Going Off-Grid on a Budget

← → (arrow) keys to browse

A rant has been bubbling up inside me for a while, and the fermentation was complete when I read about an off-grid expert, who just spent $4000 on batteries for his PV (solar electricity) system, saying that he now only uses his fossil fuel generator two or three times a year, down from ten or more before he got more solar panels, more batteries and a wind turbine.

Perhaps I need to hang around with different people, because most of the people I know would be hard-pressed to come up with $4000 for an entire home electricity system, never mind $4000 just for the batteries.

I read another website today which insisted that “nothing needs to change” if you go off-grid. As long as you have enough batteries and solar panels, they said, you can still run your air-conditioning, round-the-clock satellite television, electrical refrigerator and multiple gaming computers. 

No problem! 

Who doesn’t have $80,000 lying around?

Wait – here’s the answer. 

Sell your mortgage-free home in the city and use all of those profits to build an earth-friendly home in the country – that should cover the building costs, the earth-friendly extras and the extensive energy generating system.  Maybe.

You DO have a mortgage-free home that you can sell for 1/2 million or so, don’t you?

During October 2011, the non-processed food advocates were insisting that Fleur de Sel (salt which costs $87/kg at the Sobeys near me) and Agave Syrup were some of our best options.

Do these people realize that MOST people – in North America and around the world – simply cannot afford to pay $87/kg for salt or $100,000 for a “your life won’t change” PV system? 

Can ordinary people afford to go off-grid or does it require a "spare" hundred thousand dollars sitting around in the bank?

There are millions in North America who struggle to get by on minimum wage, trapped in a city job and city apartment, and millions more who co-own a house with the bank and work hard just to pay an inflated lifetime mortgage.

The plain fact is that life has been changing over the past decade, and if you spend five minutes thinking about it, you’ll realize that. 

Ten years ago, few of us had heard of peak oil, “going green” and recycling was a hippy fad, and I could fill the tank of my little car for $20. 

Eight years ago, food banks across Canada were still able to keep up with the demand. 

Five years ago, there were jobs. 

Two years ago, flour and sugar were less than half the cost they are now (sugar is $1.25/kg at my wholesale club, and 1 year ago, it was $0.46). 

We ARE running out of affordable oil. Even when we aren’t seeing the prices at the pumps (gas is $1.17/litre here at the moment – relatively low), we are seeing it in the price of food and other necessities, in the declining businesses and the lack of jobs.

Sharon Astyk speaks of a “human powered economy”, and that is what I envision as well.

Life may be well and good for those who can afford their massive PV systems, or they may find themselves unable to find replacement parts or new batteries. 

But for most of us, peak oil – which we most certainly have hit the beginnings of – is going to mean drastically, severely, painfully cutting back. 

We are already doing it, and we just take it for granted and expect less resources (food, gasoline, housing) for more money. 

As Sharon points out, it won’t matter that the grid is still up if your power has been cut off two months ago for nonpayment and you have two other families living in your 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment so you can all afford the rent.

Something the mister and I were talking about today – Ontario Hydro is paying $0.80/kwh to those who sell them electricity on the MicroFIT program. But consumers are paying $0.05 to $0.10/kwh. This makes absolutely no sense, unless Ontario Hydro knows that they will soon be charging consumers MORE than $0.80/kwh. Look at your hydro bill and imagine it multiplied by 8.

I am not in that select group which can afford a “your life won’t change” PV system or a new carbon-neutral home on a massive acreage. If we stay in the city, we are in the group that will compete for the shrinking pool of jobs – or the shrinking pool of unemployment/welfare money – and who will struggle monthly to pay the rent or mortgage and pay the bills and somehow find enough money to buy groceries. We are in the group that feels the pain when apple juice cans go from 1 litre to 900 ml and still increase in price. 

The thing is, though, this is a VERY BIG GROUP.

We made the decision in April 2013 to move off-grid and begin building our “world made by hand” (a phrase by Kunstler that I find myself using a lot). People did survive before electricity, after all.

Our entire PV system, built up over the past two years, has cost us a bit less than $3000, and it provides us a quite decadent 2 kWh of electricity in the middle of winter.

It’s possible. You don’t need to rob a bank in order to go off-grid.

← → (arrow) keys to browse

Comments

Marie

Please feel free to share anything on this site, in full or in part, with the following requirements: 1) all links MUST be left intact except by written permission 2) the excerpt or reprint MUST link back to the referring page, 3) the following author bio MUST be included: Marie has homesteaded in the city, in an off-grid cabin in the deep woods, and now in a 130-year old house in a village near her hometown. She is the author of A Cabin Full of Food, available on Amazon and loves to interact with her community on Facebook.

So You’re Thinking about Going Off Grid – Just Plain Living - a few months ago

[…] of us need to go at it more slowly. As you can afford to, gradually increase your independence. It doesn’t have to be done right away, and you don’t need to have a system that provides… Once you’ve found a way to create the renewable resources that you need to use and […]

Comments are closed

4 Shares
Tweet4
Share
+1
Share
Flip