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Off-grid versus on-grid microgeneration in practice

Posted by Matthew Rhodes on 17 August 2009 at 11:57 am

I really needed a holiday this year. So when we arrived at the holiday cottage we had rented in Orkney and saw the 6kW wind turbine outside my heart sank a little. We had accidentally opted for two weeks of off-grid existence – and slightly dodgily designed off-grid existence at that – with only one power source and not quite enough batteries. No matter how hard I try, it seems I cannot escape the day job.

Two weeks later, though, I am (almost) a complete convert to the lifestyle. Living off grid really makes you think about what power you need and when, and it puts you back in touch with the weather and your immediate environment.

I was amazed and pleased with the way that the children were careful not to watch television when the turbine wasn’t turning. We discovered very quickly that they understood how the battery storage was limited and prioritised hot food and hot water (in that order!) ahead of cartoons – especially when they could spend the time hunting for driftwood to use for firewood on the beach. We also tended to wash up rather than use the dishwasher whenever possible, and the tumble drier was a complete no go area unless totally desperate.

Off grid living was fun, and fitted totally with a relaxing holiday in one of the most beautiful and interesting parts of the country. But it was also a tremendous education in the degree to which we take plentiful, automatic energy for granted.

The challenge of switching to a low carbon economy goes well beyond deploying a few new technologies. We need to find whole new ways of living too, and probably ones that don’t require children to miss the final episode of Dr Who so that Mummy can have a bath (although she certainly deserved it).

Grid connected micropower is probably still what I will go for (except for my summer hols).

Photo © Encraft

About the Author: Matthew Rhodes is chief executive of Encraft

About the author:

Matthew Rhodes is chief executive of Encraft

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