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Domestic Wind Turbines & Living Off the Grid

Domestic Wind Turbines & Living Off the Grid

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Published by Tim Brennan
Domestic wind turbines can be a huge step towards living off the grid. However, in this article I explain that energy efficiency measures should go hand in hand with your installation to enjoy the maximum benefit.
Domestic wind turbines can be a huge step towards living off the grid. However, in this article I explain that energy efficiency measures should go hand in hand with your installation to enjoy the maximum benefit.

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Published by: Tim Brennan on Aug 15, 2009
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For those wishing to live “off the grid”, domestic wind turbines can provide a significant portion of energy

needs. But this is only half the story, as I will explain in this article. In July 2009, whilst on holiday I was fortunate enough to visit a self-sufficient eco centre in Kerry, Ireland. Kerry Alternative Technology (KAT) is a handful of homes that are completely self-sufficient. Not only do they generate their own electricity using a wind turbine, hydro and solar; they also grow their own vegetables, treat their own waste water, and take water from a nearby stream instead of using mains water. The whole experience was pretty inspiring, not just for an eco-enthusiast like me, but also for the rest of my family who at first didn’t want to make the visit. Although this kind of eco lifestyle might seem unlikely to become mainstream, there is still a lot that can be done by the average household to reduce its carbon footprint. I think there are a lot of people that would distance themselves from selfsufficiency because they think it would be impractical or not economic. However, over the next few years, I have set myself a challenge to see just how much I can adopt from this way of life. A good first step would be to install a domestic wind turbine. The best place to locate these is up high on a pole away from buildings where the airflow is smoother and faster. The one I saw in Kerry was able to produce 1,500W on a moderately windy day, which could feed the houses directly, or be stored a set of batteries reclaimed from a telephone exchange. It seemed too little electricity to power a household, but then I discovered just how energy efficient their appliances were. It turns out that using electricity to heat water, cook, or heat a house is not a very good idea. It’s far more appropriate to burn wood for these things. Then you have more than enough electricity to power the rest of the appliances. What I learnt was that simply installing a domestic wind

turbine is just half the answer to becoming more environmentally friendly. Energy efficiency measures are just as important. For example, I noticed that all the electrical lighting came from LED lights - these draw only a small fraction of the energy as a normal light bulb, but give off the same amount of light. Also, they made use of an energy efficient chest-freezer, as these hold the cold air better when the door is opened. I would they use around a tenth of the electricity that I use in my London flat, maybe even less, to heat a whole house. They weren’t sacrificing any creature comforts or living frugally; they were just doing things more intelligently. Their domestic wind turbine was providing most the electricity, but was supplemented by a small hydro generator that gave 400W around the clock, and some 50W solar panels. This ensured the batteries would remain topped up, even if there were no wind for a few days. One thing that struck was how any DIY enthusiast could do most of this conversion work themselves. Installing wood burning stoves, changing light bulbs to LED ones, and putting up (or evening building) domestic wind turbines are all fun projects that most DIY fans would relish. Plus, just think of all the money you could save every month.

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