More and more Americans are entertaining new ways to sustain energy by living off the grid and living in tiny houses equipped with the usage of solar panels, wind mills, and even with water power. In 2016, more than 18,000 families left the big city life to flee to mountains and other remote areas for a more peaceful, less stressed life.
The average American salary is $51,000 per year and it costs nearly 24% of that income just to run a single-family home of 1500 square feet per year. With property taxes, insurance, credit card debit, loans, mortgages, and living expenses absorbing another 68%, only 8% of an annual salary is left for emergency, entertainment, or vacation expenses. People are realizing there’s more to life than spending your health to gain your wealth.
Sustainable living off the grid is getting increasingly more popular in the United States, especially with increased living expenses making people opt for better ways of living than spending all their income on living expenses alone. The idea of sustainable living off-grid has also been catching on worldwide with the introduction of more efficient and affordable stand-alone renewable energy systems that produce clean energy.
In fact, a 2015 working paper from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates, on a global scale, that approximately 26 million households are hooked up to an off-grid system. Out of that number, 20 million are powered by photovoltaics (solar homes), while 0.8 million are powered by small wind turbines.
While the data reflected households with renewable energy systems, larger set-ups could power mini-grids for small communities, such as the case for Tokelau and other Pacific Island communities. Moreover, off-grid systems could also provide power for a commercial entity in a stand-alone set-up.
Sustainable off-grid living requires investing not only in a set of renewable energy sources, but also in equipment to ensure a “balance of system” exists, according to the online energy saver resource Energy.Gov. The ideal “balance of system” occurs when all components facilitate safe transmission and storage of electricity.
Among this set of equipment, components include a reliable battery storage to sustain daily power requirements. Procuring a battery storage is easier now due to the decline in material costs and technological advancements introduced to ensure reliability.
According to Energy.gov, there are deep cycle batteries for micro-systems with a reclaim rate of 80 percent. These storage units could last up to 5 to 10 years, with costs depending on factors, such as capacity and location climate condition. Another essential component is the charge controller, which basically prevents the overcharging of the storage system by shutting off flow or diverting excess power of an auxiliary load.
The decision to detach from the main grid to satisfy power requirements often stems from a need for a more sustainable and affordable power source and a conscious decision to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Tapping into the power of the sun, wind, or any natural resource means less greenhouse gas emissions and less impact to the environment.
According to the International Panel on Climate Change, the life-cycle of global warming emission from renewable energy is low compared to natural gas and coal, two materials that are often used in commercial-level power generation.
A study released this month by Lazard, a leading financial advisor and management firm, indicated that, in the last 7 years, the decline in material expenditures for wind and solar PV production, as well as efficiency improvements, have driven down costs. This indicates that renewable energy for off-grid systems is now more accessible and affordable to a larger segment of the population.
Featured photo credit: Nrel.gov via nrel.gov
|||^||Yes Magazine: Tiny House Living, Off The Grid? Here’s How To Do It In Style|
|||^||Wikipedia: Household income in the United States|
|||^||Energy.gov: Off-Grid or Stand-Alone Renewable Energy Systems|
|||^||Energy.gov: Balance-of-System Equipment Required For Renewable Energy Systems|
|||^||web.standford.edu: Towards Sustainable Energy: The current Fossil Fuel problem and the prospects of Geothermal and Nuclear power|