Producing your own energy resources is a major part of being able to live completely off the grid. With off the grid living you must be able to have a system that not only can create the energy but can store excess energy that you are not using when it is created. Many people will try to tell you that this is a difficult or impossible task, but it is not as bad as we are led to believe. Like many things in our society, we as a society tend to believe that we can’t do them simply because they generally aren’t done, which completely contradicts what we all know as adamant off-the-gridders know to be true.
There are several ways to create energy on your own to power your home without having to connect to the same grid that everyone else ties into. The following are four energy sources available for off-grid living.
Solar Panels: Photovoltaic cells comprising a panel absorb light/heat from the sun and convert this energy into usable energy, able to be stored in batteries and used for modern appliances. While the process is not completely efficient, when compared to other methods, the use of solar cells can produce a ready supply of energy to run electronics, heat sources, and cooking appliances. A solar array can provide adequate energy to at least supplement or even replace grid dependence. Solar tends to be one of the more expensive alternative production techniques, but in small quantities can be easier to implement and has seen major price reductions in recent years.
Wind Energy: A wind turbine turns a propeller high in the air and uses the kinetic energy to power your home. This is actually an “ancient” way of creating energy that has proven to be very reliable and useful throughout the years. You have likely seen these turbines when you drive into rural areas that may use them to power various areas of a farm. Farmers have used these for years and years to power water pumps and to grind grain. During the Great Depression a revival of windmill power occurred as money was scarce. For many years prior to that, thousands of windmills harvested wind power for normal people like you or me.
To begin using wind power, you would construct or purchase the wind turbine, which can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $40,000 (though small makeshift wind turbines can be built for less than $100), and transfer that energy through an alternator or other convertor to use direct input electricity. With a battery bank, the power can be stored for future use. Generally speaking, the higher up the turbine, the more energy it will create and of course, the more natural wind that is created in your area the better. You will usually want to have to have at least one acre of land to construct a turbine large enough to create sufficient power and you must live in an area that does not prohibit the construction of a turbine. Some areas may have winds more readily available at lower elevations, or looser restrictions and codes for such items.
Geothermal Energy: This is another form of energy that has been used for centuries and actually dates as far back as Roman times (in written history). The Romans used geothermal energy to heat their bathtubs and other items and you could potentially use it to heat your home. In the past, tapping into geothermal energy has relied pretty strictly on being near tectonic plates that produce the geothermal energy that one would use. Now the process has been updated with newer technologies and has become more accessible to people that are not in these types of areas, however, the costs of utilizing geothermal energy can still be very high. If you are in an area with these tectonic plates you can generally construct things more cheaply as it is naturally available. In other areas a lot of drilling may be involved, which could cost a lot out of pocket for qualified technicians and equipment.
Instead of strictly using geothermal energy to power your entire home, you could use it for specific things and you could save a lot of money in implementing the use of the energy. Specifically, tubing setups could help heat or cool your home more easily with under floor or roof top setups. The idea is that it moderates the temperatures surrounding your home so that the starting temperatures inside your home are closer to the temperatures you desire. If you have to heat your home from 68 degrees to 75, it’s much more efficient than heating from 45 degrees to 75. To cool your home from 68 degrees to 65, it is infinitely more efficient than from 78 or 88 in some areas. The temperatures used aren’t necessarily accurate for your area, but the concept is easily understood this way.
Hydroelectric Energy: This type of energy is usually created and used on a larger scale, as it is the byproduct created by large dams. It can however, be created on a smaller scale where it makes sense. If you live next to a naturally flowing body of water you can actually construct or purchase your own turbine to go underneath the water that creates the energy that in some cases could provide enough power for your entire home. Hydroelectric energy is an ultra efficient and naturally occurring option, with minimal costs over the lifetime of the equipment. Because of the natural flow of the water, and the constant energy created, an efficient setup could net massive amounts of energy and lower the net cost to pennies per kilowatt hour of energy. Some units being developed require such a small amount of flow that even seasonal streams can become efficient producers of nearly year-round energy. From waterwheels in the early industrial scenario to the ultra efficient massive turbines used at dams like the Hoover Dam, water energy makes sense and has one of the lowest costs in terms of economy and ecology of any energy source.
Editor’s Note: Thanks to Off The Grid News for their contribution. They have a comprehensive website to living off the grid. Check it out http://www.offthegridnews.com/