Growing electricity | Living the Country Life

Growing electricity

A Maine family is coupling self-reliance and new technology on their farm
Photo courtesy of Peter Hedden

Peter Hedden and Tracy Wilkerson of Bethel, Maine are working hard to sustainably develop their 100-acre farm. They grow much of their own food and hay for the animals, which includes the draft horses they use to log the timber on their land.

Peter says as they considered energy choices for their rustic farmhouse, they decided they wanted to grow their own electricity, too.

"We initially decided not to go off the grid, so we are connected to the grid right now, but we have a wind turbine, and we have a 3-kilowatt photovoltaic system," says Peter. "Between the two of them what we have tried to do is offset our electrical usage."

Because they’re still tied to the grid, Peter says they never have a bill of zero. But, if they make more electricity than they use in a month, they receive credit, which is called net metering. In the summer months they can store up those credits and use them during the winter to keep electric bills low.

The farmhouse doesn’t need much electricity for heat in the winter, but the family has no problem staying toasty warm.

"Our house is a passive solar house so it’s oriented with a lot of glazing to the south, so we get a lot of sun. We have a 36’x14’ concrete slab that has radiant tubing in it, and we heat that with an electric hot water heater," says Peter. "So in the wintertime, that’s our heat source. We don’t have any other heat source besides a wood stove. We pull the wood right out of our woods so we’re not purchasing the wood."  

Even the draft horses are comfy – Peter says there are twelve solar panels mounted on their shed to keep the water heaters from freezing up. The solar energy also feeds into the house, to offset some of the home electrical usage.

Learn more about how the Hedden's are creating their own energy

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