WIND TURBINES AND PHOTOVOLTAICS   
  AND, EQUALLY IMPORTANT, APPLIANCE EFFICIENCY

In most climates/landscapes strong winds are somewhat more sporadic than the sun [which even on overcast days still produces a reasonable electrical output],so that a wind turbine might make a good secondary source, but photovoltaic [solar-electric] panels will be the first step for the alternative energy system. At the Solar Ark 90% of all electricity is produced by two PV arrays totalling 1.4 kilowatt, the remainder is generated by a 600 watt wind turbine which really kicks in during winter storms.

  Batteries are still the weak link in any off-the-grid system; wether one goes with the "cheap" golf cart ones [which last 5 years] or buys more expensive ones [with 20 year life expectancy], they still cost too much for too little life. In the last 10 years there have been some new developments but at present good old lead-acid batteries are still the most sensible choice. At least their recycling rate is around 99%, so their environmental impact is low.

The most important source of electricity in the off-grid situation, however, is the vast amount NOT used due to ultra-efficient appliances.

Wether it is a lightbulb, a washing mashine, a well pump, a fridge or freezer etc., it is usually possible to find one that is three to four times more efficient than mainstream technology; while these efficient appliances tend to cost more initially they will also last a lot longer and thereby pay for themselves.

My home-built fridge uses all of 60 watts when it runs and it is on roughly 20% of the time; a comparable store-bought one easily uses TEN [!] times more while doing the same job.       The technology is already here, it just is not marketed.

 

[A little note on the side here: it really is NOT asked of us to give up the comfort we are used to; the rest of this planet is just politely asking could we maybe stop wasting so much...]

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Solar electricity has become 'affordable'. It is really easy to learn all you need to operate your own little power plant, even if you are not a 'Techno'; and there is a certain joy in knowing that what comes out of your wall outlet are little packages of canned sunlight.

Oh yeah, and our sun bill hasn't gone  up one cent in twelve years...

HYDROPOWER

Using the power of creeks and rivers to drive micro turbines is an excellent, cost-efficient way to produce clean electricity 24 hours a day.

I love it. It's the best...  one small flaw: hydropower works best in places where it rains. A lot.

For those who hail from the wet regions, or are lucky enough to own land bordering a reliable creek in the drier parts of the country, this is the way to go; a few simple formulas and tests are all that's needed to assess the potential of a source.