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Off The Grid

I'm going to live off-grid. Read my blog and learn how to do it yourself!

Archive for the ‘electricity’ Category

Pros and cons of flexible solar panels

I bought my first solar panel (not taking into account the ones I had in my calculator or watch) in 2006 r., and it was a flexible 10 Wp (PowerFlex 10 from ICPSolar). With the charge controller I had and a typical lead-acid car battery, it was my first solar system I used in my RV (camper van).

At the moment I have in my RV two standard solar panels (laminated in glass) and lead-acid deep cycle batteries (as far as I remember, AGM – absorber glass mat – type). I used both the standard solar panels and the flexible ones, so I have an idea on what are the pros and cons of two types of solar panels. (more…)

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  • A week off the grid on a campsite

    Last week I returned home from a short summer holiday which I spent in my Vanagon Camper (RV) in Łeba, a town on the Baltic Sea coast. As I own two solar panels (40 Wp each) and two gel batteries, I decided not to pay for the electrical connection and use my own power.

    The prices for using the grid on the campsites in Poland are extreme. From your point of view probably it’s as cheap as everything here (10-15 PLN per day = $3-5 / day = 2.5-3.7€/day), but if you compare that price to the price of energy (0.5 PLN/kWh) it’s not worth it.

    On the other hand, since I paid for the solar panels only about 900 PLN, this investment pays for itself after 60-90 days on the campsite, which is in my case equivalent to roughly 4-6 years of camping holidays. Of course that doesn’t take into account the batteries, charge controller and wiring that is not free either. (more…)

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  • Off-grid life – is it possible?

    Is it possible to get completely off grid?

    That’s an important question right now in the context of rising electricity prices and dwindling supply of conventional natural fuels like coal and petroleum. However, before we get to explore whether is it possible to get completely off grid or not, let us first see what do we mean by an off-grid existence. An off the grid existence essentially means that the individual is independent of the conventional power utility electric supply by means of using alternative energy supply sources like solar energy or wind energy.

    Not only solar and wind energy is considered off-grid, but also other alternative fuel sources like biomass and biogas may be considered as important aspects of an off grid existence. However, at this point of time, the question that is crucial to answer is that whether we can be completely off grid or not?

    First, let us say that as a possibility a complete off grid existence is not completely impossible, as has been shown in the movie “Nim’s island”, where a scientist lives in a secluded island in the pacific with his daughter, and manages to run his computers and other household devices on solar power. But, whether that is possible in real life is a question that is a tad difficult to answer.

    This is because solar power, the commonest off grid energy solution, is still very incapable of driving all the electrical appliances at home. Solar power appliances are now by and large limited only to solar battery chargers, solar cookers, solar lights and solar heaters. Television and refrigerator running on solar power are a rare sight, although it is definitely possible to run these larger appliances on solar power theoretically if we are installing solar power panels of considerable wattage.

    Another off grid energy source, the wind energy, also has some important preconditions to be fulfilled before it can be used to run the electrical appliances. For generating wind power, it is important that the windmill is placed in an open field of at least one hectare where there is a considerable flow of wind all day long, and this is definitely a luxury for many of us. Still, as a final conclusion we should say that going completely off grid is definitely possible theoretically, if we can make the proper arrangements for it. Here’s a book, available from amazon, from where you can get a fair idea about off grid existence.      

    One might say that people lived for centuries without power, so you can live off-grid. Sure, but at what expense?

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  • I read once an interesting opinion, that investing your money in renewable energy sources pays off mostly when you’re retired.

    Why is that?

    All the alternative, renewable energy sources, provide you with free energy. If the system is designed properly (for example, photovoltaic panels coupled with wind turbine), you always have enough energy to fulfill your needs. And you don’t pay for it, except for the battery change every few years.

    If so, the money you spend on those devices will save you money all the time you use them. You produce your own energy and thus you don’t need to buy it from the grid. And since energy costs are not expected to drop in the forseeable future, when you’re retired, they would account for a substantial part of your retirement pension.

    I don’t believe that our european pensions would be more than 30-40% of our last paycheks, so we need to save our own money for the retirement. And in my opinion one of the best ways to save is to buy something that will generate you a real income or allow you to save money on something. Alternative energy sources are a great example.

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  • Water as alternative energy source

    Water current can be effectively used to generate clean electricity. Generation of electricity from water currents can be accomplished in very large scales, by constructing dams or constructing tidal power plants and ocean surface wave power plants. It can also be done by individual homeowners (homesteaders) and small business owners, to generate and use small amounts of off-grid electricity. When setting up large scale hydroelectric power plants (or dams), the environmental impact of setting up the dam should also be considered as they can actually change the course of a river or create flood situations. The Grand Coulee Dam in the Washington state is an example of large-scale power generation units.

    Hydroelectric systems can also be used to generate power from rivers and oceans without constructing dams and examples of such power supplies include the tidal power generator units and ocean wave power generator units. The smalles example would be a new design of a floating waterwheel. (more…)

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