Highland Couple Happily Living “Off The Grid”
Bluegrass, Wv – A Highland County couple took advantage of generous federal tax credits to build a home powered by a wind turbine and solar panels.
The federal government provides a 30-percent tax credit for installation of residential solar and wind power systems and geothermal heat pumps, with no maximum amount. The credit is good for new and existing homes and primary and second homes. The tax credit is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2016.
About four years ago, WVLS reporter Keith Carson and his wife Polly Newlon found a beautiful hilltop property, with breathtaking views of Bluegrass Valley. The couple investigated the possibility of building their dream home atop the remote, windy knoll, despite the lack of nearby utilities. The power company told the couple it would cost $18,000 to run a power line to the hilltop and power lines would detract from the scenic vista. So, the Carson’s hired a company from Thomas, West Virginia to design a solar and wind power system for their future home.
The company installed a 2.5 kilowatt wind turbine on top of a 100-foot tower, along with a bank of six 200-watt solar panels and a tracking device to keep the panels pointed at the sun. The system utilizes 32 lead-acid batteries and electronics including inverters, charge controllers and power monitors.
The Carsons have lived in the off-grid home for two-and-a-half years and discovered that the system provides sufficient power for their 2400 square foot, hilltop home. Keith Carson said the couple has not sacrificed modern conveniences to live off the grid.
“I mean we have television, we have stereo, we have computers, we have microwave, you know, all the modern conveniences, so we’re not sacrificing anything, per se, but you do need to be aware of what’s going on around you and try to adjust and schedule things in such a way to make maximum use of the resources that you have” he says.
The total cost of the off-grid power and heating system was $80,000. The federal tax credit will reimburse the Carsons for 30-percent of that amount, or $24,000. Keith Carson said the couple is enjoying the benefit of the tax credit.
“Federal tax credit was really nice,” he says, “thirty percent, off the top of your taxes. For that reason, we’ve paid no federal income tax the last two years and we’ll probably pay little or none this year, as a result of this tax credit.”
The couple has experienced some problems with the wind turbine, when they relied on the solar panels and a backup generator.
“So, in the 30 months we’ve been in the house, the turbine was non-functional for about 10 of those months, due to problems either with the tower or the turbine itself – all of which was repaired under warranty ” Carson says. “Now, the turbine’s been back since June and, so far, it’s been working fine.”
For those interested in off-grid systems, Carson recommended working with an expert, who can design a system for each home’s unique location.
“It’s really nice to have a contractor, who’s knowledgeable and has built these systems,” he says. “We were very lucky to find somebody about an hour-and-a-half away, up in Thomas, West Virginia, who had a lot of good experience installing exactly what we wanted, which was a hybrid, wind-solar system. That’s very important for this area because in the wintertime, we don’t have a lot of sunny days and in the summertime, we don’t have a lot of wind.
“So, in the wintertime, two-thirds of our power is wind and one-third, solar; in the summer it’s just the opposite – two-thirds solar and one-third wind.”
In addition to the federal 30% tax credit, the Commonwealth of Virginia offers limited economic incentives, including a property tax incentive, for the installation of residential renewable energy. The State of West Virginia offers a 30% tax credit, up to $2,000, for the installation of solar electric and heating systems, but not wind power.
For more information on the federal tax credit and other energy saving ideas, see www.energystar.gov.