When Anne and Fritz Kettling decided to build their dream home on an island in Canada, they weren’t willing to compromise. “If I can’t build on this spot, I don’t want to build at all”, Fritz told someone who was trying to convince him to look at other properties back in the mid-1980s. That was more than 30 years ago, and true to his word, Fritz built where he wanted to. The project came with challenges, of course, and one of the biggest was getting electricity to their place when the nearest utility line was 10 miles away. A grid connection would have cost $360,000 back then, plus they’d have to pay for utility power forever after that. Naturally, they said “no thanks”, then got to work creating their own alternative, renewable power system.
The renewable off-grid 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 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.
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 to charge up. 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.
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 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. Their 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.
The Kettlings’ system is so well designed and has such an impressive track record of performance, that I built a how-to course around it. Even though the course is brand new, dozens of people have already signed up.
Click here to download a risk-free copy of my video course INDEPENDENT ELECTRIC POWER: How to Build Your Own Off-Grid Solar & Wind Electrical System. It 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.