When we talk about getting energy “off the grid”, we’re talking about an alternative power source to bring electricity into your home. Power companies create electricity through huge generators. That electricity is then shipped through wires across long distances and into individual homes by power poles and wires. Most people who want power contact their local utility company. That company then sends someone out to connect the wires from the electric poles to their home.
Now, Tom set his sights on working out a plan to take his home “off the grid”, out of the hands of the public electric works. He needed a way to provide his own electricity, so that he and Barbara could stop using electricity from the city. He did his research and found that he had three options for an alternative power source to bring electricity into their home: solar energy, wind power, and hydropower.
To some degree, those of us toiling away to make clean energy a viable and stable industry share a lot of similarities with Fred Dobbs, Bogart’s character in the 1948 film. Dobbs meets up with the grizzled prospector Howard, played by Huston, down in Tampico, Mexico about 1925.
In order to do more than just barely survive, first we have to simplify our lives. We must learn to need and want less. We can learn to get our enjoyment and entertainment from lower cost or free sustainable sources. We live in a time of unbelievable over consumption of all kinds of goods, including expensive food from all over the world. We will need to rely on local products and local food sources. Part of the change that will be coming has to do with the transportation of goods across the world. We will see that slow way down and goods from far away will be extremely expensive. At least until new energy company sources are implemented that change the cost and environmental damage from worldwide transportation of goods.
In order to work out your solar electricity requirements you need to understand where this energy is being consumed. Count how many appliances you have on constantly, how many watts they use when operating and add extra for using items you don’t use constantly.
The active method uses solar energy to produce hot water for central heating. The hot water can also be used for running hot water, the washing machine and dishwasher. The efficiency by which we are now able to convert solar power into electricity and hot water is of such a degree that it is very possible to power a whole house and use for central heating!
All of that water in motion represents a tremendous amount of energy. The ideas of harnessing has always been tantalizing, and is even more intriguing in this days of decreasing oil reserves and increasing concerns about the environment.