Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Off the Grid

I recently spent some time in the Champlain Valley to visit family. While on our visit, we were invited to attend a potluck 4th of July party. The party was at the home of people we knew only through friends, but they were very welcoming hosts. The party was at a home in the the rural town of Essex. The home was out there. In fact, the home was off the grid. What does "off the grid" mean? Off the grid is something Lasell College students probably have not experienced. The home is completely free from the electrical power grid. Usually, homes that are off the grid are located in such rural locations that power companies cannot justify the cost of running power to the home.

I was fired up when I saw the set-up Mark had to power his home. His lot was cleared enough to get strong sun from the south. He had a row of three small solar panels. The solar panels were the same make and model I used when I was doing research at Harvard Forest. He ran the power from the solar panels into a series of five deep cycle marine batteries. I only had one battery in my system but I completely understood how his system was working.

It was intriguing to see folks living off the grid. They still had electronic devices that run off AC power. While they certainly do not consume the energy of an average home, I don't think they felt like they were lacking enough power to do things they want to do. Three solar panels to power a family's home. Interesting stuff!

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