Is Going Off the Grid Practical?
08-26-2012, 08:44 AM,
Is Going Off the Grid Practical?
The technological miracle that transformed the 20th century into an engine of wealth creation was based upon cheap energy. The role of the electric grid cannot be understated when it comes to enhancing the quality of life for the greatest number of people. The advance of civilization often seems to go in reverse gear. However, the innovation of labor saving devices and productive machinery usually rely upon running on the stream from electric generation.
Even with this laudable accomplishment, the electric grid has fundamental flaws and distribution shortcomings. The challenge for the 21th century requires a re-invention of thinking as much as a technological replacement of the alternative current system of connection to the electric grid.
Peter Fairley reveals an important trend in Edison's Revenge: The Rise of DC Power.
"Anything that uses transistors relies on direct current, the flow of electricity in one direction. That explains why PCs, iPhones, and flat-screen TVs all have converter boxes to turn the alternating current in wall sockets (which reverses direction 120 times a second) into direct current.
Such digital consumer devices account for up to a fifth of total power consumption today, according to Greg Reed, director of the Power & Energy Initiative at the University of Pittsburgh. Reed says the steep growth curve of DC power is due not only to computers but also to the spread of devices such as LEDs and solar panels.
"Within the next 20 years we could definitely see as much as 50 percent of our total loads be made up of DC consumption," he says. "It's accelerating even more than we'd expected."
DC power is a far more practical method of generation if a consumer is determined to severe the cord with your local electric utility. The obvious drawback is that in the United States major appliances are all designed to run on AC. If one is resolute to become independent in electric creation, the practical sources of generating a usable current requires a substantial redesign of a wiring system and a substantial investment of capital for the privilege of telling the electric company to take their bill and stuff it.
Is this emotional determination realistic when most people reside in metropolitan regions? Now if you are an avid "Prepper" and have secured the ideal isolated and rural location to build your dream castle retreat, by all means, do your own thing.
The reality is that reliability of consistent power is one of the main advantages of connecting to the grid. Sure power- outages increase as the lack of proper maintenance to the transmission grid deteriorates. But the alternative of a fickle wind turbine in a still sky means you better be lighting with candles. With all the shortcomings and the short life of battery storage systems, the joy of being free of the utility company may well mean converting to a 19th century hand well pump for your water and a wood stove for your heat.
Now many hi-tech inventions allow the self-reliant to enjoy the natural pleasures of a back to nature lifestyle. Thermoelectric generators (TEG) might even work if you can master the technology of generating small amounts of electric current from the energy of your wood or coal furnace. Or, if you did your due diligence in selecting that prime survivalist fortress, with a dependable water flow from a year round stream, you can consider a micro-hydro power systems. If you strike out with your current incompatible location, surely you can sling a few solar panels on your roof to boil your morning cup of coffee.
The point is that the actual alternatives to generating a practical level of power independent from a grid connection, can be achieved by few property owners.
Now before you give up and order your PG&E smart meter, the definite scandal has little to do with guaranteeing a cost effective electric utility system. Note the main concern has to do with your health and privacy. "Civil liberties advocates are watching this case and asking if we can’t trust the utility industry not to read our e-mails and spy on us, how can we trust them not to share details of our private lives that they acquire from the smart meter?"
As the emphasis of the alternative energy debate shifts solely from methods to dominance, one must admit that the electric grid is presently being used to control your household existence. The idea of allowing individual homeowners to live their lives free from Public Service Commission control is only an academic issue. With modern living, in the "Green" politically correct era, the only thing that can be counted on is a move towards a despotic government mandate that forces compliance to the "Cap and Trade" culture.
Going off the grid is far more a political matter than a primitive attempt to supercharge your energy independence by perfecting the recluse way of life. We are all in the same electromagnetic pulse (EMP) matrix that threatens to severe the electric life raft. Reverting to a Hobbesian State of Nature in an age of comprehensive surveillance that runs on electric current will not cure the autocratic lightening strike.
How can real and viable electric alternatives be developed and brought to market when the entire bureaucratic system rests upon enforcing arbitrary regulations for favored crony relationships? Proponents of "Sustainable Energy" worship a bogus deity. Their doctrine requires the elimination of coal altogether. With the rapid increase of natural gas turbines for electric generation, these zealots demand that every fossil fuel must be abandoned.
Such attitudes directly have a negative impact on the grid. The case of industrial wind makes the point. A dramatic expansion of the current grid would be required to provide an interconnect from scattered wind factory locations. Just ask Boone Pickens why he deserted his flirtation with this outdated, unreliable and inefficient wind generation in favor of natural gas.
Home fuel cell technology to power your home offers independence from the grid, but any system that requires a cogeneration source of fuel (like propane or natural gas) has obvious economic drawbacks. The promise of producing electricity from magnet generation has a striking appeal. However, where is the practical model that can be tested and marketed at your local Home Depot?
Sorry, the facts all support a conclusion that for a complex society with an aging infrastructure and an authoritarian political culture, the will to invest in a different electrical distribution system does not exist. It is not even a question of developing a better method for connection; it is all about stretching the useful life of old technology. Where is Nikola Tesla when you really need him? Well, the modern day J P Morgan’s that control the utility grid have a decisive foreign ownership composition. When the likes of Iberdrola and National Grid are encouraged to buy up our domestic electrical utilities, the prospects for the future mirror the problems of Europe.
So if you are not a Prepper and you reside in your urban Florida condominium, be prepared to survive without air conditioning, if you want to cancel your utility account. The regulatory agencies are rubber stamps for the "Corporatists" utilities and citizen groups have an uphill struggle in preventing a wholesale stranglehold on your energy availability.
Organizing community electric cooperatives with citizen utility boards may be the only way to combat the Agenda 21 goal of controlling and rationing energy availability. The grid could be a miracle support line if it was under the stewardship of community interests. Decentralization of the grid, while maintaining access to sources of reliable and cost effective electric generation, should be the goal. Preventing brownouts is a technological issue, not an Enron manufactured by design occurrence.
The prospect of skyrocketing utility bills is a foregone reality if further consolidation is allowed. Without market competition not only in the sale of electricity, but in the delivery system of distribution, the costs of surviving your electric bill may be far more difficult.
Conservation is a logical objective. Notwithstanding such a noble aspiration, the financial requirements for return on equity demand that a reduction in usage demands an increase in electric rates. Only a true and practical energy generation invention that could break the ties of the electric meter, would offer any prospects of getting totally off the grid.
For the foreseeable future, major energy appliances will be manufactured for AC current. Anyone who has experience with portable generators for backup home generation know all too well that the price of gas or propane are excessive and prohibitive as a permanent alternative.
The only way to get the grid to work for you is to place maximum pressure on the political system to promote innovation for individual independence of the end user. DC current is the energy of choice for the greatest autonomy. However, the Washington DC connection is the greatest hurdle to overcome. The physics of Tesla’s wireless transmission of electrical energy is child’s play, when compared to the enigma of government regulation.
SARTRE – August 26, 2012
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