This is a subject that interests me greatly. I've been an advocate for alternative energies way before the whole "goin' green" trend started.
My wife and I are hoping to one day build on the family ranch, but for right now we are experimenting with what we we can do in our current home. I live in West Texas. It's windy out here from time to time. So much that they dedicated a sculpture (that was defaced by an uneducated fool), called the windy man. I've talked my in-laws into looking at putting up a PV system or a wind generator. There are many many companies here in the States that cater to home owners, farmers and ranchers. Two companies I recommend for general information and instructions are: http://www.backwoodssolar.com
. Both companies are family run and their catalogs will help explain alternative energy to you in layman's terms so you determine what you need. Now, like I said, these are just two of the MANY companies out there. But these catalogs have items you can gain knowledge on and then (if you want) shop around to see what you can afford.
Currently my wife and I are enjoying our current home and we are making modifications or it as we go. Currently we are looking into replacing our leaking water heater. With the information I got from these catalogs (and searching the net) I found a natural gas tankless heater for under $200. But if we were to live off the grid there is an ingenious vacuum tube system you can invest in to heat your water with. Similar to the older photovoltaic (PV... solar panels), but each tube is replaceable if one is broken. AND if one is broken, the system still keeps working!!
Hmm, I'm getting off the subject, I apologize. I get passionate about this.
I also wanted to say that you live in the states, you should look at government incentives and tax breaks for using solar or wind to power your home or business. The government is set up to help you out with getting you either tied to the grid (running your meter backwards) or using a battery bank. I know in TX we have some good incentives.
The main thing about living off the grid is this, you need to get used to not having modern conveniences in use like you have now. You need to learn to turn off lights, unplug electronic devices so not to pull phantom loads from your battery bank, etc. You have to learn to be a conserver, not a consumer. There are ups and downs to living off the grid. If you are still tied into the grid (running your meter backwards) you may or may not get a check for that, depends on your energy consumption. If you are 100% off the grid, you will have to monitor your deep cycle batteries and replace them when time comes.
Now if you want to live an electric free life (Like the Amish), then everything I mentioned above really doesn't matter. LOL
Another catalog you should look into is: http://www.lehmans.com
Items are expensive, but it could be a catapult for you to find certain items elsewhere. And finally I would like to suggest that if you can find it, pick up the Fox Fire book series: http://www.foxfire.org/
Man i hope I didn't confuse anyone.