OFF THE GRID: An Untethered Future

July 20 2008 / by Antonio Manfredi / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: The Home   Year: General   Rating: 8 Hot

Events of the last five years have shown us that living on the grid, dependent on large utility companies, has been anything but stable. Large electric companies, still reliant on fossil fuel to generate power, have been forced to raise prices dramatically. An antiquated series of electrical lines, transformers, and switches have produced devastating blackouts that have cost our economy billions. With global demand for energy expected to rise, and the cost of upgrading infrastructure approaching hundreds of billions, living off the grid may become a highly plausible and desirable future for many people.

In order to live off the grid you need to tie production and consumption together, creating small scale systems for water and power that require no outside support. It also requires a heavy dose of conservation and efficiency, utilizing a system that operates within the constraints of a limited source. Living off the grid requires a large up front investment in equipment and expertise, and a pioneering spirit. Costs for solar and wind generation systems routinely cost tens of thousands of dollars, yielding a cost per kilowatt hour that exceeds that of the grid. Nonetheless it is becoming an option many people are beginning to consider as the marketplace changes. More and more people are looking to raw materials for energy that are free, inexhaustible, and clean.

As innovation and subsidies collide in the market to create critical mass for residential solar and wind systems, it is reasonable to expect demand for these technologies to grow. According to Solar Buzz, a San Francisco-based industry research company, demand for solar power has grown 20-25% a year for the last twenty years. Many of these applications of solar power come in the form of on the grid solutions, however many of these are distributed at the point of use. It is however the biggest choice for off the grid applications. Demand has grown so fast that more silicon now goes into photovoltaics than computer chips. (cont.)

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