Hi Chemists Without Borders,
I have just become a recent member of Chemists Without Borders with interests in clean water technology and renewable/alternative energy solutions for third world communities. I have spent many years working for testing laboratories and an environmental engineering company that focused on groundwater and soil testing and remediation resulting from hazardous waste releases.
During my email conversations with Steve Chambreau I mentioned that my wife and I live off the grid in central Vermont. VT may not be the sunniest place in the world, but one can live quite comfortably utilizing solar power. Steve asked if I would talk a little about living off the grid.
Our current set-up uses a photovoltaic array of eight(8) 63 watt solar panels wired together for 24 volt input into a battery bank (consisting of 12 large 2-volt cell batteries). The DC voltage stored in the batteries is inverted through a 1200 watt inverter and wired directly to our 120 volt AC circuit breaker box. The house is wired like any normal house (all outlets and lights are AC voltage). We also have a small micro-hydro system running off a nice waterfall next to the house, but keeping water running in Vermont winters has proved to be a challenge. Typically we rely on the solar. Large power tools and the washing machine run off a gas generator. If our inverter was 2400 watts instead of 1200 watts, we could probably eliminate the generator.
As you can imagine, when you are at the mercy of the sun shining or wind blowing, we tend to be very frugal with our power consumption whenever possible. All our lights are low watt halogen bulbs, our water pump is a low-watt shallow-well jet pump, and we don't have appliances like microwaves or electric dryers.
We have found living off the grid to be rewarding. We are much more cognizant of weather, changes in season and how much energy is consumed during our daily routines.
I would love to put renewable/alt energy systems in places where other people could benefit from them. I also see any clean water systems that we develop powered by renewable/alt energy as well.