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Get Powered Up! Certified Energy Manager Jeff Yago answers your alternative energy questions

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Off grid system in Alaska

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Hi Jeff.

We’re from Alaska and thinking about buying 20 acres where electricity is nowhere to be seen.

And since the sun is scarce in the winter, we’re wondering what kind of a generator-battery-inverter system would be advisable and what’s the approximate cost of setting it all up?

Wind power is not an option either, as the data shows less than 5 mph, year round.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

SharLynn

Sharlynn,

You guys are in a tough place.   I have talked with many folks from there and your choices are limited.

The first thing you need to do is really limit your electrical usage.  I assume you will be using a wood, oil, or propane cook stove, space heater, and water heater.   I would not have any heating system that requires operating a central fan or air handing unit as these require lots of power.

I would use only a few low wattage compact fluorescent and mostly LED lights for lighting, and buy only very energy efficient short wave radio, flat screen TV, computer, and video equipment.    You must lower your energy needs first, and it’s worth paying extra for the higher efficiency devices.

Batteries do not like the cold, so they need to be above freezing.  Diesel generators do not start when it drops below freezing unless you use crankcase and carburetor heaters, and you cannot run these high energy loads 24/7 on battery power.  This means you need to find ways to keep the generator area above freezing.

Solar systems can work that far north for the periods of the year when the sun shines, but a generator-battery system will be needed the rest of the year.

I would check with neighbors to see how they deal with this.

Good Luck!

Jeff Yago

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