Off grid learning centere

My wife and I currently live off the grid and we are starting a project to build an Off Grid Learning Center. This will encompass building 6 cabins, all off the grid, powered only by solar panels and wind generators that people would be able to come to and actually live in for a few days to see what it is like to live off the grid with only electric generated by wind and sun. We have looked and have found no place with anything like this that would allow people to actually live this way to see if it would fit there life. It will also be a hands on experience for the students at a college near us in the Alternative Energy courses that the college offers. Our problem is that we can not afford to pay for the whole project on our own so we are looking for ways to fund this project with people interested in expanding the knowledge about this technology thru a groupfunding web page. I have put a link to our webpage at the bottom of this message that if you would click on it you will see exactly what our plans are. There are also pics of the current cabin we live in at the same location the learning center will be located. I would appreciate your help, or any advice anyone may have on obtaining financing for this project. thanks in advance. James Hart
http://igg.me/p/off-the-grid-living-experience/x/9744429

Comments

  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,247 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Off grid learning centere

    My first thought is to ask the College to help fund.

    2nd thought is to get a student signed up and prepaid, and build the first unit from that $$.

    But actually, I've thought this out before, and I always end up with a scenario with $400 of battery dead from over use, and students unhappy with alternative power. Students will make mistakes.
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • jimnkaranjimnkaran Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: Off grid learning centere

    College has no money for private ventures and I will not be charging anyone to come to the learning center, the only people that will pay would be someone that stays in the cabins, they will be charged on a per night basis. I want to teach everyone I can about off grid living and how it works. The college students are all ready enrolled in the alternative energy classes and until I get this project going they have no hands on or up close experiences. If you know of any other places you could put my link I would appreciate your help. Thanks
    mike95490 wrote: »
    My first thought is to ask the College to help fund.

    2nd thought is to get a student signed up and prepaid, and build the first unit from that $$.

    But actually, I've thought this out before, and I always end up with a scenario with $400 of battery dead from over use, and students unhappy with alternative power. Students will make mistakes.
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,547 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Off grid learning centere

    There are certainly other places to 'experience off grid living' (the string I would search);

    Dancing rabbit has a visitor program.

    Off grid house rental in LA

    Here's another... never did find the hotel in the Appalachia, I was looking for...

    Then you have to define 'your' Off grid living experience. Indeed to do any good, in my opinion, you would need many different 'cabins' to large homes. I have a friend who comfortably lives in a camper and while he has a very minimal solar system (100 watt array and no inverter!) he uses it only for radio and maybe a tv, don't know if he just gave up after they switched to digital. He heats and cooks with wood, I did give him the 12v fan off of my boat which he uses...

    Many go native and don't air condition heat with wood or gas. I lived that way for 7-8 years...

    Then you can have air conditioning, I do, while I watch my batteries I do laundry, cook in an electric toaster over, or convection cooktop.

    We have people here who live pretty much an even more austere existence, with gas stoves and at least one with a regular stove(convection burners on top) and air conditioning through out the house. Pretty much as a grid connected home.

    So I visited your site and would like to point out several things;
    You state wrote:
    "We believe that one of the best ways to help with our power concerns in this country is to show people how it is possible to live without public utilities and still be as comfortable as if you did have them."

    "Our primary goal is to teach people that there is a much more environmentally safe way to live a normal life."

    Off grid living really is neutral at best, since the power it takes to produce the panels and batteries and recycle/replace the batteries will only be a wash, with the power generated, at best. I think people do tend to be less wasteful when they live off grid, but if they conserved on grid would be more energy efficient!

    Indeed the most environmentally sound option would living with a grid connected array, without batteries, then you could produce more energy than it took to build the panels, mounting and system...
    You state wrote:
    "Solar energy can provide the same living experience as on grid houses."

    Yes, but only if you make it incredibly wasteful, to get all the way to the central air, while leaving the 3 computer towers on, while toasting eggo's, and blow drying hair in the morning...

    You should just take 'wind' out of your equation, building near creeks will make that a nonstarter.

    I do wish you luck, I also hope you will impart correct information to visitors. I'd like to see it done on multiple levels. I thought about moving my small cabin to my new place and using it as a bicycle hostel, I might still build one here for fair weather visitors...
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Prosine 1800 and Exeltech 1100, 660 ah 24v ForkLift battery. Off grid for @16 of last 17 years. Assorted other systems, and to many panels in the closet to not do more...lol
  • jimnkaranjimnkaran Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: Off grid learning centere

    Thanks for the advice and the links, you are correct that there are rental off grid houses for rent, but, at the prices they are asking for just one nights stay that will stop many, many people from doing it. Our cabins will be like my house, it will be comfortable, have all amenities necessary to live comfortable and will not cost anywhere near what the designer houses cost. These are being built to let ordinary everyday people see what it is like to be able to be totally self sufficient with out being rich to do it. Ours will be a total learning experience where they will be able to actually see and learn how the solar/battery systems work.
    Not sure what you meant that I should take the wind out of the equation because we live near a creek? We are located in a valley between 2 small mountains and pretty much always have a breeze coming thru the valley. Many windmill water wells around the area that work just fine.
    I do appreciate any comments and advice that people have, but what we are wanting to teach is that people can live on their own without the commercial utilities. Where as people that live on the grid will have many problems should some type of disaster of any kind were to take out the electric grid in the US, when you are self sufficient on all of your utilities you will not be effected by problems like others will face.
    Photowhit wrote: »
    There are certainly other places to 'experience off grid living' (the string I would search);

    Dancing rabbit has a visitor program.

    Off grid house rental in LA

    Here's another... never did find the hotel in the Appalachia, I was looking for...

    Then you have to define 'your' Off grid living experience. Indeed to do any good, in my opinion, you would need many different 'cabins' to large homes. I have a friend who comfortably lives in a camper and while he has a very minimal solar system (100 watt array and no inverter!) he uses it only for radio and maybe a tv, don't know if he just gave up after they switched to digital. He heats and cooks with wood, I did give him the 12v fan off of my boat which he uses...

    Many go native and don't air condition heat with wood or gas. I lived that way for 7-8 years...

    Then you can have air conditioning, I do, while I watch my batteries I do laundry, cook in an electric toaster over, or convection cooktop.

    We have people here who live pretty much an even more austere existence, with gas stoves and at least one with a regular stove(convection burners on top) and air conditioning through out the house. Pretty much as a grid connected home.

    So I visited your site and would like to point out several things;



    Off grid living really is neutral at best, since the power it takes to produce the panels and batteries and recycle/replace the batteries will only be a wash, with the power generated, at best. I think people do tend to be less wasteful when they live off grid, but if they conserved on grid would be more energy efficient!

    Indeed the most environmentally sound option would living with a grid connected array, without batteries, then you could produce more energy than it took to build the panels, mounting and system...



    Yes, but only if you make it incredibly wasteful, to get all the way to the central air, while leaving the 3 computer towers on, while toasting eggo's, and blow drying hair in the morning...

    You should just take 'wind' out of your equation, building near creeks will make that a nonstarter.

    I do wish you luck, I also hope you will impart correct information to visitors. I'd like to see it done on multiple levels. I thought about moving my small cabin to my new place and using it as a bicycle hostel, I might still build one here for fair weather visitors...
  • gww1gww1 Solar Expert Posts: 963 ✭✭
    Re: Off grid learning centere

    Jimm....
    When lightning hit my inverter I ran my house off the grid. There are always issues, it is just how you adress them. The electric goes down poco has to fix it, when mine goes down, I fix it and that usually requires waiting for parts. I still do what I do, so don't get the wrong ideal of my post.
    gww
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,448 admin
    Re: Off grid learning centere

    Regarding Wind--Personally, I am not a fan of small wind. The turbines tend not to be too expensive--But the tower (>60 foot, >30 foot above obstructions, >500 feet away from obstructions), lack of sustained winds for many hours per days (>~10-12 MPH minimum), small turbines tend not to last very long/output predicted power, lighting strikes (if in lighting prone area), etc. all make small wind difficult.

    Here is a bunch of reading on small wind:
    Wind Power Links
    www.otherpower.com (good forum for DIY Wind Power)
    Hugh Piggott - Scoraig Wind Electric site for tons of info (from mike90045)
    Scoraig Wind "Recipe Book" for DYI Turbines
    www.greenpowertalk.org (added from "russ"--Like here but more wind/less solar)
    Small windpower a scam ? Survey says SO
    Truth About Skystream & SWWP
    Windmax HY-2000 2kW Wind Turbine (apparently, some vendors don't sell spare parts--just new turbines. However, the owner, Edward has been very happy with its performance from 2010-2012--BB. 5/31/2012)

    Small (or really medium) size wind is really a good DIY type project--If you have the tools and the knowledge.

    Take a look at this thread--Bunch of links to different projects/ideas/sources of information:

    http://forum.solar-electric.com/showthread.php?5556-Working-Thread-for-Solar-Beginner-Post-FAQ

    Regarding the creek--I am not quite sure what that means--Perhaps that creeks are frequently surrounded by hills--And Wind turbines need flat plains or installated on near/ridgelines for unobstructed, laminar flow wind. Turbulent wind has almost no useful energy because of the turbulence (there is no wind turbine that works well with turbulence--despite what the ads say).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • jimnkaranjimnkaran Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: Off grid learning centere

    Thanks for the post, where I live there is no grid to even hook to, so it is the only choice for electric to have solar and wind. My goal is to introduce people to this type of living and show that it is not out of range for everyday people.
    gww1 wrote: »
    Jimm....
    When lightning hit my inverter I ran my house off the grid. There are always issues, it is just how you adress them. The electric goes down poco has to fix it, when mine goes down, I fix it and that usually requires waiting for parts. I still do what I do, so don't get the wrong ideal of my post.
    gww
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,547 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Off grid learning centere
    jimnkaran wrote: »
    ...so it is the only choice for electric to have solar and wind.

    I and others have tried to discourage small wind, if you're in a creek bed and the photos show mature trees, you're looking at 70+ feet to get to somewhat clean air and then you're between mountains so likely poor conditions unless you have the right system passing through. Typically you have to go to the generator or bring the generator down annually for maintenance.

    ...but there is another viable option, particularly as you describe the cabins being well apart and on creeks, I would assume you own a good bit of creek frontage, you might see how much 'head' or fall you have from the highest to the lowest and try some hydroelectric.
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Prosine 1800 and Exeltech 1100, 660 ah 24v ForkLift battery. Off grid for @16 of last 17 years. Assorted other systems, and to many panels in the closet to not do more...lol
  • jimnkaranjimnkaran Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: Off grid learning centere

    Thanks for the suggestion, I have thought about hydro but this is a small wide creek that is all spring fed, it does run year round but not enough drop to use a hydro generator, have thought about maybe building a small dam, making just a small pond behind it so that I could put in a generator of some type at the dam itself. Lots of plans just don't have the money to do everything right now, if my fundraising plans work out I will go full blast on all plans and be able to open the learning center so others can learn how to do it also. Again, thanks for the suggestions, will take all I can get and use what I can.
    Photowhit wrote: »
    I and others have tried to discourage small wind, if you're in a creek bed and the photos show mature trees, you're looking at 70+ feet to get to somewhat clean air and then you're between mountains so likely poor conditions unless you have the right system passing through. Typically you have to go to the generator or bring the generator down annually for maintenance.

    ...but there is another viable option, particularly as you describe the cabins being well apart and on creeks, I would assume you own a good bit of creek frontage, you might see how much 'head' or fall you have from the highest to the lowest and try some hydroelectric.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Off grid learning centere

    this is nice in theory, but how do you know you will get the clientele to fill those cabins down the road?
  • jimnkaranjimnkaran Registered Users Posts: 6
    Re: Off grid learning centere

    Like any business it is a gamble, but I have had many people that have ask about renting them ahead of completions. I won't do that because right now I do not know how soon I will have any cabins done. I will do this somehow as I am sure it will be successful down the road. Anyone that does live off the grid, in a remote location like this, can tell you how many times people ask the question, how do you do that or wish I could try that. With this learning center they will be able to try it and if they like it we will rent some of the cabins long term to a like minded person. We will keep a couple of cabins for overnight only for people that do want to try it and the learning center building will be open for anyone that wants to see the mechanics of solar power. Right now the only thing keeping me from doing it is a lack of money. Once everything is in place, it will not take much to run it all. Main maintenance items will be the battery bank and the only other regular expenditure will be propane.
    niel wrote: »
    this is nice in theory, but how do you know you will get the clientele to fill those cabins down the road?
  • peakbaggerpeakbagger Solar Expert Posts: 341 ✭✭✭
    Re: Off grid learning centere

    Get a electronic subscription to Home Power and access to the archives, there have been a couple of articles over the years on groups that have similar goals. Most of the have some other focus and the solar supports the focus with the systems slowly expanded and rebuilt as the demand increases. In Maine there is a hut to hut system that uses renewables to run the huts (with strategically hidden generators for backup). They run a solar tour after dinner for those interested. Chewonki Foundation in Maine has a similar teaching effort that has a renewable component

    I don't think there is a lot of hope in doing this a profit making venture, both of the groups I mentioned are non profits that have good grant writers and lots of high visibility donations. The Maine Huts and Trails system was paid for primarily due to generous donors and they barely are able to scrape up the cash to operate the huts, let alone pay off capital loans. Chewonki gets high value grants and are very good at fund raising. Even if you do run it for profit you will be competing with non profits.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,448 admin
    Re: Off grid learning centere

    Here is a link to Home Power Mag:

    Home Power Magazine: Renewable Energy & Efficiency


    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
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