Saturday, November 11, 2006

Solar power!

Today's post brought to you by real sun-power...

The sun came out today! Very exciting: celebration included treats for the chickens (they are NOT pets- ahem) and enthusiastic use of the electric sewing machine. Yeah!

We DO live off the grid here, but we don’t depend solely on our solar panels for electricity. That would be nearly impossible this time of year in MN. November is one of the worst months, ironically, even worse than later winter. So, we have a small generator hooked up to our big propane tank to make more power when the batteries need help. (We also use propane for heat and cooking in the winter).

We’re in the lap of luxury if we choose to run the generator. (Wash clothes AND vacuum at the same time: Crazy!) It’s just a bit stinky and loud. The whole point of solar panels is to reduce our contribution to air pollution and greenhouse gas emission, etc. So, we scrimp (and pester each other to turn off lights, ahem) until the batteries absolutely need a recharge.

So, no feeling sorry for us: it was a conscious decision to take this “standard suburban/rural” house of the grid a while back. WF chose not to reconnect the house to the grid a few years ago when some neighbor projects necessitated taking down the power poles, and so we’re in a sort of “artificial” off-grid world. Our house is definitely not a typical off-grid house, and needs quite a bit of electricity to run “normally”- ie well pump and septic. We end up scrimping more than most people would with a solar array of this size, but live very comfortably with a small, efficient fridge (w/ tiny freezer), efficient washer but no dryer, etc. We use the septic system as little as possible (WF is a humanure convert). All lights are compact flourescent; an incandescent bulb would be a ridiculous waste.

The solar decision was made before my time here, and I actually don’t think about it that much. Some of my co-workers are convinced I’m living in a cave without “real” electricity, but really, is it THAT weird to live without toasters or waffle irons or microwaves? Or electric sewing machines? I am coveting my grandmother’s old treadle machine these days. If you’re set up for it and give it a bit of thought, it really IS easy to live without much electricity.


Anonymous said...

Well, I for one applaud you! And since we live in and buy power from the town doubt we will ever take that step to move off grid, though we have discussed it. I think it might be rather peaceful, but it would scare me to do it in a cold cruel climate. I'm cold enough as it is.

People who visit say we are living primitively here -- but I laugh! What? Primitive? We have electricity, flush toilet. We do try to limit our use of the grid though and keep a cool house. Perhaps it's all my darkness and candles that scare them!

Anonymous said...

I too think you are doing something wonderful. I wish my other half would be so inclined.

Love to hear about your off grid life as it gives me hope that someday soon I will be doing the same.

Liz said...

November is the worst month here too, grey and rainy, and it makes me glad that we don't have to depend on solar. That doesn't stop us from planning to add some panels at some point, although ours will be grid-tied. At least for now, we try to meter our use and buy the renewable option from CMP.