Lovango resident Dan Boyd shares tips and tricks for going off the grid at last week’s IGBA meeting.
The V.I. Water and Power Authority has not received one penny of the $16,800 Dan Boyd would have owed had he been using grid electricity over the past eight years.
Instead Boyd and the other few residents of Lovango Cay — which sits just off Love City and is considered a part of Cruz Bay Quarter, St. John — have relied on solar and wind generated power for all of their electrical needs.
Boyd discussed his $10,250 solar and wind generated power system with about 30 residents at a Wednesday evening, January 5, Island Green Building Association meeting on the second floor of The Marketplace.
While Boyd has called Lovango home for the past 12 years, his current system was installed eight years ago, and he’s been tweaking and improving it ever since. Despite some technical difficulties with a slide projector, Boyd shared useful knowledge, in layman’s terms, which he’s gained from drawing all the power he and his wife consume simply from the sun and the wind on Lovango Cay.
While motivated by necessity — WAPA doesn’t supply or offer electricity to Lovango — Boyd is also driven to keep his environmental footprint light for personal reasons, like his granddaughter.
“I believe in sustainable power because we have to start looking out for future generations,” Boyd said.
The backbone of Boyd’s system is composed of eight 200 watt solar panels which are mounted at an 18-degree angle and face south to take full advantage of the tropical rays. With solar panels it’s important to use stainless steel bolts and keep wires protected, Boyd explained.
“We really are in a salt water environment,” said Boyd. “You need water-tight conductors. It really does help out.”
Boyd also showed the home of a Lovango neighbor, who didn’t move to the cay to give up his air conditioning or hot tub, which runs on 7000 watts of power. Boyd and his wife, however, approached their off-the-grid life differently.
“I think if you want to live off the grid, you have to watch your energy consumption,” Boyd said. “We use only two to three kilowatts a day. That is with our refrigerator and everything.”
The average home uses between two and five kilowatts of energy an hour, according to Boyd.
A big part of the Boyds’ reduced energy consumption comes from their D/C fridge, solar hot water tank and a simple clothesline.
“The dryer is actually one of the biggest consumptions of power,” he said. “When you want to live sustainably, you have to think about that.”
Boyd also depends on his 400 watt Air X Marine wind generator, which he purchased for $600 and had rebuilt after three years for $250. As wind generators go, positioning the instrument in the best place on one’s property is important, Boyd explained.
“If you want to put a wind generator on your property, monitor where the winds blows so you can find the best place to position it,” he said. “I like using our wind generator at night when we’re not making any power from our solar panels. It keeps our batteries topped off.”
The solar and wind generators are used to keep Boyd’s 16 six-volt golf cart batteries full, from which he draws all of his power needs. For battery banks, Boyd suggested keeping them covered and ventilated.
“They build up hydrogen, so keeping the battery bank ventilated is important,” he said. “Also keep the battery bank covered and out of the elements. That really does make a difference.”
To keep those batteries full on cloudy and windless days, Boyd also relies on a small standby generator.
“We use the generator if our batteries get really low,” he said. “You really want to keep your batteries up in the 90 percent charged range. If you keep them in the 90 percent range you can keep them for 10 years — three times longer than if you let them get down to 70 percent.”
Boyd also discussed his three boats, used to commute to St. John and to go off-shore fishing, and his Daihatsu truck on Lovango which gets between 30 and 35 miles a gallon. Living on Lovango makes Boyd think of every single item he purchases.
“If it doesn’t go up in smoke, everything you bring in, you have to take out,” he said.
The single best way to make a difference in energy consumption is simply to know what one is using, Boyd added.
“The biggest key to saving power is to know how much energy you are consuming,” he said. “That is just money out of your pocket. And at 39-cents a kilowatt, I believe solar is the answer.”
As a supporting IGBA professional, Boyd is available through the group to answer questions about solar and wind power and more. For more information call Karen Vahling, IGBA’s development director, at 227-1110.