OFF-GRID ENERGY: Tour a Real-World Solar Panel System With 20-Year Track Record

UPDATED 5Jul2019

Got an interest in building your own off-grid solar panel and wind energy system? I’ve got a true story that you might find interesting . . . a story about a couple who have been living a modern lifestyle with their own off-grid system since 1998, plus a chance to learn how to make off-grid energy a reality for yourself with help from me.

 When Anne and Fritz Kettling decided to build their dream home on a rural island in Canada back in the 1980s, they weren’t willing to compromise on location. “If I can’t build on this property, I don’t want to build at all”, Fritz told a real estate agent who was trying to convince him to look at other pieces of land to buy back then. That was more than 30 years ago, and true to his word, Fritz built where he wanted to and lived there. The project came with challenges, of course, and one of the biggest was getting electricity to their place when the nearest utility pole was 10 miles away. A grid connection would have cost $360,000 back then, Fritz told me, plus he’d have to pay for utility power forever after that. Naturally, Fritz and Anne said “no thanks”, then got to work creating their own alternative, renewable power system, even before it was nearly as mainstream as these things are now.

Anne Fritz
Anne and Fritz Kettling outside their off-grid home. Their alternative energy system has been powering their modern lifestyle since 1998

The renewable off-grid solar panel and wind energy system the Kettlings have been living with uses photovoltaic solar panels, a wind turbine, a bank of batteries and an inverter to create AC power for their modern home. Total renewable power output is 10,000 watts and the original batteries , wind turbine and PV panels are still working perfectly today. The Kettlings’ experience is especially useful for anyone looking to create a large, full-featured renewable power system. Their bank of mono-crystalline panels puts out 1400 watts on a sunny day, and the Bergey wind turbine has been putting out 1500 watts of peak power year-in and year-out for more than 20 years without need for servicing. Since they’re entirely responsible for creating power on their own, the Kettlings also installed a propane-fired backup generator just in case.

Solar Panel Overview

This 1400 watt photovoltaic array sits next to the Kettlings’ rural Canadian island home. These mono-crystalline panels are mounted on a fixed stand.

This is the photovoltaic array that provides about half of the renewable power in the Kettlings’ system. It uses mono-crystalline PV cells and sits on a fixed stand that does two things. First, the stand keeps the panels high enough to be safe, yet low enough for snow and ice removal during Canadian winters. Electricity from these panels feeds into a charge controller that determines how much energy the batteries need. Panels like these have a typical service life of 25 years. Today’s best panels guarantee an output of at least 80% of rated production over 20 to 25 years.

charge load controller
This charge controller directs power from three sources of energy on its way to the bank of batteries – solar panels, a wind turbine and a stationary backup generator.

This charge controller is the brains of the Kettlings’ off-grid power system, and it’s the kind of thing found on all systems that include batteries. The charge controller monitors battery charge state and allows more or less power to the batteries for charging. This particular charge controller was state of the art 20+ years ago, but today better units are available for less money. One of the keys to long battery life is to minimize the extent to which batteries get discharged during use. Fritz has always maintained batteries so they don’t discharge more than 20% of their capacity and this is why they’re still working perfectly today. His system uses a collection of 4 volt deep cycle marine batteries normally used as part of the electrical system of ocean-going ships. Taken together the batteries power two 5000 watt inverters – one that powers the home and another that powers Fritz’s metalworking shop.doz

Click above to download the complete first section of the INDEPENDENT ELECTRIC POWER course

The Kettlings’ system is so well designed and has such a long and impressive track record of performance, that I create an instructor-led, how-to course around the kind of solar-and-wind system they created . . . Click here to download a free sample of my course INDEPENDENT ELECTRIC POWER to see what it looks like. If you’re interested in building your own great system, this complete and detailed resource will help you do it. The full course includes:

  • 15 technical teaching videos
  • dozens of plans, wiring diagrams & photos
  • one-on-one help from me as you build
  • money-back satisfaction guarantee


25% WEEKEND DISCOUNT (enter 25off at checkout): Want to skip the sample and get the full course right now? Click here to download a risk-free full version of  INDEPENDENT ELECTRIC POWER at a 25% discount until end-of-day Monday July 8th.   This course includes everything you need to know to design and install a renewable power system capable of energizing an entire house. Evaluating your energy needs, determining the size of solar panels and wind turbine you need, assembling a system of storage batteries, how to make wire connections – it’s all here and more. I also include a money-back guarantee, so there’s nothing to lose. Click here to send me an email at [email protected] if you have any questions. 



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