Wind Chasers

February 2 / 2017

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Setting up  a Renewable Energy System

Setting up a renewable energy system for your home requires a lot of thought and planning. Decisions need to be made about what you want out of the system. How much of your house would you like the system to run? Are you just looking for a little piece of mind with some emergency back-up power or is your goal to go completely off the grid? Most people fall somewhere in between those two scenarios. 

You have to take a look at where you live. How much space do you have to set up a system? Do you have enough property to put up a wind turbine or would solar be a better choice for your situation? What are the local by-laws in your area? Are you allowed to erect a turbine on your property. Do you need a permit? These are all questions that need to be taken into consideration when planning a renewable energy system for your home.

 

Getting Started
After you have had time to think about all of these things, the first thing that you need to do is to contact your local officials and find out what the local by-laws are for your area concerning towers etc. Find out if you need a permit for a tower and what the costs are. The last thing you want is to have someone come and tell you that you need to take down the tower that you have spent a lot of money and time to install!

Next, you need to consider the proximity of your neighbors. How are they going to be affected by what you are doing? If your neighbors are close enough that they might complain about what you are doing, it's a good idea to talk to them about it and try to explain to them what you are doing and why you feel that it's an important thing to do. It's always better to have your neighbors with you rather than against you! Who knows, maybe you'll convince them to do a little conserving in their own homes!

Of course, before you install any type of system, you need to reduce your energy requirements as much as possible. ( see our Energy Conservation page for details ) this is very important in order to save money on your system. The more energy you use, the more it will cost you to install a system that will produce enough power for you!

 

Sizing Your System
Again, sizing your system depends on what you want out of it. We usually advise people to start off small. That way, you can ease your way into it. Learn the basics about how to live with your home made power and decide how and where you want to use it. You can always add to the system later. This is part of the beauty of building the turbine yourself. Once you learn how to build one, you can always build a bigger one! Also, keeping your system small to start with means that you don't have to spend as much money on the electronic systems to run it such as the inverter. If your system is small, you can have a smaller inverter and a smaller bank of batteries for storage. One of the problems with buying a system from a dealer, is that they will almost always try to sell you more of a system than you probably require, and unfortunately, the majority of people are sucked into this because they don't know any better.

 

What you will need to get Started
A basic system will require the following essentials:

An inverter. The inverter changes the DC power coming from your batteries into AC power so that is can be used in your home. Almost everything in your home runs on AC power. Again, the size of inverter you buy, depends on what you are planning to have it run in your home. One thing that we would like to stress is to buy a sine wave inverter. Sine wave is the same as the power that comes into your home from the grid. There are inverters called modified sine wave. These are alright if you are only planning to run a few lights, but they do not work very well for most appliances. The majority of appliances in your home require that smooth sine wave power to work properly. A sine wave inverter will cost you more money, but it won't damage your appliances!

Batteries. Batteries are used to store the power that comes in from your turbine and or solar panels. Batteries come in a wide range of sizes and prices. Remember that you need enough batteries to mach the voltage of you turbine. For example, if your turbine produces 12 volts and the batteries that you buy are 6 volt, then you would require a minimum of two batteries to store the power. If the batteries were 2 volt, then you would require four, and so on.

The batteries required for the best performance of your system are true, deep cycle batteries. That means that they have really thick lead plates in them that are capable of holding a charge for a very long time. marine batteries are often referred to as deep cycle batteries, but they do not have as thick lead plates in them as do true deep cycle batteries. It has often been said that if you don't give yourself a hernia trying to lift a battery, it's not a true deep cycle battery!

The battery system for your set-up is very important. Most people will tell you to not go cheap with your batteries. We know of people who have started with used golf cart batteries, but soon had to replace them because they were almost worn out when they bought them. Start with the best batteries that you can afford. There are some very good, moderately priced batteries out there that will serve you very well.

Charge Controller. The charge controller controls the battery voltage. It is hooked up to your battery system and when your batteries are full, the charge controller sends the excess power from your system to a dump load to protect your batteries so they don't over fill. This is very important, because if your batteries get too full, it can severely damage them and could possibly cause them to explode! Not good!

The charge controller will have different settings on it that you can change depending on what voltage your system is putting out and at what voltage you would like to have the charge controller kick in to send the extra power off to the dump load. Please, if you have never done this before, get some advice from someone who is familiar with the controllers. some of them can be tricky to set and if it's not right, it can lead to a potentially serious problem!

We also recommend that you have a back-up controller, hooked up in series with the first one, just in case the first one fails!

The charge controller also has other settings on it to float the batteries and to equalize them occasionally. These two functions are important to keep the batteries happy and performing their best and to last as long as possible.

Dump Load. Also known as a diversion load, is a unit that is set up to the charge controller to take the excess power from the system. It is usually some kind of a heating element, either for air or water. Just make sure, again, that whatever you choose, matches your system voltage.