Gaining Energy Independence Using Sun and Wind Power

Rex A. Ewing and his wife gain energy independence by using the renewable sources of sun and wind to power their home.

| October/November 2002

How a Colorado couple gained energy independence with a lot of gumption and a little elbow grease.

Big decisions never come easily, especially when they go against the grain. So when my wife LaVonne and I told our small-town friends that we intended to untether ourselves from the utility companies to gain energy independence, you can imagine the picture this conjured up in their minds: a pair of misguided eccentrics sitting on a hard bench in a crude cabin, huddling around a dim, 12-volt bulb reading dog-eared books with oversized type, while bare wires spark and leaky batteries sizzle in the dark, cold recesses.

Actually, that image wasn't too far from my thoughts three years ago when I knew next to nothing about renewable energy. But we had owned our Colorado mountain property since the late 1980s, and it was time to move out of the flatlands and into the green, spacious hills outside of Masonville, on the edge of the Rocky Mountains. The unwieldy mortgage on the farm alone was enough to tip our hand. But I'd also long ago promised to build LaVonne a log home. Even though she never held my feet to the fire on it, I knew my promise was a debt she dearly wanted paid.

So we sold our lowland farm in the spring of 1999, hauled our belongings up the steep mountain roads and established a comfortable, but modest existence in small cabin, with a few tools and an old, cantankerous Coleman gas generator.

I'd like to say using solar and wind power was a high-minded motivation to save the planet, but our decision-like everyone else's in our area — really — was dictated by the fact that the nearest power line was at least $14,000 away. We figured we could configure a commendable wind and solar system for close to the same price of a few ugly poles and a lot of wire, and avoid a lifetime of electric bills. We were right: By doing the work ourselves, we installed a complete, trouble-free system for less than 512,000.

While I busied myself with plans for the construction of our new house, LaVonne researched suppliers, compared prices and finally ordered everything we needed to generate our own electricity.

4/20/2015 9:58:02 AM

$512,000? Over half a million for a "complete, troublefree" renewable energy system? Please tell me that's a typo. I'm no expert, but I am sure I could have powered that house for one tenth that figure.

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