The initial momentum of making new movements is commonly by realizing discomfort in comfort zones. Simply flipping a switch to turn the lamp and the heater on is surely a convenience. That sense of steadiness and security makes it logical to pay for electricity bills every month. After less than a century of relying on the electricity grid, many issues are now coming to the surface, like the problematic nature of coal as a main energy source.
It is human instinct to innovate when problems arrise, such as finding new sources of energy other than fossil fuels. Now people have begun to develop the idea of living off the grid, to be self-sufficient for power. A rationalization that comes from making power wireless like mobile phones, and a reluctance to pay monthly utility bills has started creating off-grid households all over the globe.
Scientific developments in a whole new energy industry outside the petroleum world make it possible to live off-grid. The technology behind those self-sufficient communities is currently solar panels, wind turbines, hydro power plant, and generators. Not only based on high technology inventions, but geothermal and passive solar house using natural materials like adobe, recycled tires, cans, etc., are also used for heaters. While the majority of off-gridders are survivalists who aim in freedom off bills, preparing for the collapse of oil economy, and shifting away from over population in main cities, there are some environmentalist doing research as well. Substantial greenhouse gasses produced in diesel burning, risks of spills and leaks in fuel transporting to the ocean, soil, and groundwater, and peaking of carbon footprint on Earth are just to name a few environmental concerns that triggers the idea of off-grid living. Beside its positive potential of noticeably reducing those environmental concerns, off-grid living researchers had also taken part inspiring the latest invention of ‘EcoCapsule’ that support energy independence.
For some places in the world, like America, the government has implimentes supportive policies for people who generate their own electricity, such as renewable energy incentives that permit people to sell power they generate to electric companies at retail rates. To live off the grid from the economic point of view, it mainly depends on equipment costs. It’s a cheaper lifestyle where grid parity has been reached, such as in Japan, Australia, India, Germany, and some states in the US which has reached grid parity for solar photovoltaic systems. Demands and interests in living off-grid are also increasing in the most expensive cities in the world such as Hong Kong, Paris, and London. On the other hand, in developing countries of ASEAN, living off the grid is not yet familiar. In Indonesia, for example, the citizens are still in dependence for electricity supplied from PLN (State Electricity Company), even though PLN is still unable to provide enough electricity to power a lot of remote areas in Indonesia. However, more than 10 villages in Sumba Island, East Nusa Tenggara Province, which people were once unable to use lamps, has been receiving clean energy from wind turbines that Lentera Angin Nusantara Research Organization develop and provide since June 2013. Furthermore, solar electric systems are also being installed in Kenyan villages, Africa.
After all, the ambition to live off-grid does not come without its difficulties. Its dependency on weather condition for wind and solar power is one of them. Using different models of turbines is necessary for better efficiency as wind characteristics in different areas are highly variable. For this matter, solar panels and wind turbines are in constant development in order to make them more effective and efficient. Another challenge after capturing the source is storage, such as the toxic lead of acid battery for night time storage. California State government is encouraging off-grid communities to use grid-tie systems to solve this matter as well as reducing costs for the additional equipment needed in complete off-grid systems.
Out of all potentials of living off the grid from various aspects, off-grid communities continue to deploy all over the world. Although the high cost seems to hold back some households from starting this lifestyle, it’s predicted that grid parity for wind and solar power will be reached in most countries by 2020. Moreover, the high cost of energy storage can also be handled by companies’ initiative and awareness to increase eco-friendly higher capacity battery production. After various challenges in living off-grid mentioned earlier, it’s concluded that new technologies and policies are to answer these challenges and reduce up-front costs of living by sustainable energy. Hence, overall off-grid living communities will continue to grow and get easier access to reach full energy independence especially in main cities of leading countries and remote areas of third world countries. More people are being supportive toward sustainable energy and realizing its positive potentials for themselves and the Earth.