On (being off) the grid: LudHaven Solar, and #Powerwall.

Michigan's Upper Peninsula - I grew up there. It's a very special part of the U.S. - remote, sparsely populated, and wild. Oh, and did I mention beautiful? Proof:

LudHaven - on the banks of the St. Mary's River, which connects Lake Superior to Lake Huron.

LudHaven - on the banks of the St. Mary's River, which connects Lake Superior to Lake Huron.

My parents live here, at LudHaven our place on the St. Mary's River about 26 miles south of Sault Ste. Marie. In the 1990s they found this little point with water on 3 sides that juts out into the river, with an old ramshackle cabin on property, and bought it with the intention of one day building the house they would retire to - and one day myself and my family will as well. We love this piece of land, one of the most special I've ever walked. In a place this remote, some days you half expect to turn around and see French Voyageurs (who helped explore the area in the 1600-1700s) paddling by in a canoe, reading by candlelight and lantern after sunset. 

Well, that historical image with the lantern part may soon be truer than you think:

This article in the Detroit Free Press explains the controversy.

A recent update in the Milwaukee Sentinel brings us more up to date - State government has staved off the increase for the time, being, but for how long? The upshot is that not too many people care about the power grid in the Upper Peninsula. Too few people, too little money. Much of the grid still functions on technology that dates back to the 1950s - 60s, and it's basically being held together with duct tape. And the power plant in Marquette, a main source of power for the local grid, as a coal-fired facility will soon be illegal. And for good reason, as it pours mercury and other heavy metals into the atmosphere/water in one of the prettiest places in the world. 

This huge strip of land has barely 300,000 people living on it. The grid is a mess, the politics are a mess, and and my parents already lose power around once a month. They do have a gas-powered generator that will run the base systems of the house, but in one instance, after a big windstorm that brought down power all over the Eastern U.P. for 3 days, Dad had to drive for nearly an hour before he found a gas station that had electricity to run the pumps, so he could get gas for the generator. Sound exposed? Yup.

So we're going to do something about it.

Is this an answer? Hope so...if, as promised, "It just works."

Is this an answer? Hope so...if, as promised, "It just works."

PowerWall is Tesla's answer to both renewable storage (a huge problem with renewable energy) and pricing spikes from the utility - these batteries are supposed to be able to store energy from solar during the day for use at night, or even buy electricity from the grid at night when it's cheaper, so as not to purchase it during the day when the rates can me higher - but unlike batteries already on the market, with the addition of a smart inverter, they do all of this seamlessly - according to Elon Musk of Tesla, "It just works."

Elon Musk premiered these batteries at a fancy event a few months ago. They're to be released late in the third quarter of 2015... and based solely on the hype, I WANT SOME. But how will they perform under real world conditions? Remains to be seen. I think they may need a test home with the particular challenges of the Upper Peninsula - don't you?

Specs. Notice the continuous output - a possible problem?

Specs. Notice the continuous output - a possible problem?

Our hope/plan is a full PV (photovoltaic) system, 20,000 kWh/year, with grid-tie operability and battery backup. Translation: We'll have power no matter what, and if necessary on most days the grid won't matter. My Dad looked into a PV system years ago, but dispensed with the idea when he did the math and realized that "It won't pay back during my lifetime." Well, it'll pay back during mine.

So I'm asking for your help, Folk of the Interwebs; any resources you can toss my way as KB and I figure our plan to make this happen would be most appreciated.

Also, anyone have an in with Elon Musk's PR people? LudHaven would make a damn fine model home to do one of the first installs of PowerWall, don't you think? Let's tell him so. :)

On why I'm a moonshiner at heart. #MapleSyrup #BOOZE

I was raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on a large parcel of land full of mature hardwood trees, mostly maple.  When I was about 8 years old or so, my Dad drilled a hole in the trunk of one of those trees, hammered in a tap, and stuck a bucket underneath. Later that month he'd made a huge mess, and about a half gallon of maple syrup. And then just a few years later, it was a fully fledged business:

This business is essentially distilling at heart, only distilling sugar instead of alcohol. Thus, I believe that it's no surprise that I have a rather healthy obsession with Craft Beverages (check out: The Happy Hour Guys).  

My folks still make syrup, on a different parcel in the U.P. - and every year I do everything I can to lug 5 gallon buckets through the snow.

The lesson? Find your Craft. Find it, practice it, and share it.