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Lake Michigan

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over 15,000 light bulbs available online.


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Solar Pool Heaters & Solar Spa Heaters








  • ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.
  • Save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb's lifetime.




  / month

per kWh

Monthly $

Yearly $

















































































Total Electric Paid after 20 years


The above calculations assume (only) 800kWh per month usage, starting at 12 cents per kWh, increasing 6% a year every year (rounded off)  for 20 years.


The following chart is calculated the same way as above starting with 12 cents per kWh except I only used 2% through 5% increases, with 3 different kWh usages per month, and then both 20 and 40 years.  Note: The average annual inflation rate is often higher then 2%.

PDF Versions of both charts (printable)

800kwh month

2% increase/yr

3% increase/yr

4% increase/yr

5% increase/yr

20 years





40 years





1000kWh month

2% increase/yr

3% increase/yr

4% increase/yr

5% increase/yr

20 years





40 years





1200kWh month

2% increase/yr

3% increase/yr

4% increase/yr

5% increase/yr

20 years





40 years






The Enphase Micro-Inverter


For more information on Net Metering click here

Also on this site is the list of state participating in net metering.





State Incentives for Renewable Energy



Average Sun and Wind Speeds for West Michigan

Average Daily Insolation Availability near Muskegon Michigan















0 Degrees (Flat or Horizontal)













3.8 hrs daily

28 Degrees (Latitude -15^) *













4.3 hrs daily

43 Degrees (at Latitude tilt)













4.2 hrs daily

58 Degrees (Latitude +15^)













3.9 hrs daily

90 Degrees (Straight up or Vertical)













2.8 hrs daily

* A 6/12 Pitch Roof is approximately 26.5 degrees, an optimal angle at this latitude, but not the only angle that would work. 

The summer sun will produce over 3 times the electricity that winter sun will.

Average Wind Speed near Muskegon Michigan














Average Wind Speed (in m/s) at 626 feet above sea level near the 43rd parallel













4.8 m/s

(in mph)













10.7 mph**

**The above readings are an average taken over 30 years. The anemometer recorded the 10.7mph average wind speed at an elevation of 20 feet off the ground, the average wind speed will increase to 11.3mph at 30 feet, to 12mph at 45 feet, 13.3mph at 60 feet, and a 14.6mph average at 120 feet.

Winter winds are stronger then summer winds.


Power Curve Example



Enter M/S and click "convert" to get MPH

          Meters Per Second


          Miles Per Hour



Watch a video

Same Video but for Dial-up Connection

Another version of this product




Typically, the higher the tower the higher the wind speed at any given time.







Thin Film Laminates: Watch a Video




Watch a video on inverters






"The U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) estimates that Michigan has the potential to be one of the top eight states for wind energy generation in the country, making Michigan an attractive customer market for wind turbine manufacturers.  The USDOE has also cited a study by the Renewable Energy Policy Project that found Michigan is the fourth best- positioned state to expand wind power manufacturing jobs.  Many wind turbine manufacturers are sold out of their product for one or two years down the road.",1607,7-136-3452-200347--,00.html.





Wind Speed Conversion Table

Meters per Second (m/s)

Miles per Hour (mph)



































Meters per Second (m/s)          Miles per Hour (mph)

























To calculate your own visit here


FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and other Information

General Questions
What choices / options are available in alternative energy?   There is actually a rather large and diverse assortment of alternative energy products each with various options for one to consider.  Each also has it's individual pro's and con's, price points, energy production and savings.  Plus, what will work for one location may not work in another, even if the installations are next door to each other.  However, without going into too great a detail, here are the general product choices:

Wind Power; either a vertical wind turbine (VAWT) or horizontal wind turbine (HAWT) mounted on a pole, tower, building, or other structure.  Some wind turbines are used to pump water, but for purposes of this site, the models we are discussing are used for generating DC or AC electricity. Either they will have an inverter built-in or an inverter will be needed to produce AC electricity. (Inverters convert electricity from DC to AC).

Solar PV; photovoltaic solar modules mounted on a roof, ground rack, pole mount or roof rack that produce DC electricity that is converted (using an inverter) into AC current.  

Solar Hot Water; a solar water heating system that contains a liquid that is heated by the sun, pumped to a storage tank where the pipes containing the hot liquid heats your tap water, then circulates back to the solar panels to be re-heated.  This system can be used solely for normal hot water use or for hot water and heating purposes if you already have a boiler system.  It produces no electricity and in fact uses a small amount for the pump.  Most electric hot water heaters consume $360 to $480 per year ($30 to $40 per month) in electricity depending on the size of the heater, the heat setting, and your water usage.  The idea with this product is to reduce or eliminate that energy consumption.

Micro-Hydro; basically a water turbine turned by falling water.  The most efficient means to create electricity but the most unlikely to be available to the normal household or business.  

All three... Wind, Solar PV and Hydro electricity can be used in grid-tie, off grid, and battery backed-up systems (more on these later).


Do I have to re-wire my house (or business) and purchase all new DC appliances?


No.  Two or three decades ago your only option was pretty much to live off the grid.  You needed batteries to store the power you produced, and then you either had all DC appliances (and thus DC wiring) or you used an inefficient inverter to convert the DC to AC power.  4 days of cloudy weather and you ran out of power.  Times have changed, dramatically.  Inverters today are much more efficient.  Power companies in most states are required to allow what's called net metering (where you send your excess juice to the grid turning your meter backwards).  In a grid-tie system with net metering you do not even need batteries.  Your alternate energy equipment will produce electricity that by means of an inverter or inverters will hook directly into your breaker box in your house or business.  If it's cloudy or not windy you simply use power as normal from your utility company.  All your wiring and appliances remain just as they are.  Though I will warn you, once you have the means to produce your own power you will find yourself conserving energy day and night, simply because it's at the forefront of your mind.  Everything from what you turn on and off to what you buy and plug into the wall you will weigh as to whether it is needed or not and how much energy it will use.


What does it cost? A simple question with no simple answer.  In fact, it produces a ton of questions instead.  Do you want to go with solar or wind or both?  Is your roof pointing the right way for solar?  Do you have good wind at your location?  What are the zoning ordinances or building codes at your location?  How close to your home will the wind turbine be located?  How close to the neighbors?  Do you want battery backup for if/when the power goes out?  What grants, rebates, or tax incentives are there and of them what do you qualify for?  Which product or products appeal to you?  Does your utility company have net metering?  How much do they charge for net metering hook up?  How much power do you need to produce?  Do you want to simply reduce your energy bill or eliminate it?  What are your future needs going to be?  There is more... but you get the idea.  If you're serious about producing your own power then the only way to get a dollar figure is to have an assessment done for your particular location by someone who you can work with to get all these questions answered.  My telling you it will be between $5,000 and $50,000 isn't going to be of much help.


How much can I save?  How long before I've made my money back?


Another good question that generates questions.  How many kilowatts do you currently use?  How much are you being charged for your energy needs currently?  What kind of heat do you have?  What kind of hot water heater?  How many hours of good sun do you average per day on a yearly basis?  What is your average wind speed yearly?  At what distance off the ground is that measurement?  How much will your utility company be charging you next year?  The year after that?  5 years after that?  10 years?  The answer to how long before you can make your money back is probably going to fall somewhere between 5 and 20 years, with 12 years being the average (if there is such a thing) the trick is to get it closer to 5 years then 20.


Why would I want to buy something that will take 12 years to get my money back on?


First, we do not yet know if that is the correct number of years it will in fact take.  All the above questions plus some more will need to be addressed first before a final number can be closely estimated.  However, that being said, here are some things to consider.  Wind generators typically have a 5 year warranty with a 20 to 30 year life expectancy.  Solar panels typically have a 20 year warranty with a 40 to 50 year life expectancy.  Both tend to add to the value of your home and increase it's resale value.  Your energy rates will not be going down, ever, and we both know it.  Depending on the system you install, the energy you consume, and your age, you may never pay an utility bill after you retire for the rest of your life.  Plus, reducing your carbon footprint has a positive affect on the environment that has value not only to you but the generations to come.  


Can you explain the difference between battery backed-up systems and grid-tie again?


In a battery backed-up system you still receive power from the grid if needed, but you also have batteries to supply power which get recharged from your solar array or your wind turbine.  Excess power (anything more then you are using and after the batteries are fully recharged) is still net metered back to the power company.

The battery backed-up system has several additional components to it (compared to a plain grid-tie system).  If the source of the power is AC it must be converted to DC.  If the source is already DC then you don't need this item obviously.  The DC is then sent to a charge controller which prevents the batteries from being overcharged.  There are the batteries themselves which must be kept out of the weather, above freezing, and with adequate air circulation to prevent gases from building up (explosions are but one concern with batteries).  The batteries must also be kept from fully discharging.  Full discharging can take years off the life of these types of batteries.  The inverter then changes the power from DC to AC.  There must also be a cut-off to the grid should the utility lose power so that the energy is available for use locally but does not enter the grid.

Net Metering means the power company will accept the AC energy produced that is not immediately used and give you credit for that much energy.  The meter will run backwards giving you a credit. When you are not producing all of your own needs you draw power from the grid and your meter runs normally.  Some utility company policies state that all unused credits will be void after one year.  If you send them more then you use over a year's time they just keep the excess.  In most cases you will not be refunded for sending more energy to the utility company then you used over that 12 month period.  

In a sense, the power company IS your battery.. If you produce too much they get it, and when you don't produce enough you use theirs.  The meter moving both ways nets it out and you only get charged for what you use over and above what you sent them that month.

Highlights of the current Net Metering program in Michigan


So if I have net metering and the utility loses power I won't have any power unless I have the battery backup system?


That is correct.  If your utility loses power you are required to stop feeding electricity into the grid immediately (the inverter will sense this and shut off automatically).  The risk to workers on the line is too grave to allow anything other then a complete shut down.  If this is a concern and you want or need power when the utility is down, you should probably first consider purchasing and installing a diesel or gas generator.  The overall initial cost will be considerably less, annual maintenance will be less, the lifespan will be greater (batteries tend to last only 5 to 8 years max), and for short power outages it will be quite sufficient.  
What if I want to go off grid entirely?


Anyone can, of course, but...

You will be responsible for all your power creation and consumption.  If it's cloudy for a week straight and you have only solar the batteries will eventually run out and you will not have any power.  If you have a wind generator and there's no wind, same thing.  Should some part of the system fail you will be without power until it can be repaired.  You must stick to a strict regiment of battery and system maintenance.  You must also be prepared to turn off and keep off any and all non-essential appliances in low energy producing conditions to conserve power for required items such as water and refrigeration.  

Going off grid makes sense if there is no utility in which to get power from nearby (such as in very remote locations) or if the utility plans to charge you many tens of thousands of dollars for hookup... otherwise it only makes sense to those individuals who enjoy the ultimate in self sufficiency. 

If you live where the majority of the population lives and have ready access to an electric grid it makes more sense to go with battery assisted grid tie (battery backed-up) "just in case" you need their juice. 


What is better, solar or wind?  Or can I go with both?


Each location is different.  Some locations are in a valley and do not have good wind but does have good sun.  Others may have no southerly exposure for good sun but may have good wind with a little extra height.  Only an on-site inspection can answer this question.

If the site allows, then yes, both are an option.  In fact, it might even be preferred.  Many days when it is bright and sunny there is no wind, and most or at least many windy days are cloudy. In addition, solar produces no energy at night while wind generators can do so. A system that combines both is more apt to produce the energy expected without having to oversize either. The correct balance of each depends on the typical local weather conditions, the layout of the property location, the landscape and buildings on the property, and other factors like budget and even current tax law (explained later).


Can I add more later?  How easy is it to expand a system?  Must one buy the whole thing at once?


The short answer is yes.  The longer answer is:

Depends on the system(s) you are looking at. If using the Enphase inverters it is very easy to add on later, it's conceivable to start with even just one panel and add up to 15 more later to make up a 16 panel array (you can even have more then one array), though the overall expense would be slightly more this way. It is not unheard of for a home to have more then one wind systems either, but if the inverter isn't built-in, of if we're talking about solar without Enphase inverters, then the inverter that IS being used may not be large enough to handle the additional input, and a new one may be required. If future expansion is deemed likely then this should be planned for in advance of the first installation.  Get the bigger inverter for future expansion rather then having to sell you used one and replace it with a larger one.  Another problem with expansion is the wiring.  The more juice the wiring must carry the bigger the wire must be.  If the wire isn't large enough it can overheat and even catch fire.  Your system installer is very aware of this danger and will tell you if the wiring needs to be replaced.  You could end up having to replace a lot of the copper wire should expansion be needed unless it was planned for from the beginning.  It all depends on what you are looking at having installed and what you already have installed and what was preplanned for (if anything was needed to be preplanned for at all).


Does it cost twice as much to produce twice as much power?


Not usually.  There are costs involved in an installation that occur once per site (such as the permit, the net-metering meter, inspections, monitoring equipment, conduit, etc) and there are costs that occur once every so many pieces (number of panels, number of turbines, etc).  To say a 4kw system will cost twice as much as a 2kw system would not normally be accurate.  If more then one sized system quote is desired you might mention that during the initial on-site inspection..


Where are the products you sell made?


Most of the products are made in the USA.  Uni-Rac, Quick Mount PV, SolarWorld Modules, Enphase Inverters, Outback Inverters, and all the wind turbines are made in the USA.  REC solar modules are made in Sweden.  Other modules are made in Germany or elsewhere in Europe.  (Europe is much more into solar and wind then the USA and has been for quite some time, in fact Germany and Spain lead the world in solar installations.)  These are all products which I sell.  I tend to steer away from products made in China and some that are made in Japan.  In fact, all items I quote are made in the USA unless specified otherwise.


What credits, grants or tax breaks are there available?


This section is changing almost monthly so re-visit here and the News and the Grants pages regularly (or sign up for the newsletter) to keep informed of this fast changing topic.

See the "News" link (on this site) for some more details on both the State and the Federal credit situation.

See the Grants & Rebates page for details on Tax Credits, Grants, and Rebates.


Why would I not want to try to get a system that will provide for all my energy needs?


Economics.  Your energy may be billed to you in an incremental system.  For example; the first 600kWh per month may cost you .12 per kW.  The next 400kWh per month may be costing you .18 per kW.  You will recoup your investment much quicker installing a system that produces that last 400kWh per month then if you try to produce 1,000kWh per month.

You can play the tax incentives game.  Install a small system now and qualify for the current tax credit, then hope a new credit is made law down the road and take advantage of that by installing more then.

Perhaps you currently heat with fuel oil.  I've heard someone tell me that at $4 per gallon for heating oil they will spend in excess of $4,000 for heat this winter.  Installing an electric geo-thermal system (for example) and either solar or wind devices to cover just the increase in electric usage may allow a person to pay for their new heating system in just a few years but provide heat for decades at no additional yearly expense. 

Then there are the plain old fashion budget concerns.  Splitting up an installation into multiple installations may allow a home or business owner to avoid arranging for financing of the system thus saving even more money.


Wind Questions
If I use about 1.5 kilowatts of power per hour then a 1.5kw wind turbine should be all I need, right?

No.  The "rated" output of wind generators are something of an unobtainable number. It's not that the generator isn't capable of producing that output, it's just that in order to do so it would have to have a continual source of wind at the rated wind speed. 

For example, a wind generator rated at 2kw at 32mph would have to have constant (as in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) 32mph winds to produce the full 2kw of power. In my area that wind speed has been obtained exactly once in the past year, and then not for very many hours at that. 

If you are using the rated output to compare makes and models of wind generators you should also note that no two generators use the same wind speed for their output number. One might be 1.2kw at 20mph, the next might be 1.5kw at 25mph... the 1.5kw might only produce 1.0kw at 20mph, but you will have to dig deeper to find that out.  And, to top that off, depending on where you live, you may only see 20mph winds 12 times a year.

Wind generators do not produce twice as much energy at double the wind speed.  (read that one again carefully)  Typically they will produce from 4 to 8 times as much energy at double the wind speed. 

The reverse is also true... half the wind speed will generate one fourth to one eighth the energy. Then, at even lower levels of wind it will produce nothing at all. All wind generators have a "cut-in" speed. This is the how fast the wind must be blowing before any energy is produced at all.

The best way to establish how much energy a wind turbine will produce for you is to first find out how much your average wind speed is at your location and then do the calculations from there... assuming you can find the information needed to do the math for the turbine you wish to purchase.  

One more thing, in my area there are a number of personal weather stations, two of them are about 3 miles apart, but one is at a considerably higher elevation then the other, with fewer trees near by... it's average wind speed is nearly 70% more then the other one.  (Note: neither station is all that high off the ground).


What about noise?


All wind turbines make noise.  It's not just the turbines but also the inverters.  Many manufacturers have taken steps to reduce the noise level of both.  Some designs are inherently quieter then others.  For example, most VAWT wind turbines are quieter then HAWT wind turbines.  The trade off may be less energy production per unit.  Which unit is right for you and why is yet to be determined.

Another issue involving noise are roof mount turbines.  Aside from the structural concerns that must be taken into account, any moving object connected solidly to a structure can cause a vibration like humming sound throughout the structure.  This potential must be considered before installation preferably by visiting an existing installation to hear for yourself the noise generated.


What is the best wind turbine for the money?


Another simple question that will generate more questions.  The first is "at what average wind speed?"  The next is "how much power is needed?"  There are many other factors that would go into it as well, such as how much height is required to get above any obstacles and installation costs over and above the cost of the unit itself.  

Alternative energy is a growing industry, with a lot of competition, and new technology is coming out almost on a monthly basis, so what is "best" one month may not be "best" the next.  What is "best" for you may not be what is "best" for your neighbor.  

Having said all that, the products I carry are the "best" for the various situations I encounter.  Now it's just a matter of determining which of them is right for you.


How much room does a wind turbine require?


Generally, you want the turbine to have 250 to 300 feet or more of clearance around it with the turbine itself being 20 feet above the tallest object.  Some tree removal may be desired before installation (or after installation but I recommend it be done before to avoid potential damage to the turbine, depending on the situation).


Why does the height matter? The higher you go the faster the wind but the more the installation will cost.  A 10.25 mph wind at 10 feet off the ground will be around 12 mph at 30 feet and 14 mph at 90 feet.  You have to balance this along with the lay of the land and the height of the objects near by with the cost of the tower.  

The chart at the left shows wind speed in miles per hour along the bottom for the tower height along the left side.  The data is as follows:

Tower height in feet








wind speed mph








In addition to the consideration of obstacles, land contours, and costs there is the additional consideration of the local zoning and building codes.  In some areas you may not erect a tower over 30 feet.  In others, it may be 45 feet.  

One final consideration is servicing.  Be it repair or maintenance.  The higher the turbine the harder and more expensive it will be to maintain it or if the need arises, to repair it.


Solar Questions
Why do Solar Modules (also called Panels) cost so much?


The primary ingredient used in the making of a traditional solar cell is silicon, a raw material that is often in short supply.  In addition, making a solar panel is a very labor intensive endeavor, as you can witness by watching this video on YouTube.
What about the new thin film solar products, they're supposed to be at least half the cost?


There are several problems with thin film products, at least right now, and the first is that most manufacturers are back-logged for orders for many many months and even if they weren't they are only selling in very large quantities.  Their customers are usually power companies not individuals.  I'll have to do some comparisons but I believe thin film products tend to be less efficient at creating electricity when compared to silicon products with the same square feet of space.  That's not to say that they aren't economical, but it may require more roof space to produce the same amount of electricity.  


So there are no thin film products available?


No.  One manufacture in Michigan has a product available, it is a thin film laminate.

Thin film laminate is attached directly to metal roofing.  It reduces the expense of installation by eliminating the need for mounting brackets.  This product is currently available and in desired quantities with only a small amount of lead time.  View the information on this product by clicking here.  Shelby Solar and Wind can install a metal roof with Uni-Solar thin film laminates if the location meets installation criteria, specifically the location of the roof in comparison to the sun.  Contact us for details or to obtain a quote.  (There is also a video of this product on you tube, see link to the left).


What about noise?


You would think that solar modules with no moving parts would be utterly quiet, and you would be correct.  But the inverter that converts the DC to AC power does make a humming noise, the bigger it is (more power it can convert) the louder it can be.  Location of the inverter is an important consideration in designing a system.  One way to avoid the noise issue is to use the Enphase Micro-Inverters.  Each micro-inverter does a fraction of the work of a traditional full system inverter and thus each creates very  little noise (plus they are on the roof well away from anyone).  That being said, the actual amount of noise for any inverter in a residential environment is very low regardless.  This is more of a concern for commercial installations.


Misc. Questions
What other things should I be aware of?


Shading has the single biggest affect on solar after the total lack of sunlight. A leaf, bird droppings, shade from a tree or building or even a chimney can severely reduce the amount of energy production for the entire system until corrected. It is essential that all potential shading problems be addressed before installation. Shaded panels should never be on the same string as non-shaded panels for a shaded panel will affect the entire string unless the technology can accommodate this issue.  There are several technologies available to use if removal of the obstacle is not an option.

Interference has the single biggest affect on wind generators (after the lack of wind of course). Trees and buildings that were not there or full grown when the system was installed can affect the flow of wind hitting the turbine. So can landscape changes. Consideration of the wind generator location should be made before planting or building near the system.

Voltage. If the inverter is built-into the unit then the output is AC power, usually 220 volts. Care should be given not to damage any wiring coming from the system. If the inverter is a single unit near the power meter then all output wires to the unit are DC and may carry over 500 volts. DC voltage is much more dangerous at these levels then AC. Never work on wiring after installation without ensuring the power is cut off throughout the system. (note: if the Sun is out, the lines are live)

Refer to manufacturers directions for cleaning solar panels. Use only the correct solvents and means of debris removal. Never walk on your panels. Do not climb wind towers. Be sure to follow proper maintenance procedures.

Permission must be received before a system can be connected to the power grid from your utility company, there can be fees associated with this and it can be time consuming in some cases. Be prepared for delays.

Product is in great demand, not only in the USA but world-wide. There is a lead time for many items ordered, however, my distributor does stock a great deal of product to reduce or eliminate this lead time.

All installations require permits and inspections. Each inspector may require different elements to be installed, at the home owners expense. To avoid unexpected costs, full plans need to be presented during the permit application phase.

If a roof is to be replaced the entire solar installation will need to be removed and re-installed, it is advisable not to install a solar energy system on an older roof that is in need of replacement. Solar panels have a tendency to lengthen the life of standard roofing products but not indefinitely.

In order to install a wind system a great deal of cement will need to be used to anchor the tower, thought needs to be given as to how to transport the cement to the site. In order to install solar it is necessary to attach it to the roof (unless it's a free standing system), the attachments to the roof should be properly flashed to prevent leaks.  The system must also be properly grounded to reduce or eliminate damage by lightning.  One more note: the glass panels housing the solar modules are typically rated for 1 inch hail at 140mph.






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