I know what you are thinking,
 the Wind charger in the picture is too close to the ground,  you are correct, we took it down and secured the blades from turning  because we had a group of School kids and parents come through for a farm tour so they could get a close up look.

Can anyone go off-grid?

Are you handy? Can you fix stuff around the house without breaking it further? Don't ask that question out loud or your wife may break out into a fit of laughter!   Do you know how to boost your car or truck? Diagnose why your trailer lights don't work? Replace the tractor's alternator? How about Welding? Or perhaps your best friend just happens to be an electrician.

Start up costs for alternative energy systems can be high. And you'll need to learn to conserve energy correctly. A taxi cab driver doesn't drive the car all day without being cognizant of how much gas he has left in the tank. Likewise you will need to be aware of how much power you use and how much you can use, its not difficult a little bit of practice and you will find it easier than you think.

We humans didn't invent electricity, it occurs naturally, billions of people depend on electricity today to power factories, homes and cars. 

Archaeologists have unearthed crude batteries in clay jars with copper and iron plates inside, commonly referred to as the Baghdad Battery, dating back to 250 BC. Just add a few squeezed lemons into the jar as an acid and instantly you have a battery. It is theorized that these batteries were used in the process of electroplating precious metals.

    In the 1600's English physician William Gilbert used the Latin word “electricus” to describe what he saw in his experiments. Thomas Browne, used the word “electricity” to describe his investigations, and thus Electricity had been discovered and named, but it wasn't until Alessandro Volta, Ben Franklin, Michael Faraday, Thomas Edison, Joseph Swan, Nikola Tesla came along that we actually had something tangible, useful and reproducible.   I wonder what these Gentlemen would have said if you told them that in the future you could power your home with sunlight and that their discoveries would be the driving force of the future.

Ive been experimenting a long time with all sorts of ideas to produce power. Some have worked and a few were a complete failure, but failure is not final and we learn from our mistakes. it is estimated Thomas Edison tried thousands of times to invent the light bulb.

25 years ago the first mill I built was a (fit-in-your-hand sized) home-made windmill... The next was a 4 foot windmill the blades made out of ceder siding, much bigger, mounted it to the top of a pole. What fun we've had over the years.We  could tell stories about a home-made solar hot water collector that worked so well it melted the thermometer, hydrogen HHO production that literally blew our expectations right out of the barrel, and my first home-made all electric yard tractor, but today I'd like to talk about our off-grid journey.

When it comes to going off grid, Go BIG or go home ! Size matters, the more creature comforts you want the bigger the system has to be.

To us going off grid needed to be convenient, without too much compromise, and comfortable, which means that Outhouses are for camping trips, and candle-lit dinners are for special occasions. We wanted to keep those creature comforts like a hot shower every morning and being able to warm up leftovers in the microwave for supper. Lets face it living in -30c Saskatchewan you've got to be able to plug in your car to get to work or to pick up groceries from town and to stave off the long winter blues you need to be able to watch DVD movies, curl up to a good book in-front of a warm fire or surf the Internet in the evenings. otherwise we would all go a little nuts with cabin fever.

Living off the grid you will need both wind, solar and a generator, some days its not windy and some days its not sunny, and some days its not windy or sunny. Depending on where you live and how big your electrical load is, you will have to size each system accordingly.


You need to be willing to learn new things and fix some of it when it breaks, if you currently live on a farm, you already look after your own maintenance of your tractors, manage your own garbage removal, fix the well water system and lets not forget the septic system, so you probably already have what it takes. What farmer hasn't spent a few unbelievably smelly evenings on a septic pump that wont start, prime or shut off correctly, if you already do that much for yourself, then going off grid is not such a monumental task. If you're more dependent on others for some of these repairs – it can still be done, but you'll either need to do some learning, or be prepared to pay someone for the install and ongoing maintenance.

Some people have told us going off grid is unnecessary, but I guess its all about choices and perspective.  An auction mart recently sold a beautiful 5th wheel camper, the owner bought it for 50 grand and they sold it for 25, he used it 3 times. The money he lost could have easily paid for a system like ours.

Our first mistake

We made the switchover to off grid, that same day as we were testing the new system, a family member took a shower and 5 minutes later we experienced our first off grid power outage, oops! yup that happened to us, it only took a few seconds to figure out what went wrong. When showering the old noisy water pump started to supply water to the shower, it cycled on and off like it usually does, then the septic pump kicked and it just so happened at that same time the well pump turned on for another pressure cycle and in a blink of eye your in the dark with an inverter overload. Two pumps running at the same time is one thing , having two large pumps starting at the same moment in time is totally another. However embarrassing our first power outage was, it was an easy fix. We replaced the well pump with a soft start Grundfos Solar Pump and downgraded the septic pump to a 1/3 hp . This modification eased the instantaneous power start up demand on the inverter solving the water pumping issue completely.
Installing a panel

lifting the frame with the tractor

trenching wires from array to house




The Process

The first thing we did was calculate how much power we used per month and per year. This process didn't cost us a penny, just some time and a review of our monthly power bills . Then we figured out where all our power was going. How much the fridge, freezer, lights, the old freezer we had in the garage, house furnace, car warmer, tractor block heater and of course if you have livestock the heated watering bowl. We bought a little device called a “Kill-A-Watt”. It plugs into the wall outlet and you plug an appliance into it and the digital readout will tell you how much power it consumes over time. Some things we had to calculate manually. (watts = volts x amps) if a 100 watt light-bulb is left on for 5 hours that equals 500 watts or half a kilowatt. Its very easy to calculate. Shockingly we discovered that old freezer in the garage was an energy hungry beast from some distant black hole galaxy bent on keeping our power-bill at its maximum. We wasted no time finding it a new home at the dump to be recycled. We also got a brand new energy efficient 18 cu. foot fridge, and a new high efficient front loading washing machine, What woman would complain about that !. The washing machine had a positive double effect on our power consumption, less power used to wash the clothes and less water consumed reducing the water/septic pump cycles in half.

Once we had a handle on where all the electricity was going, we set our goal to 10 KW per day max (winter ). With newer, more efficient appliances, an awareness to how much power the Lights, TV, various chargers, pumps and appliances use, we were able to get our consumption down to about 7 KW per day – while still enjoying the comforts of modern life.

The costs

Just a short 10 years ago Solar panels were selling for $10.00 per watt , today panels are selling as cheep as $1.25 per watt, not to mention the leaps in technology that come along with buying the rest of an off grid system. Just recently the ease of remote monitoring your entire system via the Internet while you are away on vacation became a cheep and easy reality right from the comfort of your smart-phone.

As for the expense, forgo that trip to the tropics one winter and not buy that new 4x4 quad or snow machine and you suddenly have money to buy the windmill and solar panels.

Pay back Period

We get that question asked allot , Our system has a payback period of about 8 years, but this calculation depends on how much you currently pay per year on power and how much you paid for the Renewable energy system installed. If the average farm spends $400.00 per month on power and the the renewable energy system you installed costs $25,000 then the payback period will be 5 years. I haven't spent a lot of time worrying about, the reason is: our off-grid system is a lifestyle choice, and a hobby that brings joy and satisfaction to us both, we are very proud to show it off to anyone who will listen


Every 30 days you will need to equalize, and add water to your batteries to keep them healthy.

Regular Oil changes to the gas Generator. Monthly visual inspection of the wind tower and guy wires making sure they are snug and when it snows, brushing off the panels with a broom but to be honest its not chore, I love cleaning the panels first thing in the morning because it fills up our gas tank for the whole day.



lowering your carbon footprint

reduce pollution

satisfaction of being self sufficient

complete Independence off the power grid,

no Power bills,

Managing alternative energy systems, you will get a whole new education.

Here is the Battery bank there are 8- 6 volt deep cycle batteries 893 amp hours each, wired in series and parallel to get a 24 volt system with the capacity of about 1800 Amp hours, enough power to keep things running smoothly through the night.

I have built an electric lawnmower tractor to use up some of the extra  free electricity we have in the summer time. (we cant seem to use it all)
The garden tractor was in the metal scrap pile with a burned out engine and so was the electric motor components. so instead of throwing it all out i decided to build something usable from a bunch of junk !
I removed the gas engine, and I have added an electric motor and batteries under the seat . Having distributed the bulk of the weight over the driving wheels traction is increased substantially. The unit drives normally with a variable speed  forward and reverse functionality. I built an electric gas peddle on the right side of the tractor for easy control. 
Electric DC motors have tremendous torque and can easily pull large equipment around the farm yard . I have found it very handy to pull the large grain augers around to move grain (those augers are heavy)

Solar electric garden tractor

technical equipment specs

8 Batteries 6 volt deep cycle flooded led acid 893 amp-hour

inverter 4024 Magnasine 4000 watt continuous 5800 watt surge

16 Silicon solar panels 

16 Amorphous Solar panels 

charge controller 4 Midnight solar MPPT 250 classics

Windturbine Bergey XL1 with the clipper controller 1.4 kw max

Backup generator