How to Live Off the Grid Using Only Wind and Solar Power

How to Live Off the Grid Using Only Wind and Solar Power

How to Live Off the Grid Using Only Wind and Solar Power

Introduction to living off the grid with renewable energy

Living entirely off the grid using only wind and solar power can provide freedom, self-sufficiency, and peace of mind. However, it also requires careful planning, significant investment, and ongoing maintenance. This guide will walk through the key steps I took to successfully live off the grid using renewable energy.

Selecting a location with abundant wind and solar resources

Choosing a location with strong solar and wind resources is crucial for living off the grid. Ideal locations have consistent sunny days and moderate to high wind speeds throughout the year.

Before purchasing land, research historical weather data from nearby weather stations to estimate solar and wind energy potential. Use solar irradiance maps to identify areas receiving abundant sunlight. Check for any obstructions that could block sun or wind. Locations at higher elevations often experience stronger winds. Proximity to large bodies of water can also provide steady breezes.

I selected a rural property in a high elevation area. According to solar and wind maps, the area receives over 5 hours of peak sun per day and consistent wind speeds of over 10 mph. The land has unobstructed views of the southern sky and prevailing winds from the west.

Designing and installing an off-grid power system

Once an ideal location is secured, the next key step is designing and installing a complete off-grid power system including:

  • Solar array – Select solar panels with high efficiency ratings. Determine energy needs and size array accordingly. Include pole mounts and wiring.

  • Wind turbine – Research small-scale wind turbines and choose a reliable model rated for your wind speeds. Select a tall tower to maximize wind exposure.

  • Battery bank – Size battery storage based on energy needs and length of backup time required. Include charge controller and cables.

  • Inverter – Choose a pure sine wave inverter capable of delivering necessary wattage for connected loads. Include transfer switch if also using a generator.

  • Racking and hardware – Use non-conductive rails, mounts, and enclosures designed for solar/wind applications.

I installed a 4 kW solar array on ground-mounts, a 10 kW Bergey Excel wind turbine on a 120′ tower, an 8 kW outback inverter, and 16 kWh of lead-acid batteries. This system has provided 100% of my power needs for over 5 years.

Efficiency and energy conservation

To successfully live off the grid, I’ve found that efficiency and conserving energy are just as important as generating it. Some key efficiency steps include:

  • Use LED lighting and replace old appliances/devices with energy efficient models.
  • Add insulation, invest in energy efficient windows and doors, and seal any leaks or gaps.
  • Utilize a smart power strip to limit standby energy consumption.
  • Adjust thermostat to minimize heating/cooling energy use. Wear appropriate clothing for the weather instead of overheating/cooling rooms.
  • Limit use of large power drain appliances like dishwashers, electric stoves and electric heaters.
  • Line dry clothing instead of using a clothes dryer.

Routine maintenance

An off-grid renewable energy system requires routine maintenance and monitoring. Important tasks include:

  • Inspecting solar panels and wind turbines for damage and clearing any debris/obstructions.
  • Checking battery acid levels and topping up with distilled water as needed.
  • Testing for system voltage and current issues with a multimeter and verifying inverter function.
  • Tightening connectors and replacing any worn components like fuses or surge protectors.
  • Monitoring energy production vs usage and expanding capacity if needed.

I perform maintenance checks on my system monthly and have found them essential to longevity and performance.

Back-up power considerations

Despite best efforts, renewable energy systems can experience outages. Having back-up options is critical:

  • Store emergency power in a gasoline generator or propane generator. Test it routinely and have fuel on hand.
  • Keep a supply of rechargeable batteries or a small portable solar panel to provide limited electricity.
  • If extended outages occur, have a plan to relocate frozen/refrigerated food and manage essential needs like medical devices.

My rural location can experience multi-day winter storms, so I maintain a propane generator and battery supply. Though outages are rare, the back-up power provides important peace of mind.

Conclusion

Living off the grid on renewable energy provides independence and sustainability, but requires research, detailed planning, vigilant maintenance, and back-up contingencies. If designed and managed properly, wind and solar can fully meet off-grid electricity needs for those willing to make the commitment. The steps outlined above allowed me to successfully transition to a 100% wind and solar powered, off-grid homestead.