Life off the grid
March 27, 2020
THIS MORNING’S WALK through the forest took us to a cave formed by an large overhanging cliff, keeping the ground below dry. We imagine it gave shelter to the First Nations people who would fish and dig for clams in nearby Hyacinthe Bay.
The forecast of cloudiness over the next five days has caught our attention partly because we may need to be a bit more careful around our electricity consumption. Cloudiness means our solar panels will not charge our batteries, which in turn supply the power for all our electrical needs, including the very important satellite internet and phone (the cell service here is iffy). We have a wind generator—the rotor is 14-feet in diameter—as well, but one never knows if the wind will be blow’n when you want it to. There has been some rain, meaning our wee creek is still flowing so the water turbine will help keep the batteries charged.
The windgenerator in a storm, as seen from the kitchen window
We are fortunate to have three sources of energy on this property. Because of our south-facing bluffs, we generally have abundant electricity, especially from the dozen solar panels—usually more than we need.
Still, life off the grid means paying attention to the weather and our electricity usage. Though we have a robust capacity for generating electricity, how much is available on a given day depends on the weather. So we are conservation-minded during dry, cloudy windless days. When we can keep things cool in a bin outside, for instance, we don’t run our refrigerator. We don’t have a freezer; instead we stock up with dried legumes, nuts and grains and some canned produce from the garden. Leaving anything electrical on when you aren’t using it is a strict conservation no-no. Conversely, we slip back closer to our city ways when there’s lots of sunshine, wind or rain.
Mostly our electrical system works as well in practice as BC Hydro. For many years we had a diesel generator for back-up, but we retired it about 10 years ago and we’ve truly never missed it.
Of course, BC Hydro, which we rely on in the city, supplies renewable energy and its collectivized approach makes sense for most of us: it’s relatively inexpensive, convenient, and (discounting construction) largely carbon-free. British Columbians are fortunate to not rely on the gas- or coal-powered electricity generating plants that people in many parts of the world use.
Living off the grid helps me feel connected to my environment, and a little less entitled to certain conveniences.
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