Solutions for Self-Reliance

Here’s Why I Don’t Worry About Storms and Power Outages Anymore

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Living without power for a while in the Balto/DC area is a great example of why @johnrobb ‘s Resilient Communities effort is so important. (from @jeffsix on Twitter)

Jeff is right.  Few things make the need for local resilience more apparent than a power outage — particularly one in sweltering 100 degree heat like the one in the mid-Atlantic right now.

Unfortunately, there’s every reason to believe we are going to see lots more outages like this.  It’s simple:

  1. The climate is changing.  It’s getting hotter (which means more demand) and the storms are becoming more violent and frequent.
  2. The US electrical grid is old, poorly maintained and running at peak capacity.  This is likely to get worse as the global economic slump worsens.
  3. The result?  More outages.  Longer outages.

We saw this in my ‘neck of the woods’ last year.  Two storms, one rain and one early snow storm, savaged our poorly maintained electrical grid (i.e. Northeast Utilities, a power monopoly, cut its tree trimming budget by 26%).

The result?  We lost power for quite a few days (our neighbors got hit much worse than we did).

To prevent this from occurring in the future, we decided to invest in energy resilience.  How?

We bought a 20Kw Generac generator and had it installed as a back up system.  It enables us to power the vast majority of the home in the event of a power outage by burning natural gas.  So essentially, except for a couple of appliances, we are a fully functional home in the event of a power outage.

Why did we opt for this solution?

  • Speed.  The rate and scale of power disruptions are increasing too quickly to explore, develop and deploy alternative solutions.  A reliable, affordable solution was needed quickly.
  • Scale.  The system produces lots of power, which is a critical feature for a large home like ours.  It was also much more powerful for the space it took than alternatives at a much lower cost.
  • Cost.  Natural gas is inexpensive, plentiful, and nearly always on.  It’s also likely to remain so well into the future (at least in the US).  This alleviates the need for a fuel tank (propane, etc.), although I can plug into a tank in the future if I decide to upgrade.

Hope this helps you in your decision-making process.

It’s important to note this isn’t an off-grid solution.   It wasn’t meant to be.

Instead, it IS a solution that increases my options and a great transition strategy to more resilient solutions in the future.

 

Little Free Libraries

Here’s a very simple approach to community building.  A little free library.   It’s a movement that started in Wisconsin and has traveled to California.

What is it?  It’s essentially a large self-service mailbox that houses books people would like to share with each other.  Generally, if someone takes a book, they donate a book they want to share.  What do they do?  From a growing number of accounts, they get neighbors and other people in the community talking more than they used to.  Further, the little library becomes a meeting place.

If you want to put a couple downtown, here are some ideas for designs, or you can buy one.  It would be interesting to see if there was a tool library equivalent to this.

NOTE:   The resilient community research team is headed down to the amazing Seven Cycles today (Watertown, MA) to get some insight into how micro-manufacturers become global and successful.  We’ll publish the results soon.  Stay tuned.

 

Your glad I invested in resilient power analyst,

 

JOHN ROBB

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