We lived with various "sustainable" combinations of wind, hydro, solar and diesel generated power for 20 years both aboard our sail boat and our off-grid ranch. With both wind and hydro there are substantial costs (in addition to the initial capital investment) associated with bearing, brush/slipring and armature replacement not to mention impeller deterioriation. In considering all of these various forms of alternative energy the cost per kilowatt hour needs to be factored in.
We found that the average cost of grid supplied energy ranged between 12 and 15 cents per kilowatt hour as opposed to an estimated 40 cents plus per kilowatt hour for solar and hydro power when equipment replacement costs are factored in. The special ambient conditions necessary for availing one's self of hydro and wind energy do not obtain for the vast majority of shore side locations.
So called fossil fueled sources of energy generation obviously make economic and logistic sense only for limited and emergent situations due to their need to be fed.
True stand alone applications where no grid source of power is available will require a means for the storage/regulation of the energy for utilization during windless and sunless periods. For heating purposes a mass consisting of water or other heat storage material such as metal or stone can suffice. For electrical energy storage, current technology forces us into the utilization of batteries and they are not cheap. This old sailor-cum-homesteader found the use of deep cycle lead acid 6 volt "golf cart" batteries to make economic sense. True, recent advances in battery technology have improved their efficiency to a limited extent but the initial capital investment remains high. Additionally, lead acid batteries do not thrive on neglect such as repeated extreme deep discharging or electrolyte starvation.
An example of this problem reared its head with one of our native American neighbors living on Yurok tribal land in Humboldt county, California. The tribe received a federal "grant" of substantial funds to erect stand alone photovoltaic power systems at individual single family Indian residences in the Klamath river valley. The equipment, consisting of a 2 kilowatt solar array on fixed mounts, an appropriate charge controller, 1200 amp hour sealed gel battery bank and a 4500 watt 24 volt to 120 volt inverter with necessary wiring harnesses and separate housing shed were erected near his mobil home in an area SHADED during part of the day. The equipment alone cost in excess of $27,000.00. It was installed by "progressive" student "volunteers" from Humboldt State University who upon completion of the project advised our neighbor (whose only source of power previously had consisted of a succession of 600 watt gasoline generators obtained at Costco) that he could begin using his home "just as if he lived in town on the grid".
Needless to relate, our neighbor and his family proceeded to purchase appliances such as irons, toasters, heaters and television sets. Within a week he was knocking on our door requesting help with his non working electrical system. The
A major consideration in view of the approaching societal disintegration as regards emergency or backup energy systems is security. "Law" (yes, those are scorn quotation marks) enforcement, should it continue to function, will inevitably have its hands full maintaining "order" in a population reduced to desperation and energy systems are especially vulnerable to theft and vandalism not to mention a confiscatory government itself. I have written elsewhere of our own experiences but will leave it to you dear reader to acquaint yourselves with various post apocalyptic scenarios ranging from Mad Max to mere Hobbesian squalor.