Central Vermont Solar and Wind
was formed to help Vermonters transition from the Petroleum Age to the Solar Age by assisting in building independent power systems for the building site, existing home, or camp far from the last power pole. If installation of grid power exceeds $5000, you can install your own solar power system with equivalent performance to grid power and operate the system for less cost than installing and buying grid power. Some advantages of installing your own off-grid renewable energy system include:
Solar and Wind
Having made the choice to live "off the grid" when the cost to run power to my home site was $14,000 in 1980, I did not know at the time that I was embarking on a pioneering adventure. Initially the solution was kerosene lamps, wood stoves and frozen pipes but I soon tired of cleaning lamp chimneys and filling lamps every two days. With my brother’s help, I built a wind generator to produce 12vdc power to store in batteries and run an inverter for 110v ac power. I soon discovered that the efficiency of the inverter was so poor that I used most of the stored power just to keep the system running and there was little power left to use. The next experiment was to purchase a PV (photovoltaic) panel which magically made 12vdc power from the sun with no moving parts. That helped add power to the batteries but still didn’t help the inefficiency of the inverter.. The next step was to move the PV panel to the house and put some more batteries under the kitchen sink! I was impressed!. Using high efficiency 12V fluorescent lights (camping lights) I found that my lighting problem was solved. I then added a 12V TV, and life was nice. But I soon wanted more so I added more PV panels, bought more lights, decided I really needed a refrigerator. I bought one of those small office sized refrigerators thinking it would be efficient and purchased a new "state of the art" 600 watt inverter. The inverter worked fine and was efficient. Unfortunately the size of a refrigerator has no correlation to its efficiency and I found that I did not have nearly enough power to run it.. My desire to keep ice-cream led me to SunFrost in California, makers of the worlds most efficient refrigerator. $1800 later, our new SunFrost RF-12, a 12 cubic foot refrigerator complete with a large freezer, arrived. The freezer compartment is big enough for 20 qts.of Ben and Jerry’s Ice-cream instead of one cut in half with a knife as in my old one. It is a 12v model so I just hooked it up to the battery supply and marveled at how little power it used.
Of course we always want improvement in our lives so I decided that I needed a bigger inverter, one that would run my circular saw more efficiently and maybe handle a microwave. I bought a 1300 watt inverter and proceeded to burn it up twice by overloading it. The manufacturer of that inverter was more than fair with me as they fixed it twice at no charge long after the warranty had expired (and by the way, it still works today though it has been retired). We then added a gas hot air furnace and discovered that the furnace would not run properly on the inverter because it puts out a modified square wave instead of a sine wave. My choice was to buy another small true sine wave inverter to run the furnace or check out what was available to upgrade the whole system to a large sine wave inverter. All the while technology was advancing and the next generation of inverters was available. The choice was clear! It was a more expensive step but I found it was the solution to many problems. I bought a 4000 watt sine wave inverter with microprocessor control. It solved the furnace problem, and now I could run the furnace, microwave and washing machine all at the same time. I also had great fun setting up other nice features such as the automatic backup generator starting and battery monitoring. The best news of all is that you won’t have to upgrade 5 times, as I did, waiting for technology to catch up with your needs. The Technology is here now!
Components of a Power System
A typical independent power system for the home today includes the following equipment:
For those who are already attached to the power grid, you also have several options to use renewable solar or wind energy. Systems including PV Panels and a direct grid-tie inverter can be connected directly to your home’s AC power circuits. This will turn your meter backward thus reducing your power bill. This is called Net Metering. Other options include installing a system similar to the independent home system with batteries but which is also interconnected to the grid to send excess solar and/or wind power back to the grid when not needed. You draw from the grid when your own sources are insufficient. This system also gives protection against power failures.
Energy efficiency is very important in an independent power system as significant cost savings can be realized by reducing the number of PV’s required to supply your energy needs
The most significant electrical energy savings can be found by using:
By optimizing energy use with efficient appliances, fewer Photovoltaic Panels will be required and less reliance will be placed on the backup generator or the grid.
Domestic Hot Water:
There are many ways to heat water and the one we have used continually since the early experimental days is a water heating coil in the firebox of our old wood cook stove. Hot water is created and it flows into a storage tank above the stove by thermo-siphon action. It is simple and energy efficient but is not the best source of hot water on a hot, muggy 90 degree day in July. Solar hot water takes care of this problem. It can be a summertime only solution for camps and homes or it can be installed with antifreeze and heat exchangers to work year ‘round.
New Home Construction
If you are planning to build a new home, we can help you optimize the electrical energy efficiency and in doing so, actually save enough in construction costs to partially pay for the renewable energy system. Please call us for free initial consultation while in the planning stages of your new home. Additional consultation is available at a competitive rate and consultation fees can be credited toward the purchase of a renewable energy system.
An Investment for the Future
The cost of commercial power will continue to rise indefinitely in the future for many reasons. First the delivery of power to you through a wire requires maintenance which is labor intensive and wages will not come down. The power source “too cheap to meter" nuclear power has become quite expensive. Polluting sources will need to be cleaned up and the ratepayer will pick up the tab. Only clean renewable solar, wind and Hydro can keep the environment clean. Direct grid-tie systems allow you to control the cost per kWhr paid to the power company by trading your free watts for their costly ones. By owning your own system rather than "renting" a power generator from the utility, you can truly declare your energy independence and security for the future.
A Systems cost is affected by the size and type of the renewable energy source, size and type of the AC. inverter, and also the size and model of backup generator (if used). Also affecting cost are variables such as type of mounting of PV Panels, internal wiring, outside wiring distances etc.
Your choice of a system is dependent on your requirements for power and the percentage of your power that is generated by the renewable source. Your location determines the best choices for renewable energy. Some sites are good wind sites, some have ample water power and most have solar available. If your site does not have grid power or it will cost a significant amount of money to bring in the lines, then an off-grid system will be more cost effective. If power is already available on your site, a direct grid-tied system using the power company as your storage medium makes economic sense for the long term. Grid tied systems effectively lock in your future kWhr cost by trading your free solar or wind energy for their high cost power.
Vermont’s net metering law allows feeding back to the grid all or part of your usage. However, the power company will not pay you for excess power sent into the grid over and above your annual usage. You are trading retail for retail kilowatts. Some states will pay for excess at avoided cost or wholesale cost but may also accept all power sent to them only at wholesale. You will then buy it back at retail. Other states have a monthly reset so you can’t bank power in the summer to use in the winter. Vermont’s Net Metering Law is therefore more favorable than many other states considering that we have seasonal differences in Solar, Wind and Hydro outputs.
Typical Installed System Price Ranges
Basic 12VDC Cabin System with Batteries, PV Panels, optional Wind Generator - $1,400 to $4,500 installed.
Small 120VAC Off-Grid Home System with Batteries, PV Panels, optional Wind Generator, Modified Sine wave Inverter- $3,200 to $8,500 Installed.
Full Home Backup Power System (Grid-Tied) with batteries, 4000 watt sinewave inverter, transformer for well pump, connections for any backup generator- $6,200 - $7,200 installed
Standard 120VAC Off-Grid Home System with Batteries, PV Panels and optional Wind Generator, Backup Propane Generator, Transformer for 240VAC well pump, 2000 to 4000 watt Sine wave Inverter - $14,500 to $35,000 Installed.
Deluxe 120/240VAC Off-Grid Home System with Batteries, PV Panels optional Wind Generator, Backup Propane Generator, (2) 4000 WATT Inverters - $22,000 to $$39,000 installed.
The above systems are turn-key installations with full parts and labor warranties. We can also provide do-it-yourself kits complete with pre-assembled cables, connectors, and instructions or we sell all components individually at cash and carry competitive pricing.
CVSolar can help you evaluate your needs and evaluate your site to determine the most cost effective approach to join the solar age and
Declare your Energy Independence!
Contact us early in your project stage
You can contact us now via email, call us, or stop in at our new larger Solar Store in Rutland, Vermont and see for yourself how far Renewable Energy Systems have progressed.
We suggest you
Thanks for Visiting!
Authored by. James A. Peden
Copyright © 1998-2004 Middlebury Networks.
All rights reserved.
Online Date: December 11,1998
Revised: August 18, 2015