Blog :: 11-2015

Conservation Vs. Production in an Off-Grid Power System

I've produced most of my homes electricity for several years now.  Seven years ago I installed a 10 Kw Bergey wind turbine and three years ago I added an additional 3000 watt solar array with battery storage and inverters.  At peak production with both devices I am producing 13,000 watts of power on a sunny and windy day.  On a monthly basis I have seen as much as 1200 kilowatt hours of production from my turbine and an additional 360 kilowatt hours of power from my solar array.  The average home uses 600 kilowatt hours of power on a monthly basis, so at times I am able to produce more power at my home than two average homes in the U.S. consume. This production ability came at a pretty steep upfront cost.  I have around $60,000 in my turbine and about $20,000 in my solar array with its associated inverters, batteries and top of pole mount.

 

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3 Kilowatt Solar Array

 

I have read in various places studies showing the costs for energy conservation compared to the costs of energy production.  The number that I have seen is on the order of for every $1.00 spent in conservation, it would take about $8.00 spent to produce that amount of energy.  So what does this have to do in real life when thinking about building an alternative energy system?  Well quite simply the less energy you really need to produce to live comfortably, the smaller the investment you need to make to produce that energy.

A well thought out off-grid home is going to be well insulated as well as well positioned to take advantage of passive solar heating, natural lighting and have efficient electrical appliances and lighting.  The lifestyle of the inhabitants of that home will be different as well.  They will turn off lights when not in the room.  If they watch television, they will turn it off when it is not being watched.  Pretty common sense items you would think, but not in reality.  It is amazing the people that I have had as guests in my home that leave the lights on, leave the television playing and just waste electricity.  I guess they either believe since I produce my own, it is free to waste it.  It just takes a second to turn off appliances not being used, and all that conservation adds up pretty fast when you figure it is an eight to one return.

 

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10 KW Wind Turbine

 

The inhabitants of a well designed off-grid home will most likely heat with wood, cook with propane or natural gas, and use efficient LED lighting in the home.  The electrical appliances will be energy star rated and they will decide what is truly important to them.  The home will probably not have a dishwasher, although it could.  It depends on what they consider necessary for their lifestyle.  I have seen some pretty amazing properties that were built off-grid and produce all their own electricity.  I have also seen some pretty modest homes with modest energy production investments with above average energy consumption as well.  Utilizing a conservationists approach to living your life will yield large dividends in money saved and still living comfortably in an off-grid home.  Decide what is important to you, what you could use less of, what you can get by without entirely and have an appropriately sized system installed for your home.  A good friend of mine with hundreds of off-grid system installations under his belt has stated that he never tells anyone that it can't be done, what he says is "how large is your budget?"  Eight to one adds up pretty fast.

Piscataquis Overlook

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The 5.74+- acre lot is situated along Maine's Piscataquis River.  This surveyed parcel has public road access and is just 5 minutes away from I-95, yet is quite private and quiet.  The property has 1200+- feet of river frontage and sits high on a bank overlooking the Piscataquis River.

 

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Driveway Entrance

 

 

The lot has been soil tested and there is plenty of room to build a river front home or cottage.  The lot is heavily treed with a mixed growth of softwood and hardwood species.  Tracks of deer, moose and other forest creatures have been seen on outings to the property.

 

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Hard Fighting Smallmouth Bass

 

 

 

 

The lower portion of the property that extends to the river's edge benefits from heavy spring runoff which has deposited nutrient rich soil along the river's edge.  This area in the month of May erupts in green growth of one of Maine's wild delicacies, the fiddlehead.  This fern emerges as temperatures rise and waters recede and are a delicious and nutritious delicacy.  The waters of the river are home to many fish species from brook trout to smallmouth bass.

 

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Matteuccia struthiopteris - aka ostrich fern or fiddlehead

 

The property benefits from being located close to I-95 which makes it very accessible.  It is just 30 minutes from Bangor, ME with its shopping opportunities, world class health care found at Eastern Maine Medical Center and a multitude of dining opportunities.  Bangor International Airport makes travel to far off destinations convenient.  Educational opportunities abound at The University of Maine located just 25 minutes away.

This property is waiting for you to make it your home.  Convenient, quiet and pristine, the Piscataquis Overlook is available for you.  Call today and make this Piscataquis river front lot your new home.

Maine's Unknown Piscataquis River

My childhood home was just off the banks of the Piscataquis River in central Penobscot County where I could often be found wading its shores honing my fly fishing skills. I have many fond memories of exploring this little known river. It was here that I hooked my first Atlantic salmon while fishing for trout.

 

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New Fish bypass Howland, Maine*

Visitors to Maine and locals as well, often bypass this river for the more famous rivers to the north and west. When paddling or fishing this river expect to have a lot of solitude. This is a place where you will see abundant wildlife from whitetail deer and moose to daily sightings of bald eagles, heron and a diversity of waterfowl.

 

The Piscataquis River flows from small creeks and glacial ponds in its headwater just south of Greenville for approximately 65 miles to its confluence with the Penobscot River in Howland.  Along the way small river and stream tributaries increase the Piscataquis River volume.

The headwaters are in a semi-remote section of Piscataquis County. This is an area with a large moose population and wild eastern brook trout. The river flows through the woods until it emerges along Route 6/15 in the village of Abbot. From here the river flows through Abbot, Guilford and Dover-Foxcroft. Paddlers should pay attention along the way for rapids and portages. This section of river is sometimes stocked with brook trout. You will see fisherman above and below the covered bridge in Guilford, just move a half mile up or down stream to avoid any crowd.

 

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Piscataquis River in Howland just above the confluence with the Penobscot River

 

From Dover the river flows through Sebec, Atkinson and Milo adding the waters from the Sebec and Pleasant Rivers along the way. Milo to Howland is a beautifully peaceful canoe trip. Anglers will find this a good place to wet a line with abundant smallmouth bass and possible landlocked salmon and brook trout near the mouths of cold tributaries.

 

Pick up a Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer to for more details of the river and to help you find access points and boat landings. Please remember that the river flows through mostly private property, respect the landowners by packing everything out that you bring in.

* "Howland Dam bypass, Maine 1" by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region - Howland Dam bypass, Maine. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Howland_Dam_bypass,_Maine_1.jpg#/media/File:Howland_Dam_bypass,_Maine_1.jpg