The good life on ice

Mike Kaiser lives in St. Paul, Minn., but on winter weekends, you’ll most likely find him living comfortably on ice.

Mike’s home away from home is an ice fishing shelter on wheels that offers every comfort and convenience of home. Even better, it’s powered entirely by a personal wind turbine (AIR X) and solar panels.

The fish house, measuring 7 feet by 25 feet, is not so much about fishing as it is about getting away in comfort. Electrically wired, the unit has heat and satellite TV and accommodates 4-6 people, sleeping two comfortably.

“If I can’t sit down and watch the Minnesota Vikings on a Sunday, I don’t want to be out there,” he says. “I like fishing, but to tell you the truth, it’s more about getting away. I like to get out there to play cards, drink a few beers and visit with friends and other fishermen. It’s kind of hard to explain, but ice fishing is a part of living in Minnesota.”

To truly get away, Mike wanted to free himself of the typical fish house processes of charging batteries at home, or running a gas generator.

He found a partial solution in a 55 W solar panel he found at a garage sale. After experimenting with that for a while he decided to expand his solar power with the purchase of a 177 W panel to finalize what he thought might be all the power he needed. But one evening, listening to the wind howl outside, Mike decided to find a way to capture the wind and create the missing piece to his puzzle.

After a failed first effort with a vertical axis turbine, Mike discovered the Southwest Windpower Air X online last year.

After installing a custom tower with a quick release, it took Mike a while to figure out how to integrate the Air X with the rest of his electrical system. Another challenge was overproduction. Sometimes the wind turbine and solar panels produced more energy than he could use.

After adding a device to convert excess energy into heat, and diverting some of it to outside lights, the system now puts the extra energy to use and runs smoothly.

Mike likes the way the wind and solar power work together. “You don’t always have wind, and you don’t always have sun,” Mike says. “They complement each other. It’s exactly how I think it should be.”

What’s next? Mike is considering installing another small turbine at home to power his detached workshop. Don’t be surprised to find him there some day, with a Minnesota Vikings game on the TV and beer in hand.