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May 20, 2007


greg woulf

My father and grandfather have places off the grid and it doesn't save a lot of money, but I think both would say it was worth it.

It feels to me like we're right on the cusp of making this possible on a larger scale.

Storage is more important than solar panels I think. If something like EESTOR's 35kwh cheap ($3k) packs were realized it would make it instantly possible. The need is for high cycle life and low maintenance more than anything else.

Gary Reysa

This is an interesting trend. Looking at it strictly from the point of view of reducing energy use and reducing green house gas emissions, it seems to me that it puts too much emphasis on solar electricity as an energy reduction strategy. It seems to me that an approach that works on all household energy use would be more effective in reducing energy and also offer a much higher rate of return for the money invested in energy savings.

Two years ago my families energy use was 11,300kwh for electricity plus 43,400 kwh for for space and water heating (Propane) plus 38,700 kwh for transportation (gasoline). Using various conservation and solar heating projects and a more fuel efficient vehicle, we have been able to cut each of these energy use areas in half. Our total expenditure to do this was less than $9,000. And, the cost saving per year is about $4,000. So, it seems to me, that an approach that concentrates on doing the most cost effective energy saving projects ends up saving much more energy for much less investment than investing in a solar electric system.

That said, I realize that going off-grid has other benefits, and is not all about saving energy and reducing green house gases.

Details on the energy saving projects we used:



The old phone companies were warned that cellular and internet telephony were going to put them out of business if they didn't adapt. That is now happening, delayed a few years by industry lobbying of course. I still can't get a local prefix for my vonage line due to industry bribiery.

The utility companies should learn from this. The local utility here is very progressive, first to use superconducting magnetic energy storage on a utility scale.

But they still will not pay grid connected renewable energy generating/storing customers for the power they produce. Only offsets are available and the money they get for renewable electricity is not shared with the customers who generate it.

I think they ought to split the renewable energy credit incentive payments with customers and actually pay us around 15 cents per kwh for our solar, wind, or biogas generated kwh.

If this doesn't happen soon, they will be left behind in this energy re-evoltion. Like phone companies were and very soon cable companies will be left in the dust by universal wireless broadband.

The power company lines should be the conduit and antenna for that internet access. But will they get it? Will they get distributed renewable energy generation and storage?

It doesn't look good. And a few years back a bill was passed in the dark of night to allow companies like halliburton to conglomerate local power companies, making monopoly of all our infrastructure running in the public right-of-way.

With conservation, serial plugin hybrids, and home, farm, and small business mounted renewable energy generation and storage not only replacing utility produced energy and fossil fuels, but actually cutting total energy consumption to a small fraction of what it is now; why connect to the grid at all?

Only one reason, to force change on the old line power companies. They produce GHG that are killing the human friendly climate we all depend upon.

Otherwise it would be easier and more satisfying to disconnect from the grid, as we are from the phone companies, and let the tyrannical corporate citizens die a much deserved death.

A phone company technician visited my neighborhood the other day to install DSL, I was the third person who gave him the third degree that morning. Hehehey. I think the phone company got the message that day. Take your monopoly rippoff and shove it.


"the most cost effective energy saving projects ends up saving much more energy for much less investment than investing in a solar electric system."

Good work! Conservation that cuts consumption to a fraction of present energy use makes renewables able to power everything.

Expecting renewables, or fake renewables like ethanol, to replace the current energy wasting, gas guzzling norm, is a false hope.

Conservation in the form of ulta efficient appliances, computers, and tvs,serial plugin hybrid vehicles (10% of present liquid fuel consumption on average), geothermal heating/cooling, and capturing waste heat from solar and biogas (cogeneration); have the potential to reduce total energy use by up to 90%.


Thanks for your post Gary (the half CO2 house). Yours is an inspiring example.

Kit P

I need a barf bag for this one:

“without commercial power — and still enjoying their computers and large-screen televisions.”

I really get tired of rich people big house in the middle of now where, putting up solar panels and then claiming to be environmentalists.

greg woulf, since you have a family tradition solar how much do you you use and are you off the grid? No, I am not inferring you are rich and clueless. You have experience and I would like you to share in more detail.


"I would like you to share in more detail."

Translation: He craves more personal information to mount more personal attacks.

Pretty common tactic. Don't fall for it.

Phil Degrave

"I need a barf bag for this one"

So people aren't supposed to use computers now?
What are you using to post on this web site?

Why the hell can't some watch a big screen tv now?
If you really want't be a tool, just think of the CO2 they won't use by driving to the movie theater.


well Germany passed a law requiring 20% total use from solar by 2020 and theyre expecting it will actually be 30%.
with a guaranteed 20year cash incentive to purchase at 50cent/kwh and charge users 20c/kwh it didnt take long for people to figure out they can make money at it, even farmers are putting panels in their fields.(see pbs.org nova 'saved by the sun')
and germany is not what one would call a sunny climate.

there is also an example of an offgrid family that runs their plug in hybrid off solar.


Here's an idea. How about the electric company's paying me to supply electricity to their grid. I will install the panels, with a government tax incentive, and then feed that current to the grid for a certain cost. They can then sell it back to us for a nominal profit. When I'm not using power, I would be working towards a credit on my bill.

Imagine if all the houses in a city were like these little power generators, feeding energy back into the grid. We would get an advantage on our bill and cut the amount of coal produced electricity.

The reason I'm not advocating off grid solar is that the expense goes up dramatically and we don't get the massive power required to run fridges, stoves, etc.

What ya'll think of that idea?


Wow $25,000 for an average system! I can pay my reliable grid power for 34 years for this amount. It's hard to keep a simple home item like a lawn mower going. Can you imagine keeping all this going year after year?

Clean safe nuclear generation with super conducting transmission lines is the future systems we should support for power for the masses. :) JohnBo


Gregor... Your idea makes sense to me if the economics are there "without" government subsidies.

I buy power for under 10 cents per kWhr. If you could buy a solar system that would have a 10 year life and pay back it's cost in say 3 years it would be a decent investment.

If we can't do it with solar then invest in GE or Westinghouse stock and help them and yourself make the cheapest power we can, ie probably nuclear.

If you are doing it just to feel good that you saved a bucket of coal.. well that's okay I guess. That's sort of the Al Gore method... fly around in private jets, burn up tons of electricity and fuel but justify it by investing in carbon capture.

Just some thoughts.. JohnBo :)

Kit P

There is a site that will help you all how to cheat the gubbermint out of your tax dollars and your local utility out of profits according to the solar industry: http://www.findsolar.com/

Pay attention, there will be a quiz for the mathematically challenged.

After entering my location and power use for my current electric provider:

After a $2000 federal tax credit for solar panels:

* Years to break even, 49;
* A 30 year loan @$376/month
* $72/month savings on electricity

Next I changed the location to where I lived before that had slightly higher rates but the same solar resource (according to the program):

* Years to break even, 40;

Ok, we can see how higher rates makes solar a better investment.

Then I enter the same usage for where I lived in California with a slightly better solar resource. This result in the system costing about $10k less. California provides a $13k rebate and TOU rates.

* Years to break even, 11;
* 30 year loan @ $254/month
* $218/month savings electricity

Pop quiz, what deceptive practice is the solar industry guilty of?


I guess we can buy an expensive luxury car or boat we don't really need for $50,000 or whatever, or we can invest in a solar system and get something out of it after a few years.

Lots of people have excess cash these days they want to spend on something. Better it be something that recovers energy rather than just uses energy for a change.

I'm sure when technology like Sliver Cells takes off, solar will be even more attractive!




With gas soon to reach 4 bucks, why is anyone skeptical that electricity will soon be 20 cents per kwh? And natural gas rise at similar rates?

very short sighted. these payback periods for all kinds of renewables and conservation will grow shorter as energy inflation boosts every other kind of inflation.

The main thing to cut payback time on these investments is to combine them. Reduce energy use with conservation to a fraction of present use.. AND get that smaller amount oif energy from renewables. As long as power companies do not want to pay for renewable energy generated by customers, dissconect.

Go on strike, like we all are doing to the old land line phone companies.

I think that renewable generating customers ought to band together in cooperatives and force the issue in public aservice commissions all over the nation. Force those operating in the PUBLIC right of way to allow access to the grid so that a renewable energy coop can buy and sell power from and to their members.

Eventually coops will buy out the local utilities, instead of halliburton gobbling them up.

those areas beside roadways where power lines run and where underground cables are buried are PUBLIC. That means we own them, just like we own the public airways where cellular companies, satelite, and broadcast companies operate. These areas need to be taken back from bribe spreading corporate monopolists.

Ronald Brak

I got some junk mail a couple of days ago offering a fully installed solar power system that will give a return of about 6% after the government subsidy. That's still not a good investment for most people, but it's a heck of an improvement on what used to be available.


If I had $50,000 extra cash I might buy a luxury car as it would provide pleasure to me. My refrigerator runs the same on grid power as it does on solar power.... I fail to see the pleasure in a cold beer cooled by solar over one cooled by grid power.

The truth is, solar is a bad economic investment for the federal, the state and the owner. It's a fad that detracts from solid progress to clean up our electric generation sources.

Lets get something done that's worthwhile. Push for clean safe nuclear power. And by the way... I have no affiliation with the industry... I just hope the country will select the best. :) JohnBo

Kit P

Ronald, solar panels are no more an investment than my renewable energy sail boat. The solar industry engages in very deceptive advertising. I provided a link to support that conclusion. Anyone considering putting out big bucks and does not recognize the deceptive practices I have pointed should pay a financial counselor to evaluate your investment.

I have consistently paid more for products that use less energy and are more reliable based on reading consumer reports not the seller claims unless.

Ronald Brak

It's okay Kit. I live in a country where it's illegal for companies to straight out lie and on top of that I can do the math and work out just how much money I stand to make or lose.

A solar power system is an investment, it just might not be a good one. If your only consideration is money then it's not a good deal unless you don't have access to grid power. But if you live in an isolated area or you value lowering carbon emissions, then it may appeal to you.


I hope you guys know about Enertia: they build houses that mostly heat and cool themselves, without electricity. Solar can produce the backup power(or hot water) needed for supplemental heating and cooling. Saves a lot.


another reason someone might want to be "off the grid" is because he or she is anticipating the collapse of the grid.


You buy 1/3 of al the electricity that supports your life directly from the utility.

Convert major appliances to natural gas or propane, pay $25,000 for a solar system, conserve heavily, go off the grid.

Now pay the same as everybody else for the remaining 2/3 generated by conventional means, mostly from fossil fuel.

Converting 6 oz. of uranium to fission products will release enough heat to generate an 80 year lifetime supply of electricity (1,500 watts), and at the end of life less than one ounce will still be radioactive.


Personally, I don't know if I would want to be totally off the grid, but I wouldn't mind borrowing some of the conservation tricks that are common in such houses. Natural ventilation, passive heating, solar hot water, btu grabbers, LED bulbs, solar attic fans, etc, etc. Who knows, pre- air conditioning architectural features like the dogtrot might make a comeback...

Kit P.

Kim, I built a house using these principles in 1987. As averagejoe suggests, pre- air conditioning architectural is nothing new. Low-e glass and solid core insulation with a reflective barrier allow some very creative architecture. Putting solar hot water panels on the ground about 5 feet below the storage tank allows the system to work on natural circulation.

My house needed no electricity for heating, cooling, or hot water. If I was doing it today, I would put in a propane frig and go with a $5000 PV just to avoid dealing with PG&E.



You might like the following website:


It has a lot of good DIY info on solar energy and energy conservation in general. Most of the projects look relatively inexpensive and more importantly, they look like they'd be fun to try. Thanks for the tip about the Enertia website. I'm planning on building a house in a few years so I can use all the info that I can get about passive heating and cooling.

Jay Boss

Man, this sounds awesome.


Highlight Solar Advantage - Licensed, insured and bonded all-in-one solar electric service provider. We are 0$ down renewable energy provider and solar installers. We go to great lengths to prevent problems from occuring with your solar system - We use only best-in-class, high quality equipments and products at wholesale prices! Aslo, we provide home insulation solutions and great energy saver products. Solar electric systems are not cheap but they do payback. http://highlightsolar.com

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