Bucking the System: Page 3 of 4

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Inside this Article

Two Wyoming wind turbines
These two Bergey wind turbines provide part of the power at the Appel-Lowrys’ ranch near Crowheart, Wyoming.
Rob & Marcia
Happy homesteaders Rob and Marcia, with their dog Luke.
PV Array
This PV array is one of several that provides electricity for the ranch.
SHW collectors
Two solar collectors mounted on the roof provide almost all of the household’s hot water. A small PV module (to the left of the collectors) powers the system’s pump.
In the living room
Marcia and the author peruse old photos of the ranch while enjoying the warmth provided by the pellet stove.
Sheep for Marcia's knitting
Sheep on the Appel-Lowry ranch provide wool for Marcia’s knitting projects.
All PV arrays
Four PV arrays generate electricity for the house and for water pumping. Power-conditioning equipment is housed in the insulated outbuilding behind the arrays.
Bergey & tower being raised
The wind turbines and their 82-foot-tall towers were raised into place with the help of a pickup truck.
Working on Bergey
Scott Kane of Creative Energies tightens down the blades on one of the Bergey wind turbines.
Rob, Marcia, and Willow Creek
Willow Creek, which runs through Rob and Marcia’s property, provides water for livestock and irrigation.
Two Wyoming wind turbines
Rob & Marcia
PV Array
SHW collectors
In the living room
Sheep for Marcia's knitting
All PV arrays
Bergey & tower being raised
Working on Bergey
Rob, Marcia, and Willow Creek

Creative Energies, an Idaho- and Wyoming-based renewable energy company, installed two 1 KW Bergey XL.1 wind turbines on 82-foot-tall, guyed, tilt-up towers perched on a 65-foot-tall bluff just north of the ranch. The 400-watt Air-X turbine, which once sat in the Appel-Lowrys’ backyard in South Dakota, now provides electricity for lighting and powering small appliances, like Marcia’s sewing machine, in one of the ranch’s small outbuildings. The turbine has been reliable and effective, with the only glitch involving Ramos, the Appel-Lowry’s llama. The guy lines securing the turbine were his preferred scratching post, until one day he rubbed too hard and snapped a wire. Marcia has since put up a fence.

Coming Together

The wind turbine and PV modules output is routed into the back room of an insulated outbuilding, where a 4,000-watt Xantrex SW4024 inverter and an 1,800-watt Prosine inverter (which powers the domestic water well pump) convert the DC electricity into typical, 120-volt household AC electricity. An adjacent, ventilated closet houses 16 Trojan L16 batteries, which store the electricity produced by the wind- and solar-electric systems. A TriMetric battery meter makes it easy to monitor the batteries’ state of charge.

“As part of being off grid,” says Rob, “our daily conversations include, ‘What is the number?’ We’re referring to the TriMetric meter’s ‘amp-hours from full’ number. Sometimes we have to conserve electricity—especially in the dead of winter with short days, no wind, no sun, and cold.”

During other times of the year, the Appel–Lowrys have an abundance of energy, enough to run additional loads like an electric heater or food dehydrator. Over the last few years, they have only kicked on their 4,000 W backup engine generator twice.

Off the Grid, Into the Fields

The Appel-Lowrys’ commitment to sustainability doesn’t end with their off-grid electric and water heating systems. They also grow the majority of their own food in their extensive gardens, raise their own chickens, sheep, and pigs, and harvest rainwater from the ranch house’s metal roof into 300‑gallon storage tanks for watering plants.

“Folks have this perception that we must sit around by candlelight at night, huddled together. But we don’t do without creature comforts. We just don’t waste energy.

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