Reasons We Live Off-Grid

icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
A bit of personal indulgence. I spent this winter afternoon trying to learn how to upload pictures to the web,, here is the result of this attempt. For those that are curious about my set up,,,,and more.

The first is "waiting for spring"
The second is the winter commute vehicle,, aka Ski-doo Tundra
The third is Susan and Nika on skis,,, (Susan is the pretty one!)
The Fourth is the house last early May. You can see one of the Siemens Panels to the left of the window.
Visit from our local Timber Wolf!

Tony
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Comments

  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Couple of others I had in the quay,,,

    Bill or Neil, delete if this is not appropriate.

    T

    I don't know how to caption but,

    The first is the first sunset with open water after last winter, May 15th 2008

    The second is my commute to work, C1935 Peterborough "Handy Boy" Cedar strip boat. When I'm feeling realy "retro" I fire up the 1938 Johnson outboard! Usually runs with my little 9.9,, really skips with the 15.

    The third is fall sunset, November 2007

    The fourth is "going to visit neighbours,, Winter"

    The final,, Basset ears freeze @-20 without Nika's custom made "Birka" You think she likes it???Not!

    Tony
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,769 admin
    Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Tony/Icraus,

    Do you agree with the title?

    A very worthwhile topic--You deserve your own thread.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Bill,

    A fine endeavor.

    Tony
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    no problem with the thread for sure. now i'm not offgrid, but we've heard it too many times that the utility wants tens of thousands of dollars to run power to their property which made it cheaper to put in their own system without bills coming in afterwards.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,769 admin
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    A bit of history on why rural areas where electrified in the first place...

    Rural Electrification Administration:
    Although nearly 90 percent of urban dwellers had electricity by the 1930s, only ten percent of rural dwellers did. Private utility companies, who supplied electric power to most of the nation's consumers, argued that it was too expensive to string electric lines to isolated rural farmsteads. Anyway, they said, most farmers, were too poor to be able to afford electricity.

    The Roosevelt Administration believed that if private enterprise could not supply electric power to the people, then it was the duty of the government to do so. Most of the court cases involving TVA during the 1930s concerned the government's involvement in the public utilities industry.
    In 1994, was replaced with RUS (Rural Utilities Service)... Does not seem to be as extensive--and since it is under Department of Agriculture--It probably would not help with non-farm power distribution very much (of course, gov. programs evolve).
    Anticipating possible changes in rural energy lending practices and climate change regulation with a transfer of administration, the RUS announced suspension of a low-interest lending program for rural electric co-ops to build coal-fired power plants in early March 2008, saying the loans would be too risky. (Rural electric co-ops rely on coal for 80 percent of their power, as opposed to a 50 percent national average). The program has been criticized by both budget experts and environmentalists who claim it subsidizes [high-pollutant] coal plants without providing a corresponding financial or environmental tally of risks. Many environmental groups have been involved in legal campaigns to block the loan program.

    According to the Associated Press, at the time of suspension there were at least four utilities expecting loans (totaling more than $1.3 billion) for projects in Kentucky, Illinois, Arkansas and Missouri. A project in Montana was denied funding in March 2008, while two were recently withdrawn.
    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid
    niel wrote: »
    no problem with the thread for sure. now i'm not offgrid, but we've heard it too many times that the utility wants tens of thousands of dollars to run power to their property which made it cheaper to put in their own system without bills coming in afterwards.
    Tens of thousands???? Wow for that we would do it!

    We are ~30 km from the nearest grid power!

    Tony
  • MoeMoe Solar Expert Posts: 60 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Looks like wonderful reasons to me, Tony. Thanks for sharing them.
  • wild01wild01 Solar Expert Posts: 90 ✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid
    icarus wrote: »
    Tens of thousands???? Wow for that we would do it!

    We are ~30 km from the nearest grid power!

    Tony

    I could almost throw a rock and hit the electric poles from my house, but they still want 30 grand to run the lines (and insist on following the roads rather than just running lines down the utility easements on all property lines in the subdivision) they charge 2k per pole and another 4k for the drop to a meter, an then you get to pay every month. so I'm about 5-6k into my home system so far (and that includes some serious wheeling dealing scraping scrounging craigslist checking...)

    I have 80 arco quadlams 3 really old solarex 100W modules and 3 newer soarex 50w panels 2 rather interesting 100 w panels with huge heat sinks attached that I might eventually try to turn into a parabolic trough concentrator array (what I would assume they are out of originally) the arco's are run into a flexmax 80 and everything else into an old trace cc 750 ah 12 volt battery prosine 2.5 power inverter 7500watt gas genny for backup and a grundfos sq well pump(so I don't have to run the genny to pump water) have another battery that I just bought but haven't gotten shipped yet that will add 3300 ah capacity to the system.

    if I started over with a new system I would go for a 48 volt rather than a 12. right now I really need another cc and that wouldn't be necessary if I had gone w/ a 48 volt inverter. not to mention wire costs.
  • MangasMangas Solar Expert Posts: 537 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Peace and quiet in the working wilderness.
    Ranch Off Grid System: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, Rastra House Construction, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • EcnerwalEcnerwal Solar Expert Posts: 101 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid
    wild01 wrote: »
    I could almost throw a rock and hit the electric poles from my house, but they still want 30 grand to run the lines (and insist on following the roads rather than just running lines down the utility easements on all property lines in the subdivision) they charge 2k per pole and another 4k for the drop to a meter, an then you get to pay every month. so I'm about 5-6k into my home system so far (and that includes some serious wheeling dealing scraping scrounging craigslist checking...)

    Very similar, other than I just met with an electrician to see if there's any way we can weasel a reasonable cost connection before I dump $20K into solar equipment. Expected to be grid connected when I bought the property - utility lines are right there, literally 700 feet, max. Got absurd quote from utility - also have some ROW stupidity from "power company went point to point across fields that are now forests when they put the line in". Now they want to run it all on the road, but the existing line is not on the road...

    Turned mind towards doing it off-grid, though there are some issues with that (big workshop - about 4 hp + lights at various points to be useful - but not all day long every day). Can't just go get a "compact florescent lathe" and "save power". Thing being, other than I go out and buy a 50 or 100 KW generator (which am not solar), a minimum grid connection can do a heck of a lot more than the cadillac solar system in terms of running tools. I can make it work with solar and my current 5 & 8KW generators, but it's definitely sub-optimal, and will involve a dance of what gets used when, and what can't be used at the same time.

    One hope is that during the 6 years or so I've been saving money and collecting parts such as the diesel genset, perhaps the staff at the power company has turned over and we get someone more reasonable than I had last time - or perhaps they get more reasonable if talking to "my licensed electrician" rather than me. I'd like to get a short drop and run the rest of the line (it's on my own property) underground myself. My electrician thinks this is reasonable, but then, so did I when I contacted the power company last time... It's an avenue I'm certainly investigating once more before I go solar, because otherwise I'm blowing a large portion of my available money on 30 amp intermittent service (or at least 30 amps is only available intermittently, unless I buy a lot more diesel fuel than I want to buy).

    The monthly bill is not that big of a bugbear, if you honestly assess what keeping the off-grid system up and running costs over time. Years of accumulating money and knowledge towards the off-grid system have certainly raised the "amount I'm willing to pay to get connected to the grid" as I work out costs and capacities for the off-grid system. 6 years ago I simply did not have the money to do either.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,769 admin
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    To try and justify your Grid Connection (and with your power needs--it may be your only good solution)... Just take your total capital and power costs and divide them by your estimated kWhr consumption over--say--20 years (made up numbers):

    $30,000 + $0.15 per kWhr*1,000 kWhr per month * 12m * 20yr / 1,000 kWhr per month * 12m * 20yr = $0.275 per kWhr

    If you use 100 kWhrs per month, and guess power is $0.30 per kWhr average over the next 20 years:

    $30,000 + $0.30 per kWhr*100 kWhr per month * 12m * 20yr / 100 kWhr per month * 12m * 20yr = $0.275 per kWhr = $1.55 per kWhr

    Only if you are down to "off-grid" type of power usage and 3x higher utility rates will you come close to parity with full off-grid cost of power of $1-$2 per kWhr. And remembering that the price of batteries will probably continue to trend up too.

    You can also do the numbers with a diesel genset and see where you come out there...

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid
    Mangas wrote: »
    Peace and quiet in the working wilderness.

    My guess is that you win the heat contest vs me!

    You get it,, Nice, I can almost hear the quiet,

    Tony
  • MangasMangas Solar Expert Posts: 537 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Hi Tony.

    Enjoyed your photos. Looks pretty good to me.

    Dry heat Tony. Dry heat. At least that's what we tell ourselves.
    Ranch Off Grid System: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, Rastra House Construction, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Dry cold,,, very dry cold,,, that is what we tell ourselves at -20. At -40 we say very dry F@#*^%g cold! Kinda warm now,,, -7, going to -13c overnight tonight. Friday's supposed to be -30 again though.

    Tony
  • wild01wild01 Solar Expert Posts: 90 ✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid
    Ecnerwal wrote: »

    One hope is that during the 6 years or so I've been saving money and collecting parts such as the diesel genset, perhaps the staff at the power company has turned over and we get someone more reasonable than I had last time - or perhaps they get more reasonable if talking to "my licensed electrician" rather than me. I'd like to get a short drop and run the rest of the line (it's on my own property) underground myself. My electrician thinks this is reasonable, but then, so did I when I contacted the power company last time... It's an avenue I'm certainly investigating once more before I go solar, because otherwise I'm blowing a large portion of my available money on 30 amp intermittent service (or at least 30 amps is only available intermittently, unless I buy a lot more diesel fuel than I want to buy).


    one Idea that has worked fro some friends of mine, put in a small shed where you want the drop, tell the power company that you need to power the shed, just the shed, then after you get your drop, run your power where ever you need it. as long as you follow code they can't stop you. (which is why they try to fleece you as much as possible before giving you the drop) I even had one friend that bought a lot next to power built shed, got the drop and then got private easements all the way to his lot, and put it all in himself. the secret is never tell the power company your plans. all they need to know is "I want power here!"
  • ron17571ron17571 Registered Users Posts: 19
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Funny i havent asked the power company how much it costs to run a line to my property,the poles are across the road.i have a small generator,but my mental illness is about a lister open flywheel genny,600 rpm(chooka chooka)i read on a site about folks hooking one up,runs on about anything.read about them running for many years without ever breaking.takes some mods and pulleys.you see the pictures of them with a 55 gallon drum radiator and,ive got to stop writing about this,its sick.oh yeah for me its about money and independence.
  • RedfordRedford Solar Expert Posts: 38
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    There is a row of power poles about 1/2 mile from my house with the wires clipped. When I bought my property I checked to see if the line could be re-established and was told there was never power to the property.

    So I took a picture of the power pole with the id numbers stamped on it and the power company said it "coudn't have been theirs". So no one seemed to know why there were power poles there. I asked them for an estimate to run the line and the guy clasped his hands behind his head, leaned back in his leather chair and said " oh I dunno, between 10 thousand and 30 thousand dollars, could be more". Then I would have the pleasure of paying the bill every month.

    Overall, getting power didn't seem so appealing. So we did like the rest of our home building experience and learned how to do it ourselves. It has worked well so far and we have minimal bills to pay each month.
    Your place looks awesome Icarus, congrats on your piece of the world.
  • EcnerwalEcnerwal Solar Expert Posts: 101 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    $10K-30K for over half a mile would be not bad - about 10 bucks a foot or less.

    $25-30K for 700 feet is absurd. If I can get connected for $10-15K, I'll be money ahead "with the pleasure of paying the bill every month" included.
  • boisblancboyboisblancboy Solar Expert Posts: 131 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Im glad I am not in your neighbor hood. I just had underground power run(primary) and it only cost me 6.50 a foot and I get half of that back once I take up permanent residence in my new home.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    good point boisblancboy, as i hadn't thought of that aspect of being connected. maybe they could allow a connection via the ground instead of the higher priced poles. how much you want to bet that they'll come up with some he-haw answer as to why they can't do that? only problems i see that may prevent that might be something like a waterway or too much rock and possibly some topography issues too. if they don't want to do it badly enough, they may even say some crap like it'll cost you more doing it that way and quote you an even higher price.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Underground service was, in my experience, more expensive than overhead,, even if we supplied the ditch.

    T
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    tony,
    did they say why it's more or is this a case of they didn't want it done that way and would try discouraging you by a high price? if memory serves, you have a waterway to cross and that is a problem from underground service installs.
    the wire may need to be waterproof and placed into a special plastic conduit so far down, but i don't see why either would be as high priced as they make it.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,769 admin
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Undergrounding electric lines is a pretty big deal.

    In air, bare copper/Al/steel core cable on ceramic insulators every xxx feet/meters. On a peeled tree soaked with creosote (or whatever they use in your area) in a xx foot deep hole.

    Typically, you need insulated and armored cables for underground runs, ground or underground transformer vaults, water tight transitions, etc.--and since underground has much higher thermal resistance--may need a heavier conductor to keep the heat down (longer runs--probably not an issue--need low resistance so that you get useful energy at the end). In urban areas, need to be careful to avoid other buried utilities.

    Maintenance wise--it may be a wash--underground, no trees, wind, ice to knock the lines down. Above ground, easier to find failed lines (look for the wire on the ground). Above ground, snags by dump trucks/heavy equipment. Underground--people drive a fence post into the cable...

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    so can you explain why boisblancboy's was so cheap?
    "it only cost me 6.50 a foot"
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,769 admin
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Probably the difference in Power Company and local government policies...

    The rural electrification programs paid / provided low cost loans for electrification. It is possible that there are company subsidies too (perhaps based on expected billing).

    Here in the urban areas, our costs are high to cover everything from building laws, school construction, and other such stuff...

    In our area, the power company also pays (something like $10's per month???) per pole rent to the property owner.

    ~5 years ago, my brother in law had to pay $10,000 to bury his feed (required by new city law) from an existing pole/service to his new home (scrape down) for probably 30' trenching through his back yard.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • boisblancboyboisblancboy Solar Expert Posts: 131 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Yeah I could have gotten it cheaper if I had dug the trench myself, which I could have done since I have a Cat Excavator, but since the total price wasnt too much to being with I didnt bother.

    Here in my area the all the new power that has been run has been mostly all underground(primary and secondary). Most of the folks here to like to spend a few extra bucks to have underground run to their house to prevent poles and a clearing to be cut to support overhead lines.

    If I had went with overhead it would have only cost me 3.50 per ft. I did get permission to cross my neighbors property with the underground which shortened my run up considerably.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid
    niel wrote: »
    tony,
    did they say why it's more or is this a case of they didn't want it done that way and would try discouraging you by a high price? if memory serves, you have a waterway to cross and that is a problem from underground service installs.
    the wire may need to be waterproof and placed into a special plastic conduit so far down, but i don't see why either would be as high priced as they make it.
    Just to avoid any confusion,,, Installations were from my days as a custom home builder,, working in various place.

    There is NO chance of getting an estimate from Ontario Hydro for service to our place,,, unless I'm going to build an aluminum smelter!

    T
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    oops, sorry as i forgot tony that you are quite far from the utility.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,090 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    Back home after an extended absence. -35 the night before we got home,,, about -15f coming down the lake. The last 10 kms on the road were unplowed, drifts over the hood of the car. (Borrowed SUV) Felt like an ad for some car company.

    The house was cold to it's core, but after about 10 hours it was fine. To those that don't know cold, when a building sits unheated, ALL the thermal mass eventually gets to ambient,,,~-10f inside, so it takes a long time to bring all that mass back up to "normal" The last thing to warm up is the mattress,,, under the layers of bedding. The first night is always cold.

    The water system that I designed and built last spring had it's first test. After being frozen in the lake for 2 months, 20 minutes with the genny on the heat tape and we had hot an cold running water! Pretty cool if I do say so my self!

    Other than that, things are normal. Batteries in float when I opened the door, checked the sg today and they are full. I did a quick connect on the new Sun 90 I brought home and it puts out as advertised. (I will have to track the positive grounding issue mentioned in another thread).

    The resident Lynx seems to have kept most of the snowshoe hares at bay, but few other tracks in the snow. (18" of new snow day before yesterday sorta wipes the slate clean for a few days though!)

    Warming up now,,, in fact it is above freezing for the first time since November. Pretty short lived however, as it is going to be -17 again in a couple of days. Pretty drippy, but we will enjoy while waiting for spring.

    Tony
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Reasons We Live Off-Grid

    glad you arrived safe and sound. ouch, that's too cold for me tony. i do know what you're talking about with the house heat as most only consider the air being heated. that heated air has to reheat everything within your home until it equals the air temp and many would be surprised as to just how much heat everything in a home takes. i think i'd have considered using an inverter for a little bit of selective electric heat in the form of an electric blanket on that mattress to just take the chill out of my bones, but that's just me.;)
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