Friday, April 18, 2008

Declare July 4 Energy Independence Week!

During last week's blizzard, the power went out here for about an hour, the first time it had done so since I moved in, in February.   Power outages can be instructive, as it confronts you directly with your energy dependence.  As I suspected, this house, being presently all-electric, was not a fun place.  Without the juice, I have no running water and no way to cook, plus it was a dark and stormy night.  Being superinsulated, the house does not cool off fast, but it does have some air leaks and the wind was howling like mad.  Because the outage occurred at the beginning of a predicted three-day storm, I was worried it might be out for quite a while.

But then the lights came back on and everything was fine.  It is all too easy to sink back into complacency, to talk the preparedness talk without walking the preparedness walk.  

For many reasons it is a good idea to be prepared for a week-long power outage.  I think a good way to drive that preparedness would be to schedule the outage.  My fellow Americans, I invite you to join me in celebrating Energy Independence Week:

This year the 4th of July is on a Friday.  Take the week off.  You have two options for observing Energy Independence Week:

Option 1:
Make it a stay-at-home vacation during which you:
1.  Burn no fossil fuels (grill charcoal okay.)
2.  Use no grid electricity (on site renewable generation okay.)
3.  Do not go to restaurants or grocery stores (stocking up ahead okay.)

Option 2:  Spend the week with some one else doing Option 1.  

If we can pull this off we will have advanced our self-reliance and disaster preparedness in a way that also moves us towards long-term sustainability.  Gasoline-powered generators do not do this.  (My experience of them is that, even in the short term, they are fool's gold, because all the gas station pumps run on electricity, and in many places it is illegal to store more than a few gallons of gasoline in cans due to fire hazard.)

Take some time to look into what it would take.  If you can't even consider doing this, even in the summer, that ought to tell you something - you're going to have to make some big changes at some point.  Option 2 is included to give condo and apartment dwellers a reasonable way to play.  Otherwise you would have to already be living in an ecovillage.  Very few condos have on-site renewable backup power.  Realistically, in an extended outage or rolling blackout situation, many people would have to leave their apartments.  This exercise could prompt you to renew that personal connection, and what better time than a holiday visit?

In my case, it might just be possible.  I have a small and motley set of solar PV panels, about 120 W altogether, but I need racks, batteries, and inverters to make a functional system.  My well pump is 220 volts ac, I can't afford an inverter big enough to do that, but I might be able to change out the pump for 110 v model.  Redbeard & Co should have the solar water heat hooked up by then so I can take a decent shower.   As anyone knows if you've been through a lengthy power outage, the hot shower is one of the things you miss the most, and basically all the equipment for it they've got in the store requires either fossil fuel or electricity.  No good.  I have a solar oven, but not a charcoal grill....

In closing I would say, This will be tough but what you will learn in the attempt will be good for your family and your country!  If I were the President I would say, it's your patriotic duty!

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