven-gallon tanks of propane + 1 five-gallon tank just in case,  just for cooking, not heat.  10-gallon tanks are too heavy to lug around.   Always backups, particularly in the winter.
 
Cristo Balete
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One more recommendation, if/when you do solar, have one shed for the batteries that you can stand up in and be completely out of the weather to add water to them.  Have a second shed for the components, the controllers and converter, etc.  The batteries off-gas acid that will eat up very expensive components.  So there's the cost of two sheds.  You will be very happy and relieved 20 years from now if you don't skimp on them.  
 
pollinator
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I like the idea of having hybrid vs a full electric car, in case of disasters and emergencies. Also a full electric car is still powered by fossil fuel at the power company.
Also you can charge your car at work, and how about an electric bicycle or electric motorcycle, they are much quicker charge and can get the job done 50% of the time.

Solar Panels cost a bit less than $1000 for 1kW x 4hrs/day aka $250 will give you 1kWHr per day
Charge Controllers cost about $200 for 1kW (https://www.wholesalesolar.com/2950000/magnum-energy/charge-controllers/magnum-energy-pt-100-charge-controller)
Batteries cost about $500 per usable 1kWHr (LiFePO4, 3000cycles at 80% dept of discharge aka 15yrs life vs 7yrs for lead batteries)
Inverters cost about $500 per 1kW output

So $1500/kWHr not counting support structure/labor/misc

 
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As we all know that solar panel installation is increasing day by day. And, in future the scope of solar energy will definitely increase. Therefore, you should not ditch your electric car. Furthermore, there are portable solar panels available in the market for recreational vehicles. You can also use these portable solar panels for your car. Not only it can power your car, but also you can power other appliances in the absence of electricity.
Before you go ahead, you need to know the operating power consumption of the vehicle. Based on your lifestyle and how many appliance you want to operate via these solar panels, you can choose its size. A 500-watt portable solar panel can generate 2400 watts of energy if it gets sunlight for 6 hours. It is one time investment, which cost around $3500 to $4500, but you can recoup it in a few years.
If you need some more information about portable solar panels for recreational vehicles, then you can check out this blog: https://www.sunpowersource.com/portable-solar-panels-for-motorhomes/
 
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I have always had good luck with Northern Arizona Wind and Sun. They have a very informative learning center online, you have to scroll past the annoying banner ad but the topics are thorough and well explained.


https://www.solar-electric.com/learning-center
 
Shawn Klassen-Koop
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Shivam Aggarwal wrote:A 500-watt portable solar panel can generate 2400 watts of energy if it gets sunlight for 6 hours. It is one time investment, which cost around $3500 to $4500, but you can recoup it in a few years.



Unfortunately it's not quite that simple for me. Up here during the cold months we average only 3 hours of sunlight per day. It takes a massive number of solar panels to get the job done.
 
pollinator
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Found this brilliant thread.

My dilemma exactly. Electricity monopoly quoted wires to the edge of the property (where neighbor's electrified house is 10 meters away) 8000 $. Bringing electricity all the way to my house another 6000$.

Solar is not a solution with dark Northern winters: when you need it most you have 4 months too little sun to charge anything. Around christmas 5 hours of weak, low-lying sun.

I went the other way. I asked myself what can be done without electricity? Result was surprising. Almost everything!

- Built a tiny-tiny 200 sqy house. It is small but perfectly enough
- Cooking on wood stove
- Heating with wood
- Hot water from wood stove
- Water carried from a well next to the house
- Washing in a wood heated sauna with a 15 gallon water heater
- chilly food storage in root cellar. Also, for 8 months a year, the outside temperature is fridge level or lower. So I keep the entrance foyer cold and keep my perishables there
- Lights: oil lamps, the fire, candles
- Clothes washed in the sauna, dry super fast after sauna has been heated
- tv, internet, banking, messaging is all in my humble mobile
- use bike for transporting myself and purchases: closest town 3 miles on a nice asphalted road
- entertainment: a library bus comes to the edge of my farm every second week. I can order any book in their enormous countywide selection and it can be picked up from the bus.
- an outhouse so no need for sewage piping.

There are some things I do need electricity for:
- pumping water from the river for 100 fruit trees, 300 berry bushes and the vegetable garden. I cannot do those amounts manually. I tried last summer and almost had a nervous breakdown:  extreme drought, two buckets and me did not work...
- charging my mobile
- light for the chicken coop in the dark winter months when we have 5 hours of sunlight a day

So now I have an aggregate. And no electricity.
I bike to the town once a week to shop, sit in the library charging my mobile + powerbank, reading the papers, browsing the internet on their computers.

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Truly tiny but perfect timer house
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Kaarina Kreus wrote:

Solar is not a solution with dark Northern winters: when you need it most you have 4 months too little sun to charge anything. Around christmas 5 hours of weak, low-lying sun.

I'm not as far north as you, but we have soooo... many clouds during Nov and Dec that like you, solar panels will not meet our needs very well. This is exactly why some sort of "long term" power storage is finally stating to get attention, but that's a discussion for elsewhere!

However, what's your wind situation like? You're looking at very small quantities of electricity - although as you get older they may increase if you need something like electric assist on your bike. They are coming up with some quiet, vertical access wind turbines that are much less wasteful of resources. The "complaint" is that the don't generate "the quantities of electricity we need" - so what? You don't need those sorts of quantities! Around here, sailboats often have small horizontal access ones and figure they can get by on that.

Pumping from the river: what sort of elevation are you going up? There are some nifty run-of-river pumps out there, some of which are homemade from simple things, that might do the job if you're not talking too much height. I'm pretty sure I've seen a bicycle operated pump also - if you decide to try to bodge one up, I've read that a "recumbent" style with a well-designed back rest, is more efficient for human dynamics.
 
Kaarina Kreus
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Wind is very errant, and in the winter it is rare. I have sailed 40 years, so I am used to off-grid 🙂.

The aggregate works fine: it powers the pump with very little fuel. It is easily pumping water from the river - the elevation is 6-12 meters depending on drought. The bigger challenge is the length of the pipe, 400 meters to the furthest part of the orchard. But it works just fine, I have a dozen 100 gallon buckets with lids scattered around. That saves me from running 10 km a day with two buckets just to keep the plants watered ❤

I pondered wind, solar and the grid and came to the conclusion I am better off without electricity. I can do almost everything without it. Especially great is that I need no water or sewage pipes.  I live in Scandinavia, where saunas are ubiquitous. Fantastic for washing youself, doing laundry and drying it.

A sauna has a heat stove with a huge amount of stones. Plus a separate water boiling stove. Both heated with  wood.

My farm has 5 acres of forest, so wood is abundant.
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A tiny part of my wood storage behind the men
A tiny part of my wood storage behind the men
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I have 300 meters of riverfront
I have 300 meters of riverfront
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