Life off the grid on Johnson Lane

David and his wife Elizabeth Schumann are Johnson Lane residents that are off the grid. They moved here from Sunnyvale, Calif., because they felt Carson Valley had fewer government controls, Mr. Schumann says.

When their house was built, the Schumanns wanted to be independent of the power company so they had a 10-panel solar power system put in with 12 deep cell batteries in a collection box that power a 110 inverter to run their house electricity and a 220 inverter to run their irrigation system and well pump.

These panels can collect about 21 amp hours of power between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and they follow the sun automatically with a Watsun Solar Tracker, unlike my Aunt Bonnie's where she has to go out and turn hers by hand several times a day.

The Schumanns also have a wind generator that can produce an additional 10 to 14 amp hours of power that, according to the federal government, only makes a sound as loud as a human's voice around 68.6 dB. As a last resort, say if we had two weeks of cloudy weather, they do have a diesel generator.

What would a system like this cost? Mr. Schumann figures the solar panels were about $30,000 and the wind generator about $6,000. That sounds like a lot, but here's the best part - the public utility commission sends the Schumanns a renewable energy credit of nearly $2500 a year.

On top of that, the Schumanns can sell power back to Sierra Pacific when they make more than they can use. When they get a cumulative meter on the wind generator, they'll be able to sell even more of the power to Sierra Pacific, which helps the power company comply with the federal requirement to purchase a certain percentage of their power from renewable energy recourses.

I asked what their biggest energy use is and Mr. Schumann said they have central air conditioning that really drains the power in July and August. So he showed me his bill from August, it was 33 cents plus a $6 customer charge. Wow, this sounds like a great investment if you are going to live in your home for 15 years or so. Then you could have that large investment paid for and then it would be gravy.

Why is it you don't have solar hot water, I asked next. He said he was looking into that now. He loves the idea of being self-reliant.

If you are interested in this type of a set-up, I am sure Mr. Schumann would love to answer your questions also, just give me a call.

-- Lisa Welch is a Johnson Lane resident and can be reached at 267-9350.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment