It’s a given. The price of energy goes up each year as surely as the number we put in the age box on a form. That cost drives up the cost of everything else we use, buy, consume, etc. too. It’s also the one thing that is the most difficult to do without.
Now the whole idea of living smaller includes the idea of consuming less in terms of energy, and while that is a great and noble idea, there comes a point where even less is too much for your budget. (Plus, who wants to spend their money on something as boring as energy if they can help it?) Learning to turn off things that are not being used is a start, as is insulating your home, having a smaller home, etc. So what comes after you’ve cut everything to the bare minimum you can?
There’s only one route left then. It’s exploring ideas that get you off the grid, great for boondocking, but even if you are living on the grid, it can reduce your energy consumption to nearly nothing.
That is what I have been told anyhow, over and over. I actually had a guy I was contacting about possibly appearing on my radio program that claimed I could completely power my travel trailer for about $100 in parts for the solar system. Unfortunately, he wasn’t really interested in talking on the radio, he was much more interested in selling me his magical mystical how-to manual. I guess he didn’t understand that I am accustomed to guests giving me their books, which I then read and then we talk about on the radio program, and I have info about how to buy them on the website, etc. and that author appearances are considered necessary to promote book sales. I’ve forgotten his name and the title of his book, and the computer with his website has long since bit the dust too…but I do wish him luck.
In a sense, that’s part of the problem. There are thousands of guys out there who are promising free or low cost energy, and deliver absolutely nothing in terms of real product. Others deliver the product, but at a cost so high that it takes years to break even on the purchase of the equipment.
In addition, those of us still living in the mobile sense of the word need to have a portable system that doesn’t weigh a lot or take up an incredible amount of space to transport. Obviously, solar panels are very bulky, and often quite heavy too, making mounting them on the roof rather risky in a travel trailer, even if they can lay flat for transport. The other alternative, mounting to the side of the trailer itself, with brackets that allow them to be deployed to maximize sun exposure, is not ideal either. Who wants to risk expensive equipment to a flying rock or distracted driver?
To me, a wind turbine sounds ideal. They are much less mass, which means less weight. The blades are the bulkiest part, and obviously could be designed to disassemble for traveling, leaving only the inverter, generator, and batteries as the “problem” of transport and storage. But…can the idea work? How much space would REALLY be required? After arriving at our destination, could the batteries be moved in dry boxes UNDER the trailer, freeing up critical indoor space without offending anyone’s sensibilities? How much ventilation do the batteries need? How portable can we make this system?
In this day and age of internet, we have a LOT of tools at hand to speed up our search for information and products like I want to find. I started searching online with YouTube. Granted, the “spammers” have utilized this website as much as real folk have, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who is trying to sell you product xyz and who is telling you how product xyz worked for them.
One guy shows us his simplified version right here. His website also has more information. His goal was to have a simple version, and he hasn’t updated a whole lot, with a 3+ yr old set of videos and web page information. This video was labeled “small home wind generator” but had absolutely NO information beyond showing the blades operating and a volt meter.
I like the idea of a vertical wind generator. This is an interesting design, but there wasn’t much other information to be found about it. (Video 1 or Video 2) This video showed the vertical blades, and said nothing of interest. I wish people would think before posting these things–for no more than some of them say about their wind generator, it could just as well be a “twirly bird” like we used to put in our garden to scare away the birds!
Now this design came with more dialogue, and actually gave me some information. This was his initial prototype in this video, and it was actually charging his golf cart batteries. (Hey, its a start!) This is a different designer’s attempt, using PVC pipe. It’s kind of rickety looking, but the idea may bear some more research before it is discarded entirely. Take a look at it in this video. Here is another amateur attempt at wind generation that needs some modifying, but has some good ideas–it uses a couple of bicycle wheels. Before you click on this video, mute your speakers or take off your headphones–the music is HORRIBLE. This video is short & sweet, but it has more info in the comment section that might be of interest.
Since I haven’t found much information, out of frustration, I turned to the companies that provide complete systems that are commercially produced. Do you want some sticker shock here?
Bergey Wind Power has a system designed for the average home owner that is on the grid. It was also the least expensive system I saw on their “products” page. It has a price tag of over $47,000. That means it would take us roughly 31 years to break even on the cost of the system, considering we average about $125 in electricity per month. Obviously, that system is not an option!
Southwest Wind Power has a Power Skystream 3.7 that was listed at one location for $6212. That would put the break-even point at just over 4 years. Much better, but still…not exactly what I had in mind!
Renewable Energy Wind sounded too good to be true, promising wonders for under $200 if I just buy membership for $49.95. Okay…I think I’ll sleep on that membership for now!
It’s quite obvious that I have a LOT to learn before venturing into generating electricity through the wind. I am not exactly sure even what a fixed magnet motor generator is, or what the other kind of motor is! Just the terminology is confusing. Like what is a Darrius wind turbine versus a Savonius turbine? HAWT versus VAWT? Some look like fans with many blades, others look like a baton twirling around with only two blades. There are gears and belts, generators and regulators, and some kind of gizmo for shutting down the power when the batteries are full, and how many batteries would a travel trailer need to operate in order to supply us with enough power for most use? How durable are these generators and does anybody have a do it yourself kit that is reasonably priced? Besides the toy version, that is!
It is obvious that a lot of thought and research needs to go into this project before the first part is even purchased. I am more than a little disappointed that in the New Millenium, long after the Energy Crisis of the 70s, we still do not have alternative energy resources that are available at reasonable prices to the portions of our population that is victimized the most by rising energy costs–the working poor and those on fixed incomes such as senior citizens. (These days, the working poor is anyone with an income under $40,000, even though the IRS doesn’t think you are low income!)