Going off-grid is a major goal of ours. We happen to live in one of the best areas in all of Canada for wind, and are close to one of the top areas for sun, so it makes sense to make use of our renewable energy. Add to which we intend to be completely independent and there’s really no question about it, only questions about “how?”
Originally the plan was to leave the “power” side of things to Shane. I’ve never been (even remotely) interested in anything electrical and know nothing about the subject of renewable energy. He, on the other hand, is a technologist and I assumed it would be an easy transition (much the same as I assumed he could cut hair because of his background in drafting). Unfortunately, renewable energy and its associated components is a much broader field than either of us imagined.
Well, Shane is no slouch and before long he was picking up all sorts of information that he was excited to share. “Wah, wah, wah, wah…” (remember Charlie Brown’s teacher?) “…wah, wah, wah…” I nodded my head as he shared his latest finds. I was doing well nodding and smiling and saying “mmhmm” at all of the appropriate times- right up until he asked me what I thought. “Ummm…” think quick, think quick… “I think whatever you decide will be great,” I lamely offered. Unless, of course, it isn’t. And that’s when I realized that if I were to have any opinion at all, it had better be now because after the fact I’d better be prepared to keep my mouth shut.
Never one to keep my mouth shut, and not one to tempt fate, I decided to apply myself to learning everything that I can about renewable energy. Batteries and chargers and inverters and wind turbines and solar panels and generators and true sine waves versus modified sine waves and… God help me, I feel like I could study for another five years and still be no further ahead. All I wanted to do was have an informed opinion and help with the decision of what system to go with.
There’s a lot of information out there. And everyone has an opinion. I just wish that I could enumerate the opinions and come up with a majority rule that I could side with but it seems it’s not going to be that simple. If it were a cheap proposition I could probably just go with the information that I do have and make a decision, live with the consequences and switch things up later if need be- but going off-grid is not an inexpensive goal.
So far, the opinions that I have formed (subject to hourly revision) are: I’d like to go with a hybrid system rather than putting our eggs all in one basket. I’m thinking 1 kW of windpower and ~600 Watts of solar. I’m leaning towards the Bergey hybrid system (though I’d prefer a 48V system to a 24V which would cancel out Bergey). I think Trojan batteries are a less expensive option than Surrettes and may be able to meet our needs. But I can’t for the life of me decide between the Outback and Xantrex systems, and Shane’s asked that I weigh Magnum into the equation as well. And generators??? Briggs & Stratton, Honda, Yamaha, propane, gas, diesel- never mind sizing…
My head is swimming. So much so that I find myself leaning towards a Yamaha generator because I like the sound of it, “Ya-ma-ha,” it rolls so nicely, doesn’t it? That’s what my brain has been reduced to. University educated and yet here I sit doing research and giggling, seriously considering a major purchase based off the fact that I like the way the brand name rolls off my tongue. Oh they get good reviews too, but I can’t in good conscience pretend that’s why I like them. I’m losing it in a serious way.
Today I’ll start a spreadsheet with pricing and pros and cons of all of the components. Maybe that’ll bring me closer to where I need to be to offer an opinion and have a reasonable discussion with Shane. Bitch as I may (and I will and do often), I have to admit I’m impressed that I know what a “genset” is, and that I know the difference between true and modified sine wave inverters. And Shane seems pleased that my eyes don’t glaze over when he starts talking electricity.