Rural Neighborhood Chooses Off-Grid Microgrids Instead of Paying the Utility

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For the Silvies Valley Ranch outside of Burns, Oregon, off-grid microgrids for each of 600 homes under development makes more financial sense than paying the local utility $7 million to run utility lines to the ranch.

off-grid microgrids

Humless emerged out of its founder’s desire for quieter generation. Image by Mark Rademaker/Shutterstock.com

The eco-friendly ranch and luxury resort, formerly a dude ranch, is located on 140,000 acres in eastern Oregon where visitors and homeowners won’t be allowed to drive gas-powered cars. Instead, they’ll park their cars and will be given electric golf carts for transporation, said Eric Lobdell, vice president of sales for Humless, the company providing the equipment for the microgrids.

The ranch chose to work with Humless about seven months ago, after talking to the utility about connecting the new homes to the utility grid.

“They were told that they would have to pay for it, then pay for the power they used, and that the utility company would then own the lines that Silvies paid to have run to their own property,” said Lobdell.

Each home, ranging in size from 2,000 to 6,000 square feet, will have its own solar off-grid microgrid. The systems will consist of solar panels on each home coupled with a Humless Universal System, a battery system of anywhere from 30-70 kWh, depending on the size of the home.

Built in phases

Over the next two to three years, the project will be built in three phases of 200 homes each.

The Silvies Valley Ranch is an ecologically sustainable Western livestock ranch and guest retreat that features wildlife, cattle and goats. The owners want to rehabilitate and restore the grasslands and rivers.

A propane generator will be available when batteries are low, perhaps when it’s cold or stormy. It will be used only to kick up the battery voltage until the sun comes out, said Lobdell. The company estimates the generator might be used 10% of the time.

How the off-grid microgrids work

The Humless system is unique, the company says, because it has the ability to be both AC and DC coupling simultaneously. AC and DC coupling is related to how the PV panels are connected to the system. Most DC panels are connected through an AC inverter, the company says. Smaller off-grid solar and storage systems generally are DC coupled because DC systems are simpler to build and are less expensive. Typically home and business solar systems are DC connected. But AC coupled systems allow energy to be used more efficiently, the company says.

“By using both PV solar sources simultaneously the Humless UEM is more efficient and effective at charging the energy storage,” he said.

Humless

Photo courtesy Humless

“This has spawned technology and expertise to apply to off-grid living,” said Lobdell. “All of these things are becoming more of a reality here in the US, especially in California,” Lobdell said.

While the Silvies Ranch uses off-grid microgrids, the Humless system also works with grid-tied projects, including virtual power plants, where microgrids buy and sell power from the grid. Humless technology also is used for load shifting and time-of-use applications in grid-tied projects.

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The Humless system can work with any solar PV system.

“We work with some very large partners such as ABB, Delta, Noark, Schneider, MeanWell, and many others.”

Humless has done similar projects in other parts of the world.  The ranch represents the largest project in the US to date.

Seeking quiet

The technology was created by Humless owner Glenn Jakins, who now lives in Utah but lived in South Africa, where the company has another microgrid project underway.

“Since the early nineties, South Africa has had increasingly unreliable power due to poor planning and maintenance, as well as significant growth,” said Lobdell. This has created a need for individuals, businesses and communities to find backup plans for outages.

Owner Jakins created Humless after camping in California, and being disrupted by a loud generator nearby.

He originally created the solar plus storage systems to be used as portable generators or home generators.

“We knew there had to be a better way to travel with power without the noise and environmental toxins,” the company says.

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Comments

  1. Tim Lohrentz says:

    Hi All,
    Could you please let me know if the Off-Grid Microgrid, that you are installing at Silvies Ranch, based on a design that Lloyd Wilford did at 1 Everton Road, Hilcrest, South Africa?
    Thanks
    Tim Lohrentz

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  1. […] California leading the way as preparation for wildfires. (OZY)• A rural Oregon community finds off-grid microgrids are a cost-effective alternative to paying the local utility $7 million to run utility lines for […]

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