Power To The People

Generating artificial lightning in Nikola Tesla’s laboratory. Undated illustration.
BPA2# 1462 — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

We have to start an ambitious project of this scale with some clear guiding principles. Otherwise, I expect we will lose our way in the face of conflicting options and budget priorities.

What are our core values? These will inform design choices, materials selection and the lifestyle we create. Of course, there will be some compromise; we don’t have unlimited funds – or even limited but comfortable. We are scraping this together.

So when I say our first guiding principle is to achieve energy self-sufficiency using only renewable sources while remaining stubbornly off-grid, my wallet contracts in my pocket with an involuntary spasm. This tech is very cool but it ain’t cheap. We’ve not come far with our research as it’s hard to get meaningful communications going during lockdown and a lot of vendors haven’t been that interested to be honest.

The main stumbling-block seems to be when we express our intention to remain truly off-grid. Solar energy suppliers can’t seem to comprehend. It can’t be done that way, they say. Presumably, we just haven’t found the right supplier yet.

In my efforts to make sense of our needs and ascertain whether this is even achievable, I created a spreadsheet to calculate energy demand and likely ability to generate this month by month. There are a lot of assumptions and variables but it should be achievable.

Monthly Usage and Supply Calculator

This showed me just how far off meeting demand even a large bank of solar panels will be in Winter. Conversely, the same bank of panels will far exceed demand in Summer. Hence the pressure to connect to grid. Sell back what you don’t need in Summer and use those funds to purchase your top-up needs in Winter.

How else can we plug the gaps? Wind is an option. Research ongoing but indications are that it might take up the slack in the Winter months. Stay tuned for more…

File:Evance R9000 5kW small domestic wind turbine.JPG - Wikimedia ...

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