By Martin Jansen, Owner of Jansen-PCINFO
I’m not one to be too theoretical in learning about something new. I like to get my hands dirty and find out the truth about emerging technology and in the news. There is much ado about Renewable Energy these days. The Biden Administration is pushing the USA to adopt this new energy instead of fossil fuels. The USA has a long way to go before renewable energy can replace our reliance on oil and gas.
I adopted two forms of energy production on a small scale in my home to see how these energies might be expanded. I wanted to keep it low voltage to power light sources in the front of the house and on my shed in the back. In the front I have 10 Malibu lights connected via low voltage wire. These lights are original to the house when we bought it. I had the foresight to buy another set of lights when they were still available to patch the original set over the 25 years we have owned the house. Two years ago I replaced the original 4 watt 12 volt bulbs with bright white LED lights which only pull .5 watts per bulb.
For my birthday last year, I asked for a 100 watt solar panel to replace the transformer that was powering the Malibu lights. I had two Lithium Lifepo4 batteries from a broken electric bike that I repurposed as storage from the power collected from the solar panel. When the panel arrived I still had to purchase adapters that would allow me to connect it to the battery in the basement. I eventually replaced the single 12 volt 7 Amp Hour battery with a 15 Amp Hour battery. Central to any system is the controller which regulates electricity to and from the battery.
Here are some pictures of the solar panel setup:
In my shed, I have long wanted to supply some sort of power for lighting the backyard. Originally I bought a solar light from Harbor Freight, but the battery didn’t last through the night. This is largely due to our trees which provide ample shade which is not good for solar power.
The answer came in the form of an eBay sale on a wind turbine for about $80. Of course, having a wind turbine is one thing, I still had to assemble it and mount it to the shed. Add wiring and connectors and I still had a significant expenditure to make it all work.
I am still impressed with the quality of the turbine which, of course, was manufactured in China. The blades are sturdy, but flexible so as not to crack easily. The turbine took a while to loosen up, but now turns easily in winds above 10 miles an hour.
At first I mounted the turbine to the back of the shed, but moved it to the side of the shed where the framing made it more secure. Wiring needed to be more flexible so I used an old extension cord pulled through a ¾ inch galvanized pipe. The turbine is mounted on a galvanized floor flange with lock nuts to prevent loosening over time. Sturdy brackets at the bottom connect the pipe with another flange.
Wiring inside the shed leads to a controller and the outside lights (two Malibu and shed light). Here are some pics of the Wind Turbine system:
The batteries in the last picture are hooked up in parallel for 12 volts and 14 Amp Hours. It took some trial and error, but both solar and wind systems are now working well.
I would say that the solar system is more reliable, generating power even on cloudy days. I strategically placed the solar panel where it would avoid shade from our big maple in the front of the house. Calm days means no power generation for the wind turbine. Wind turbines also need to have less obstructions from trees and buildings. There is no way I can go higher than the tree line in my area where trees are tall and plentiful.
What type of weather will stop both renewable sources from generating power? I would say slushy snow that freezes on contact. The solar panel would be quickly covered with snow that would not be easily removed. The blades of the wind turbine would be plastered with snow that would weigh it down unevenly. Until melting occurs neither wind or solar power would be available.
If this sounds familiar it is because Texas experienced a power failure in February of 2021. Due to high costs they failed to winterize their power sources including wind and solar.
Overall my experiment with renewable energy has been successful for my low power needs. We need, however, a major breakthrough in technology (battery and power generation) for me to consider renewable energy to power everything in my home.