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Going Off Grid Becoming a More Affordable Way to Fight High Energy Bills

Aug 31, 2008
In an unlikely bit of irony, Daryl Hannah, who first rose to screen stardom as a mermaid in "Splash", has been living "off of the land" (off grid) for more than twenty years in the Rocky Mountains. And, according to the article by Nick Rosen for Reuters International Press Service, she's become an eco-activist, demonstrating and protesting against those who continue to harm the environment, while also trying to get more Americans to switch to biofuels from fossil fuels.

Like many of the environmentalists living off grid back in the 70s and 80s, Hannah's primary purpose for going off grid was her concern for the good of the planet, according to Rosen. For most of those pioneers, living was a return to the pre-electricity age. For those like Hannah with the financial resources, off grid start-up costs took fifteen to twenty years for a return on investment to be realized.

As energy costs have skyrocketed in the past few years; solar, wind and hydro power technologies have seen major advances as well as decreasing installation costs. Off grid living has become much more attractive and affordable to many Americans. In an article in 2006, The San Francisco Chronicle reported that an estimated 180,000 Americans lived off grid.

In May of this year on the Environmental News Network, Reuters' Rosen, also the author of the book How to Live off Grid, reported that around 350,000 Americans had disconnected their utilities and operated their homes from natural energy sources. Besides fighting the rising cost of energy prices, the growth of the off grid population has found other advantages to becoming unplugged from public utilities.

The most appealing aspect has been the decreasing cost of building an off grid home. One source reported that the cost of installing solar panels has dropped 80% in the past twenty years. In fact, according to Reuters' Rosen, solar panel manufacturing has grown to the point where there'll be a glut on the market soon, driving the price even lower. Other experts suggest that with more buyers interested in off grid living, builders have begun constructing off grid homes at prices only slightly higher than traditional homes. We noted that homes built to be used off grid can also be easily converted back to utility-connected homes so there's no risk when owners want to sell them.

Appliance manufacturers have also seen the opportunity in supplying off grid homeowners' needs. Instead of power-sucking air conditioners, furnaces, washing machines and the like, manufacturers have responded to consumer demands with more energy efficient versions. Now in mainstream production, Energy Star appliances and compact florescent lighting make off grid homeowners as comfortable as those still getting monthly utility bills in their mailboxes.

Todd Bogatay's house in Bisbee, Arizona, has a satellite TV hookup and an internet connection giving him all the access to the outside world as his bill-paying neighbors, according to Tom Gaynor of Reuters on enn from May 28 of this year.

In his article, Gaynor also reported that a developer of a subdivision in rural Iowa offers plots that include free wind and solar power from shared sources as well as water from a rainwater collection system and waste recycling. Lonnie Gamble, the developer, told Gaynor, "You can have hot showers and cold beer. You have no water bill, no sewer bill and no power bill...Why would you ever do anything else?"

State governments and even utility companies have taken note of the benefits of off grid living. In his article, Gaynor noted that ten states from New Jersey and Pennsylvania to California offer incentives including grants and tax credits for installing solar panels. He also reported that power companies in several states, like Arizona Public Service, offer subsidies to consumers who plan to meet their own power needs as a way to ease the growing demand for power from on-grid customers.

With the advent of the "Go Green" movement, many Americans conserve energy by turning off lights in empty rooms, unplugging appliances not in use, driving less and shopping smarter. More farsighted citizens have gone further. They've gone off grid altogether and found ways to meet their own energy needs. And they've become very fervent believers. In his enn article, Gaynor quoted a veteran off-gridder. "I like being my own power company. I wouldn't take their electricity if they brought it to my back door," Chris Allen said, "Living like this is financially and mentally very healthy."
About the Author
Andrew Oke is very interested in renewable energy.He has 16 years experience living off the grid, and has completely built his own renewable energy system. Visit his website at Living Off The Grid
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