MARQUETTE - Jim Murphy and Annie Goosmann have a washer and dryer, computer, stereo, refrigerator and lights -all the modern conveniences. One thing they lack is a hook-up to the electrical power grid. They get all the energy to power the appliances in their West Branch township home from a wind turbine and 12 solar panels. Their home is a working example of a green lifestyle without compromises. "We wanted to have a nice home to show that when you have alternative power, you don't need to sacrifice," Goosmann said. Murphy, a self-employed builder, said he has studied alternative energy for years and felt building an off-grid home was the right thing to do in a time of energy crisis and global warming. "The initial spark was because of the energy consumption issue," Murphy said. But it was also a lifestyle choice, Goosmann added. "It was a whole lifestyle thing for us," she said. "We're just trying to live simply, well and consciously." Goosmann and Murphy's lifestyle is driven by alternative sources, including 900-watt solar photovoltaic panels, 12 batteries, a 1,000-watt wind turbine, composting toilets, passive solar systems, wood heat and a wood stove with gas back-up and a root cellar. The couple designed their house in the most energy efficient way they were able to, and while some aspects cost more - such as the solar and wind power - they were willing to spend it. "We've always been very conscious consumers," Goosmann said. "That's just part of our personal ethics. We're willing to put the cash into it to be sustainable." Murphy decided to go with solar and wind power so the two could complement each other. In the winter, their area gets a lot of wind and their energy comes mainly from the wind turbine. In the summer, the positioning of the sun - as well as more sunny days - enables the solar panels to provide more of their power needs. The couple has lived in their new house for a year, and so far the system has worked out great, they said. Except when doing laundry. The washer and dryer need a lot of electricity and the washer also needs the water pump and hot water. So both appliances can be run simultaneously only on sunny days, Goosmann said. If it's not sunny, only one of the appliances can be used. However, they said the slight adjustment to their lifestyle is worth the effort. Murphy explained that his 12 batteries store the direct current power from his solar panels and wind turbine that is then converted into alternating current power that can be used in the house. Once installed and running, Murphy said the system is simple to work with and actually produces energy that has less distortion than the energy that comes from the commercial grid. Murphy said he believes in alternative energies as cleaner and more efficient ways to produce power.
Jim Murphy shows off the batteries that store energy from his alternative energy system at his house in West Branch Township. (Journal photo by Miriam Moeller)