ECO-PROJECT: Tom Vlaming is living off the grid thanks to a solar panel storage system at his home
ECO-PROJECT: Tom Vlaming is living off the grid thanks to a solar panel storage system at his home

A FORMER airline pilot’s project to make his Teesdale home more sustainable paid off this month as he waved goodbye to electricity bills and is now living off the grid.
Tom Vlaming, 75, first installed solar panels on the garage and outbuildings at his Edwardian property, Hollin-croft, in Romaldkirk, eight years ago.
Initially, the 38 panels installed on his garages generated enough electricity to power his home and feed back into the national grid.
He said: “Initially we were using only 15 per cent of the power that was generated through the solar panels and the remaining 85 per cent was getting sent to the grid.
“That was mainly because we had no way of storing the electricity.”
To combat this, Mr Vlaming, who is originally from Amsterdam, installed a specialist battery system to store electricity.
He added: “The first one we put in was quite small, just 5kW.”
Mr Vlaming continued researching how he could keep more of the power produced from the panels, upgrading the battery system to a 25kW battery.
He said: “I made a huge investment in the panels and the system, but all the electricity produced stays with me and I’m off the grid.
“I found a company that was dealing in this system and they just happened to be Dutch and they are doing a lot of work in Australia and America.”
The Victron Energy system converts direct current into alternating current which is then fed into the battery system.
Mr Vlaming also utilised his recently purchased electric Tesla car. He added: “The system allows me to charge the car but it also allows me to draw charge from it if needed, which more than doubles the storage capacity.”
Mr Vlaming said he’s delighted with the system, installed by DTGen, a company based in Scotland.
He added: “With the panels and the new battery system, it has come to about £35,000 but I just wanted people to know it is possible to get stable electricity. It is an investment but it will pay off in years to come.
“Even on a cloudy day the panels are generating some charge and as a backup I do have a generator as part of the system if it is needed.”
It is not Mr Vlaming’s first foray green energy. Eight years ago he designed and patented a new style of wind turbine.
He added: “One of the problems with wind turbines blades is they don’t last. The blades get damaged.
“With mine it is more compact and less susceptible to damage and it doesn’t make a noise.
“I have it sited near Cow Green and I have to renew the patent every five years.
“I’m going to review it after ten years and see if it is mechanically sound, and if it is I will look at doing something for small projects, with a possible tweak to the design.”