Midian Ranch Blog

This is the web log for Midian Ranch, an isolated homestead in rural Nevada. It is owned by Jason and Tina Walters, whom are also its regular posters. This blog is exclusively for the enlightenment and edification of our friends, family, and colleagues.

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Location: Gerlach, Nevada, United States

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Off Grid Power: Step One, Version 2.0

I’ve finished the first step of version 2.0 of my off grid power system. This includes eight 12-volt solar panels producing a peak total of 420-watts at somewhere around 25 amps in combination with a single Southwest Windpower Air-X windmill, which produces even in light winds between 3 and 5 amps according to its DC Ampmeter. In high wind conditions it produces somewhere between 15 and 30 amps. The system is up and seems to be functioning pretty well, although I think the time may come soon when I need to replace some or all of my battery bank. In any case, the new system has cut down drastically on the amount of time I need to run a generator each day to just a handful of hours (somewhere between 2 and 4).

I had envisioned the second step of version 2.0 of my off grid power system as involving the purchase of a massive amount of solar panels – an entire skid worth – along with the complete retooling of the system from 12 to 48 volts for efficiency’s sake, including the purchase of a new inverter. I’m beginning to change my mind. I think that the next step may be more windmills. A LOT more windmills! I’m not sure whether I’ll change the voltage of not. Probably I will, as 12-volt is inefficient for moving current (especially DC) over any real distance, even though I’ve gone to great pains to put in heavy gauge, extremely insulated wires.

I’m very impressed by the windmill. When it’s windy (And there is always at least some breeze at my place. It’s rare that we have a still day.) it just churns along producing amperage. I would guess that if I put another two of these units into place, the three windmills combined will have almost the same effect as running a generator. Now, that might be a bit overly optimistic on my part. I certainly can’t control when it’s windy and when it’s not, but the difference that even one functioning windmill makes is dramatic.

Over the years I’ve come up with a lot of different schemes for how to generate power out at my place. Some of them have been admittedly pretty elaborate, bizarre, and fantastic. But I’ve come to the conclusion that a combination of solar and wind backed up by small, fuel efficient generators is the best way to go for the ranch. This system is simple, easy to maintain, and – above all else – technologically feasible.

For some time now I’ve been following all sorts of online conversations about people’s plans for generating power off grid. These have included everything from hydrogen, to methane collection, to solar condenser powered stirling engines and micro-hydro generators. All of them are either extremely expensive, technologically infeasible (not that that can’t change over the next decade), or simply difficult to implement in my unique instance. Of them micro-hydro is the most practical, as the technology is definite there and I have some water. But installing it would require a great deal of effort and a retooling my water system that I’m not willing to undertake at this time. Plus, setting up one micro-hydro generator would cost as much as setting up two more windmills - with considerably more thought and effort having to go into the setup of the micro-hydro generator!

In conclusion, they system is functioning roughly how I thought it would. My goal was to only have to run a generator once every two or three days. Instead I’ve ended up running one a couple of times a day for very brief periods. Which I suppose amounts to basically the same thing. The off-the-shelf technology for this type of system is there. Sun and wind power are definitely “there” at this point. I’m satisfied through my own experimentation that such a system functions. All that remains now is to tinker with what I have and make small, incremental improvements while I put together the funds to take us to the next level.


Anonymous Milli said...

Dear Jason & Tina:
I read this section of y'alls blog with great interest! I remember you showing me the videos of the crazy windmill building man back in Richmond. It's so awesome that you're actually going off the grid! What's really funny is that in about 3 or 4 weeks I'm going to start working for a wind & solar energy company! I plan to make the desert Southwest the New Persian Gulf! I'll let you know how things go. Much love to you both! Milli

7:43 PM  

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