Life in “Off-Grid” communities in Canada is possible, but it significantly differs from other areas concerning lifestyle. Off-Grid Communities are known as areas that not connected to the electric grid or natural gas network. These communities consist of more than ten permanent dwellings and are usually remote. These places also lack basic services and infrastructure and use alternative energy.
According to the GMCA Graduate Consulting Program, there are approximately 280 remote communities in British Columbia. Out of these 280 communities, 54 off-grid areas entirely rely on other alternative sources of energy and the aspect of safety is of great concern. Common forms of energy in these remote areas include firewood, gas stoves as diesel generators.
Apart from these “Remote Communities” people in other places in Canada can also choose to live off the grid. These people have access to the electric grid network, but they decide to use other alternative sources of energy like solar power. People who opt to live off the grid, while in urban areas, usually believe it is cheaper and want to protect the environment.
The significant difference is that in cities, people who voluntarily choose to live off-grid follow strict, enforceable safety measures by the local government. The other issue is that total reliance on solar power in cities has its challenges such that it may not be easy to live comfortably off the grid.
Significance Of Studying Remote Off-Grid Communities In BC
In many remote off-grid communities, the people living there lack awareness as well as the importance of safety at home. The residents barely consider safety measures when they install different sources of alternative energy power in their homes.
The danger is that substandard installation of power sources like gas poses a real threat to their lives. Unprecedented explosions can accidentally happen at any time, and this can lead to injuries. In another unfortunate incident, a family of four people died due to carbon monoxide suffocation from an unregulated water heater.
The other issue is that the people who live in remote areas show a general tendency of resistance towards licensed contractors. It may not be their problem to resist the services of licensed contractors since they lack knowledge about the significance of the services they offer.
The contractors are generally expensive, and they are inaccessible at times. Many people in remote place are content with their lives since they are usually free from financial burdens. It is something that is not special to their lives to talk about hiring contractors to install power in their homes.
The lifestyle of people living in remote off-grid communities is generally substandard since it lacks basic human requirements like safety. It is possible to enjoy quality lifestyles in off-grid areas when the residents adopt the necessary measures that can improve their welfare.
The case of about 400 people living entirely off the grid on Lasqueti Island shows that a constant supply of power is vital in life. The residents rely on solar energy to heat their homes since Island has no any form of connection to the BC Hydro’s power supply.
The residents also use firewood for cooking and heating water for bathing. The kind of lifestyle in these areas that are entirely off-grid belongs to another world different from usual life in Canada. You are forced to do with the things that you need instead of what you want.
Source: Exploring Alternatives
Measures To Improve Safety Concerns In Remote Areas
As long as other facilities are safe for human use, the quality of life can improve. Living in remote areas is enjoyable since most of the things are for free. This kind of life differs from city life which is generally expensive. Living in remote areas is also peaceful, so there is every reason for individuals to choose the places where they want to live.
To improve the lives of people living in remote off-grid communities, it is imperative to raise awareness about many issues. There is a need to open better communication channels to educate the residents about the importance of safety measures in remote off-grid communities.
Safety checks concerning the installation of sources of power such as generators should also get attention. However, this can only be possible when the members in the communities are aware that these measures will improve their welfare. Such an initiative can be possible through the use of different communication channels accessible to many people.
Apart from these concerns, people who choose to live off the grid in cities also have different factors that can affect their lifestyle. In urban areas, it is a matter of choice to live off grid unlike in remote areas where there is no link with the electric grid network.
Living Off-Grid In Canada
Indeed, power utilities are readily available in cities, but some people choose to use other alternative sources like solar energy. For many Canadians, living off-grid may prove to be impossible as a result of different factors. Weather and cost factors play significant roles in determining the possibility of living off the grid in Canada.
If you choose to go off-grid, the two significant sources of energy that you can opt for, are solar and thermal energy. Specific regulatory issues guide the use of solar power in particular, and these can affect people in different ways. On the other hand, the aspect of weather can also determine if you can go off the grid entirely.
There is a significant increase in the number of solar panels lining different houses from the southern side. However, the main issue is that they also throw back some power to the grid. When you have solar panels at your house, they absorb energy in the form of direct current (DC). The inverter converts it to alternating current (AC).
The critical element about using solar energy is that a net energy metre tracks all the power you use. All the energy that you do not use feeds back into the grid. However, you can still use it during cloudy days when your solar cannot generate enough power. You are not different from a person permanently using hydropower since you can also access it any time.
If you produce more energy and use less power, then it will be your advantage. The power that you do not use is credited to your account in the value of dollars. The money will pay off the price of installing a solar system at your home. You do not randomly install a solar system at your house since there are strict regulations to follow.
The other issue that you should take into consideration before deciding to go off grid is that installing a solar system is costly. The starting price is about $10 000, but the good news is that after paying off the costs, you get a profit. The arrangement is called the feed-in-tariff program meaning that solar energy is not entirely for free.
The other aspect that you should take into account is that if you intend to live off-grid entirely, you should get a battery to store all unused power. Tesla is the most common type of battery, but the issue is that you need to monitor it closely.
You must make sure that you do not overuse power to run the battery dry. If the battery runs dry and the weather is cloudy, it means that you may not have any power at home. There are chances that this situation will inconvenience since you cannot live without electricity. We use power for many things that affect our welfare, so it is practically impossible to stay without energy at home.
The other alternative source of power is geothermal energy. The ground is capable of absorbing energy from the sun and stores the heat in the field. The geothermal system works by laying an underground piping system known as the loop. The system goes along with a heat pump that you can place at any depth that you want.
As the water circulates in the piping system underground, it helps to exchange heat between the building and the pipes. The heat is transferred indoors by the pump in winter. In summer, temperature moves from the house to the loop where the colder ground absorbs it. The heat pump then cools the home using the colder water from the circuit.
Financial Consideration About Going Off-Grid
When you choose to use both solar and geothermal energy off-grid, then you cut ties with the hydro company that supplies energy. There are also other things to consider such as the cost of installing both systems in your home. For instance, it costs more than $30, 000 to implement both systems in your home and this is a fortune to many people.
Many people usually opt to live off-grid as a cost-cutting measure. Electrical bills are at times considerably high, but it defies logic when you spend more than what you should save. People who decide to go off-grid want to live little lives so they should not spend more on both solar and geothermal energy systems.
However, this system requires electricity to function. When you are using solar energy, this means that a lot of power goes to the geothermal heating system. You risk the danger of running the batteries dry especially during cloudy days. The geothermal heating system can also be a source of inconveniences since you cannot go without a heating system when the battery is low.
Electric energy is reliable since you do not stress about its availability since it is always there. The element of weather can also give you some problems when you decide to go off-grid. During winter and fall, the weather is cloudy, and the performance of the solar system is not very useful.
When the solar charging system is low, you need to look for alternative sources of power. Alternatively, you need to be very economical with the little power that comes from solar when the weather is not good. Both systems will not be able to properly function so they can be a source of unhappiness instead of joy.
You can successfully live off-grid in areas where the cost of electricity is the same as installing a solar system. The only possibility can be in some rural place where you have access to hydropower but want to change to other alternative sources of energy. In such a case, you only want to change lifestyle from the city to a quiet place.
You can heat the home using traditional methods such as a wood stove. You will be in a better position to reserve solar energy for small tasks that do not require a lot of energy. You must not view a solar battery as something to put up with. You will not be disappointed when you know that you can successfully go off the grid when you have another alternative source of energy in the form of wood.
Over and above, the two issues of living off-grid in Canada are a result of design and desire by the people involved. In remote areas, it is by design to live off-grid since there is utterly no link to the electric grid network. The residents in remote areas live by other means of energy sources, but the issue of safety is of great concern in these areas.
On the other hand, the Canadians who live off-grid do so by desire since the utilities are readily available in their homes. The two primary sources of energy for people who live off-grid are solar and geothermal power. The element of cost can be a drawback to many people since the essence of living off the grid is to cut utility costs.
While some people may enjoy the idea of doing away with electric bills, using hydropower is reliable. It is readily available, and you do not stress about solar batteries running dry or cloudy weather. You enjoy your life each day instead of always keeping your eye on the battery.