Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Friday, June 10, 2016

Failed Erection

Posted by: Rick

This post may not be about what you are thinking. No, that is a topic for another day. This post is about our planned recommissioning of the wind turbine for electricity generation.

Wind turbine tower ready for erection

At our off-the-grid cabin, we get electricity from the sun and the wind. This blog post explains it pretty well. We decommissioned the wind turbine back in 2006 when we moved to New Jersey. It simply did not make sense to have a mechanical generator creating electricity we would not be using. And, our plan was to recommission it this summer in preparation for winter.

Right now, with PV alone, we are doing great. The additional PV panels that were installed last year, along with a larger string of brand new batteries is allowing us to get a full charge every day before noon. Even on days with filtered sun or passing clouds, we are doing great! But, when winter comes the sun is at a lower angle, the days are shorter, snow can cover the panels (till I brush it off), and we can get several cloudy, stormy days in a row. But, the wind blows. So, it is good to have the ability to generate electricity from the wind.

In preparation for the big event, I trimmed a lot of scrub aspen from around the wind turbine tower. When erected, it stands 64' to reach above the trees (which are mostly dead but one these days). It has three tiers of four guy wires to secure it to the ground. A Bergey wind turbine sits at the top.

There was one pine tree that is in the way of a clean and snag-free erection, but it is a live tree. And, I really hate to cut down a live tree that survived the beetle kill infestations of recent years. We've already lost thousands of trees and I don't want to voluntarily kill another.

Last Tuesday was to be the big day. "Sam" from the company that installed our PV panels and batteries, her helper, and Victor from a wind power company in Lafayette, CO all showed up to do the deed. It was quickly decided that the tree would have to go.

But, there was also a lot of conversation about the reliability of wind power at our location. Sure, there is lots of wind. That is not the problem. Actually, too much wind is the problem. It is not unusual for us to have a couple of "wind events" in the winter where winds exceed 100 mph. That tends to burn out the wind turbines. Plus, they are noisy, need maintenance every couple of years, can be unsightly, etc. These guys--who are actually in the business of alternate energy--talked us out of erecting the wind turbine. At least this year. They encouraged us to get through the winter this year and then re-evaluate the need for wind next year. We are having a propane generator installed that will auto-start if necessary, so we can't really run out of electricity. It is nice though, to get it all for "free" from nature.

Victor said he'd hate for us to cut down the pine tree, erect the turbine, and then decide we don't need or want it. He'd rather see us try to get by without it. So, we will.

Now, we have a 64' tower lying in a well trimmed meadow, along with a 1K Bergey wind turbine (and all associated electronics, controllers, etc.) that we need to store. It has been in a box in the cabin (or on the front porch when we are here) for 10 years. Now it will be in a storage unit in Laramie for who knows how long?

Sam, did what she needed to do to be able to quote us the purchase and installation of the propane generator. And, they left.

I am already feeling some regret, wondering if we should not have gone ahead with the plan. We'll see. And, we'll keep you informed.

Comments:

Wow, times have changed. On our farm in 7 Rivers, New Mexico there was a time
before the GRID. We were off the grid before there was a grid. Many of the old
homes only had wind generators because there were no PV cells. Our wind
generator was on the roof, next to the chimney on the old farm house. It charged
a bank of batteries to supply lights and a few other small appliances. Traveling
from ranch to ranch along the old roads you would come across old dump grounds
with batteries scattered all around. Then the rural electrical co-ops came along
and supplied electricity to the isolated ranches and farmers. When we left
Andrews County, Texas in 2007, there were still some old ranch houses that still
had the old wind chargers on the roof. It is too bad the new wind chargers don’t
come with a clutch like the old wind mills do so you can turn them on and off as
needed. There is nothing new under the sun. I am glad you are off the grid!
Robert Manthei

Fascinating. Who knew that too much wind could be too much of a good thing?

We’ve gone from it being a novelty to have electricity, to the opposite!

Well, it makes sense to be sure you’ll need it before sacrificing the tree—that DOES make a lot of sense. I think you got some good advice. You also get points for the day’s best headline!

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