At long last, the day came to break ground for our new home. After nearly four years working through the regulatory and technical issues related to the power systems, building the house went surprisingly smooth, taking only about four months. By January 2008, we were moved into our new two-story home. The home features all the modern conveniences and amenities, as well as low-E windows, low-toxicity materials, and energy-efficient electric appliances.
Although the up-front costs of our home’s energy systems tacked on an extra 40% to the cost, the investment was well worth it. NYSERDA provided a 50% rebate on the installed cost of both systems, and we were able to take advantage of state and federal tax credits, which lowered our initial system costs significantly. In the long run, as utility rates continue to climb, the cost to operate the home will be far less than a conventional home that depends on fossil fuels. Over the past nine years, the price of electrical energy has been increasing at 3.7% annually and fuel oil has increased 14.6% per year. Taking this into account, I’ve calculated that our initial return on investment is about 5.4% per year and increases each year as the projected cost of energy goes up. This results in an estimated financial payback period of 10 to 11 years.
While there were definitely some frustrating phases during the project, our solar-electric and wind systems have been operating smoothly for more than a year. I’m proud to say that we’ve reached an actual production of 19,000 KWH, and are offsetting more than 100% of the energy required to heat, cool, and power our new home, without relying on any fossil fuels or wood. Despite the problems, I wouldn’t hesitate to tackle the project again.
Mel Tyree is a university professor who likes to build scientific equipment and tinker with electronics. As a public service, he compiles and posts information about small wind turbines on a University of Alberta Web page, called the Small Wind Information Exchange Program (www.ualberta.ca/~mtyree/SWIEP).
Sustainable Energy Developments Inc. • 585-265-2384 • www.sed-net.com • Wind power equipment and installation
Vermont Solar LLC • 800-286-1252 • www.vermontsolar.com • Solar-electric equipment and installation
Small Wind Info:
AWEA Small Wind Listserve • www.groups.yahoo.com/group/awea-smallwind/
Bergey • www.bergey.com • Wind turbine
BP Solar • www.bpsolar.com • PV modules
OutBack Power Systems • www.outbackpower.com • Charge controllers
Surrette • www.surrette.com • Batteries
UniRac • www.unirac.com • PV mounts
Xantrex Technology Inc. • www.xantrex.com • Inverters