Living off the grid on a self-sustaining farm or community is a dream for many, but making a dream come true often gets side-tracked in the initial design of the off-the-grid system. Being independent and self-sufficient does not have to be complicated or conceptualized as a constraining and inflexible endeavor. Many people wish to pursue the off-the-grid lifestyle to escape the rigidity of everyday life. Fortunately, there are great resources for those who wish to pursue building a sustainable system that provides for the needs of a variety of use, from a one-person system to a sustainable community. Drawing on the resources compiled by other off-the-grid enthusiasts makes the planning a low-stress and even enjoyable process.
Renewable energy systems are often considered to have a high up-front cost that can deter many otherwise interested people. As it turns out, depending on the location of the land, going off the grid and installing a completely stand-alone system can be more affordable than connecting to the grid infrastructure. The key is to find the right solution that fits the specific location and the needs of the end-users. An off-the-grid system for a family of four in the remote areas of Alaska will have different design needs than a stand-alone system for a sheep farm in New Mexico. They both can be fully stand-alone and sustainable. Still, the type of energy used, the type of infrastructure installed, and the size of the system will need to accommodate the specifics of the environment and the systems’ purpose.
On the basic level, all off-the-grid energy systems must diversify their energy sources and plan to harvest at least two different types of renewable energy, such as wind, hydroelectric, solar, or geothermal. That also means planning to install the infrastructure for two different harvesting systems integrated into a single user interface. A unified user interface supported by a diversified harvesting system allows users to offset non-productive periods of one type of resource, such as wind, with another type of renewable energy, such as solar power, without switching back and forth between the systems.
Off-the-grid systems can be both retro-fitted to an existing location or built-in to a new design. For maximum benefit, re-designs and new constructions should incorporate passive house design principles that support energy savings and reduce the size of the energy system needed for self-sufficient living. Most renewable energy systems are also expandable, which means that users can experiment in small-scale versions of various types of off-the-grid systems before they invest on full-scale. Those looking to switch off the grid renewable energy can find financial support through USDA programs and off the grid news through online communities, such as Off Grid World. After all, and despite the desire to leave the on-grid life behind, living off the grid is about sustainable living and building a responsible community for most people. Lush wildlife lives among the moss-filled creeks also to hunt for food.