Watts in the Wind: Page 4 of 5

Beginner

Inside this Article

Smith off-grid home
Gus Smith's off-grid, wind- and solar-powered home.
Checking tower layout
The author double-checks the guy-anchor layout. Accurate positioning is critical for smooth raising and lowering of tilt-up towers.
Tower base
Tower base.
Gin pole anchor
Gin pole anchor.
Guy anchor
Guy anchor.
Electric winching
Carl Schwingel raises the 120-foot tower with an electric winch.
Tower going up
The tower, with the Bergey XL.1 on top, goes up slowly. Special attention is paid to keeping guy wires free from tangles or snags during the initial lifting.
Smith off-grid home
Checking tower layout
Tower base
Gin pole anchor
Guy anchor
Electric winching
Tower going up

Actually, raising the tower was relatively quick and easy. The time-consuming part was tightening all 144 of the cable clamps (6 per guy wire, 4 guys per section, 6 sections) and properly tensioning the cables so that the tower was both straight and vertical. Carl had raised and lowered many towers, so things went smoothly, and John Hippensteel at LMW&S provided straightforward directions for tower assembly.

Raising 120 feet of steel pole is an impressive sight. We used an 8,000-pound-capacity winch attached to the receiver hitch of Carl’s 3/4-ton truck. Carl operated the winch, while I examined the tower for bowing or overly tight guy wires. It took about an hour to raise—winches pull slowly, and we checked all guy wires often. Thankfully, the accuracy of my anchor layout really made the tower raising easy; we never had to loosen any of the guy wires for the first ride up.

Wind System Success

“Professor” is not a skill set that lends itself to tower raising. But I read the tower and turbine manuals a dozen times, and was fortunate to have excellent help from experienced friends. Installing the system ourselves allowed me to better understand the equipment and how to maintain it.

I had some frustrating moments—like waiting for the turbine to arrive, and a mismatched yaw spindle and tower-top adapter—that rattled even a devoted RE user like myself. The bottom line is that home-scale wind-electric systems are still relatively “alternative,” so you have to expect some challenges. I guess the perspective we have to remember is that the “grid” is maintained by thousands of employees, and when we choose alternatives, we become the utility.

The turbine arrived on the second weekend in December, and we finally got it installed and in the air. After raising the tower, everything else seemed easy in comparison—except trenching through the red clay for the wire runs! We ran #2 aluminum wire along with a shielded multiconductor cable for the anemometer I’d purchased to gather wind speed data, so neighbors will have more accurate and local information if they choose to follow our lead.

Bergey’s instructions for installing the wind turbine’s charge controller and dump load were very easy to follow, and we got the balance of system components wired up in no time flat. Then it was a matter of making a couple of phone calls. The first one was to OutBack to figure out how to program the existing MX60 charge controller that was regulating my PV array so it wouldn’t divert energy from the PVs into the dump load at regulation voltage. And the second one was to Bergey to figure out how to keep the backup generator from routing power into the dump load.

Once we ironed out these last details, we were ready to go online. Ironically, just as we released the turbine’s brake, the wind died! Two nights later (it seemed like weeks), I heard the wind picking up outside; I got up and checked the TriMetric battery monitor. Sure enough, the meter showed the batteries charging—instead of discharging—at night, which is a beautiful sight for anyone used to living with solar electricity alone. Since that first night the wind system went into operation, our battery monitor has read “FUL”—one of the most beautiful abbreviations an off-grid homeowner knows.

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