Bedford Co., VA - Even though we could all use cheaper ways to power our homes, the drive to implement renewable energy sources still has a long way to go before turning mainstream. But a Bedford County man started his own experiment with renewable energy five years ago.
Roger Beale is a retired electronics technician at his New London home. He's always liked engineering, electronics and renewable energy.
"When I went into the Navy, everything changed for me... seemed like I was in the books all the time," he said.
Tired of relying on generators every time the power went out, he set out to build his own wind turbine. In six months, after making several trips to the hardware store and gathering scrap metal, he was generating power.
"The pipe is old chain link fence... top rail."
The entire structure is homemade, even the contents of the turbine: A series of rotating magnets.
"But there are 32 magnets rare-earth magnets. And a wound my own coils. Copper coils," said Beale.
The tower extends 100 feet into the sky. If the winds get too strong in excess of 50 miles per hour, there's an automatic shut off involved, which folds the blades up and shuts the system down for safety.
Raising or lowering the tower takes about three hours, but he does not have to do it very often.
"I take it down about once a year to grease the main bearing. That's basically it," said Beale.
Summer has less wind than the winter, but it is sunnier. So two years ago, he added solar panels.
A series of controllers governs the electrical flow of the entire system: either to the house, to the AEP grid, or to charge the batteries. Similar to those used in golf carts, these sixteen batteries give him 24 hours of power.
It was very useful when the 2012 derecho hit.
"Yes, it'd like to scare me to death," said Beale.
But the change to his monthly electric bill is obvious.
"Seventy two. It used to run a 140."
Beale says he put about $10,000 into the system, so he does not expect a full return on his investment. He simply enjoys the process of constructing, and of course, having power when no one else does.