Our experience of generating our own electricity for 25 years

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Posted Dec 30 2015 by Andy Reynolds of the Ecolodge

We bought a house with a demolition order on it, not something that many people will do, then we rebuilt it, not something many people will do, and we always repair stuff, not something that many people will do – you get the idea.

Now here’s the point, you can learn to do all this stuff if you have the will and choose to do so.

We have been building our own renewable home generation system for well over 25 years, starting in the early days with home made wind turbines (see the first photograph below). As the technology and availability improved we have updated and expanded the system up to the present day where we run 90% of all electrical needs from it. Just to show that things can be done I have loaded a video showing the wind and solar generation on the winter solstice 2015 in Lincolnshire, and that even on the shortest day a combination of the two forms of generation can make a significant contribution to our electrical needs.

There are terms used in the video that you may not be familiar with, but believe me it’s not difficult, see how you get on.

This is part of a suite of open source videos designed to open your eyes to the possibilities of a less planet damaging and more interesting life, it’s quite short (and so is life).

Dave asked for more detail on the system especially costs and payback. These details are difficult due to the long term nature of the project, but also because I am a ‘make it, fix it, get some second hand, do a deal’ sort of bloke. However here are some details that may help, but bear in mind that any system you build can start off small powering (maybe) just the lights, and expand over a number of years which makes payback really difficult. Here you go:

All cable is second hand including the armoured stuff underground, picked up whenever in exchange for scrap and got when it is there not when I need it.

Batteries, 24 x 2v 600 Ah forklift batteries, £200, bear in mind that current scrap price for batteries is about £350 per tonne and that not all batteries that are scrapped are scrap.

Turbine, picked the 15 metre lattice tower up at a sale, £ 100, The current turbine was £2500 and it’s Ok but if I were to make these choices again I would have several small units that are easier to maintain.

Inverter £980, it’s an early Victron multi plus with a UPS function.

Solar panels have been bought at various times, the first 4 being quite an investment at £3 per watt back in the early noughties. The most recent purchase was at 32p per watt, representing just over a 900 % reduction in price over 12 years. If you were to buy an equivalent installed capacity (40 x 250 watt) panels at today’s price of £70 each that would be in the region of £2800.

Charge controller, home made divert controller, the plans for this are in my book (see below), cost for the parts £15.

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Early days – experimenting with home-made turbines.

Steel for the panel arrays, some new, mostly reclaimed, approx cost £200.

Meters and various boxes and fittings, mostly reclaimed but if you allow £80 that would be generous.

We use about 9 Kw hours every 24 hours, which saves about £1.25 from our mains electricity bill at current prices, bearing in mind that the price of mains electricity varies considerably and we are in a period of lower than normal price.

I can leave you to work out the rest, but note that the beauty of this system is that it is reliable and renewable, providing power over the years as long as we look after it.

As the price of centralised energy inexorably rises our own power remains at zero extra cost year on year.

Expectations can be the scourge of society leading to malcontent and excess consumption. Now there is quite a difference between expectations and long-term goals. The latter can be broad brush and diffuse whereas the former tends to have finite visions in them. We have always looked to the long term without expectations and in doing so we have been able to husband difficult to gain resources for those few major projects.

My YouTube channel is here.

Any questions please use the comments section below.

My book Wind & Solar Electricity can be purchased here.

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