Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Affordable Microturbine; Loudon Solar Home

We picked up some interesting tidbits from our solar contractor, Don Sandros of Sand Energy in Leesburg, during a visit yesterday to fine tune our solar panels (i.e., get them better oriented to the sun).

First, you may remember our featuring a post on a microturbine manufactured by Southwest Windpower, which is suitable for individual homeowners, costs just $10,000 to install and will deliver around 425 kwh's of electricity a month if you have a decently windy location.

Don is familiar with the Southwest microturbine--he's installed a few in Virginia and says they're the real deal. They're small, mounted on a 35-40 foot pole, and so far Don has found them reliable, easy to set up and true to their specifications.
Since the $10,000 microturbine generates about twice the electricity of the Curmudgeon's $20,000 solar panels, the payback is four times as fast.

Of course, you do have to have wind, which rules out Arlington. But, if your property includes an unobstructed ridgeline in Loudon or Fauquier County, or if you live near the coast (or along a lake) you might just have enough wind to justify one of these machines (pictured above).

Don also told us about a gentleman he met at a Loudon County Committee for a Sustainable Society meeting, Alden Hathaway, who a few years ago built a completely solar home out in Loudon and has written a book about it: "Building An Affordable Solar Home."

Hathaway's book is available as a pdf. on his website. We read a good chunk of it last night and found it quite readable and entertaining. One of Hathaway's key points--which Curmudgeon readers will find familiar--is that energy conservation and use of renewable solar energy go hand-in-hand. As we've pointed out many times here, he notes that many energy conservation measures cost less than putting in solar panels. He does a great job of breaking down the economics of various conservation measures.

The website also has a presentation Hathaway gave at the National Building Museum with four years of data on his solar home. If you get a chance, give it a visit.

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