Climbing the Energy Everest: Page 4 of 4

The Ups & Downs of Creating a Net Zero-Energy Home
Beginner

Inside this Article

Mel and Charleen Tyree's house
Mel and Charleen Tyree's house
The Tyree's barn
The Tyree's barn was designed to perfectly accommodate a 10 KW PV array.
Erecting the tower—10 feet at a time.
Erecting the tower—10 feet at a time.
Final section—120 feet up.
Final section—120 feet up.
Hoisting the rotor.
Hoisting the rotor.
The rotor assembly of the 10 KW Bergey
Even just the rotor assembly of the 10 KW Bergey is big and heavy.
Mel and Charleen with the PV system‘s component wall.
Mel and Charleen with the PV system‘s component wall.
 A battery bank of 36, 2-volt cells
Ready to be wired: A bank of 36, 2-volt cells can provide about 60 KWH hours of backup electricity.
Mel and Charleen Tyree's house
The Tyree's barn
Erecting the tower—10 feet at a time.
Final section—120 feet up.
Hoisting the rotor.
The rotor assembly of the 10 KW Bergey
Mel and Charleen with the PV system‘s component wall.
 A battery bank of 36, 2-volt cells

Hitting Zero

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.

Access

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/

SWIEP • www.ualberta.ca/~mtyree/SWIEP or http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/SWIEP • Consumer reporting group on wind systems

System Components:

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

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