Go Green and Off the Grid Go Green and Off the Grid
Going green can be as easy or as hard as you wish to make it. Just about everyone in the United States does at least one thing on a regular basis that is friendly to the environment. Many people recycle as a matter of course. Farmer's markets are springing up all over the nation as people want healthier and locally grown foods. But what about the people who carry going green to a higher level? What are they doing to utilize the natural resources of the earth? Who are the people who live "off the grid" and what exactly does this mean? The focus of this article is getting off the grid using different technologies and other ways to be more earth friendly.
What are the Technologies?
The earth has fabulous resources. We are beginning to seek these resources because of our dependence on foreign oil. One of the things being used these days is geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is a huge, little-used heat and power resource. It is:
In most cases, it is available 95% of the time. Geothermal energy is also earth friendly -- it emits no greenhouse gases. This resource is found from shallow ground to hot water and rocks several miles below the surface of the earth. Even further down we find magma, the molten rock that is a part of the earth's core. Wells can be drilled into these underground reservoirs to tap into the steam and ultra-hot water. Most of these huge geothermal reservoirs are located in the western states, Alaska, and Hawaii.
The other technology is photovoltaic arrays. This is a solar-powered resource that uses solar panels or photovoltaic arrays to produce electricity.
A Practical Application
Not everyone lives in the western states, Alaska or Hawaii. But the energy can be harnessed through an application called a geothermal heat pump. Just about everywhere, the top 10 feet of the earth maintains an almost constant temperature of 50 to 60 degrees. By burying pipes in the ground near buildings, adding a heat exchanger, and installing ductwork, this resource can be secured. In winter, the heat from the warmer ground passes through the heat exchanger and into the building or home. In summer, hot air can be transferred via the heat exchanger back into the cooler ground. During summer months, this heated air can also be used to heat water for a no-cost alternative to gas or electricity. One of the largest areas using this heat source is Louisville, Kentucky.
Integrating photovoltaic arrays is becoming increasingly popular. There are homes that use solar power exclusively, and many that use it as an ancillary source. Large arrays of solar panels are built into existing homes or new construction on either the roof or sides of the home. You can now purchase roof tiles that have integrated PV cells in them.
A practical case study is the home of the Adelman family in Corralitos, CA. This system features a large backyard array that supplies enough energy for the Adelmans to charge 4 electric cars and power their home. Their website at SolarWarrior.com gives a very good description on the building of this project and the fight they had with Pacific Gas and Electric over their setup.
With the resources available today, there is no reason why dependency on foreign oil should continue. Many people are building solutions that are both effective and earth friendly. Although some of these applications may seem a little strange, they show what ingenuity and perseverance can do. Living off the grid is not something that is wishful thinking any longer. Technology has enabled us to be earth friendly and independent in our daily lives. Consider getting off the grid. Not only will your pocketbook thank you, but you will be contributing to the Green Movement that becomes more important each day.