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Practical home solar and wind power?

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 27, 05 7:14 pm    Post subject: Practical home solar and wind power?  Reply with quote    

How practical is it to generate some of your home power yourself? I often see programmes and read articles where people are generating their own power for all their needs but there still seem to be many problems. I know the most cost effective thing to do is heat water but that's not suitable for me at the moment as we have a combi boiler and we don't plan to stay in this house for many more years. There are several other reasons for us looking at generating our own electricity in the future so, while I have time I would like to learn some practical knowledge.

I'm not looking to power a kettle but more reasonable things like LED lights, fridge/freezer, PC, radio etc. An immediate use would be for lighting and heating a propagator if that's practical. Another reason for looking at things now is it may be worthwhile buying appliances that will run direct from 12V DC as well as 230V AC (looking at a 2nd freezer at the moment.)

What sort of set up should a beginner look at? A quick look at Maplin, to give me a reasonable idea of prices, and mini wind turbine can charge battery banks of up to 100Ah costs 250 (12V at 2A in a wind of 19 Knots), then it lists a ' Voltage Regulator' at 38. A solar panel that produces 12V at 500mA costs 80. Then there's a decent battery or more so we're looking at well over 500 for a simple set-up but I'm not even sure what that would power. We do have a reasonable sunny spot and have a position to site a small turbine.

It looks like I need to do some further reading but where do I start, are there any recommendations? A simple introduction would also make great article for the site as well.

Another question, how long would you expect a solar panel or wind turbine to last and can they be repaired?


Joined: 15 Jan 2005
Posts: 7184
Location: South Kent
PostPosted: Sun Nov 27, 05 8:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

1/ Tahir has already asked me to do an Alternative Energy primer. It'll be a week or more before I can buckle down to it.
In the meantime, here's an intro from what appears to be an ethical and DIY oriented supplier of renewable energy kit (largely sourced from China). I haven't dealt with them, but I like their open and realistic approach.

2/ Its important to distingish between products that make sense to those living entirely off-grid, those aimed at caravanners and sailors who may not have access to grid electricity (but have specific special requirements - marine environment, compactness, etc), and toys - none of these would necessarily make sense for a domestic environment. (well, OK, maybe the toys - but there are things that are practically domestically useful and not toys).

3/ Electrical energy from Solar PV is *very* expensive, but the actual cells should work indefinitely. Then there's the enclosure and whatever control electronics.
Wind turbines may have a service life expectation of more than 10 years. Serviceability and availability of spare parts is obviously going to vary between suppliers. You can even make your own...
Batteries wouldn't normally be expected to last so long. Lead acid cells, designed for "deep discharge" should approach this. How long do car batteries last? Laptop batteries? Cellphone batteries?

4/ At the risk of getting into hot water with your other half, perhaps you might investigate a Lister 6/1 CS stationary engine?
This will run on carbon neutral Veg Oil. (And is simple enough that you can strip and clean it out yourself...)
You can hook on a generator and produce about 3kw of power
At a cost a mere fraction of getting the same amount of power (in daylight only) from a Solar PV setup.
And you can hook the water cooling circuit to heat a tank of water or a radiator or two.
Run something like 24/365 it might only last 40 years or so...
There are a variety of clones of this 60 year old design in current production in India.
Here's the website of someone who imports them into the USA

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 27, 05 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Thanks for the links Dougal. If I end up with large generator I'll tell bugs it was your fault.

If/when we get somewhere that's the sort of thing I would look at and where we are at the moment I can use the mains for most of our needs. But solar/wind could form a decent backup supply here and save laying armoured cable to the greenhouse, it could run a few appliances if we need to live in a caravan for a few months and then form a back-up supply to a generator to at least keep a freezer working. I look foward to reading your article when it's ready and this will give me something to work on in the new year.


Joined: 01 Jan 2005
Posts: 1110
Location: Bourrou South West France
PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 05 11:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I'm not an expert, or an electrician but I've done loads of practical building work with solar and wind & learned a lot over the years about living with renewable energy.

I can explain what size of power will give what light, how long it will run a 'fridge, how long you can be on the 'net ...etc. I've also taken photographs of a lot of our installations as we were working.

It would be useful to compare Dougal's system with ours, plus if there are any other people on the forum who use solar - even just one or two panels, they could add their own experiences, questions, photos, achievements etc.

If I can be of any help, let me know.


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