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For several years we have lived in a small log cabin on our high

bluff property near Frankfort, Michigan. We have marveled at the plentiful sun, breezy afternoons, and relentless surf that our corner of the Great Lakes offers. All the while, we imported our electrical power over a long thin wire, and wondered if there was some way to harness the energy around us.

Rudy & Jill Ruterbusch ©2000 Rudy & Jill Ruterbusch

After reading Home Power for a year, doing some research, and looking at a few boat and RV systems, we learned that it’s possible. The problem was finding a way to measure just how much wind and sun we had. We considered putting up some measuring instruments, and then spending a year compiling data. For about US$1,000 you can put up a nice system that records data onto your computer.

We already had the power company keeping good records on our loads. If we had similar information on our available source, it would be simple math to design a system to produce our own electricity.

Then we thought of a better idea—take the $1,000 and build a small wind and solar-electric system instead. This way, we would have hands-on experience, a reliable backup power system for small loads, and already be producing some of our own power.

System Design

What was needed was a small wind plant, a small solar array, some batteries, meters, and DC loads we could use when power was available. We attended the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in 1997, went to several workshops, and purchased most of our equipment right on the spot.

We selected the Southwest Windpower Air 303 because of its simplicity, size, and price. With its internal regulator, light weight, and two-wire DC output, it is a plant we felt capable of installing ourselves.

Next we selected the Solarex VLX-53 panel because of its size, cost, and appearance. While not mentioned in many articles, we thought it was important to select solar components that didn’t detract from the natural beauty of our home and property.

50 Home Power #80 • December 2000 / January 2001

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