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What is an Off Grid Power System?

Most of our installations are for clients who want to live in remote locations where the Solar ROI can be immediate. These locations are either not served by the electrical power grid, or poorly served with frequent outages, due to weather or other reasons. Some of these systems are mobile, as in boats and RV’s.

While adding solar to an on grid home is certainly doable, and admirable, it’s an expense not easily justified, as the grid is typically very cheap to install and hookup. However, there is a monthly electric bill, and prices are not known to decrease, or even stay static, but increase over time.

An off grid home is insulated from grid outages, and increasing energy costs. A remote home which would require power to be brought in from long distance can show an immediate Return On Investment (ROI), the the cost of the solar power system is typically less than the installation charge to bring the grid in. Remote property is typically less expensive than property serviced by the grid, offering more opportunities for savings.

An off grid power system typically consists of Solar Panels and/or Wind Turbines, but also may include micro hydro and generator systems. The charging sources fill battery banks with regulated power for 24/7 operation, even when the sun or wind is not in operation. The batteries can power low voltage devices directly, and regular household appliances though AC Inverters.

Conserving power by using energy efficient appliances, and time shifting heavy loads to times of generation, can greatly decrease the total cost of the system by reducing the size of the system needed. This process does not mean reducing services. An off grid home can have the vary same conveniences and services of an on grid home, just done in slightly different ways to meet the power and financial budget of the owner.

Off grid power systems can be professionally installed, or homeowner installed, and may qualify for state and federal rebates and incentives, improving the ROI even further.

For free information on how to design and build your own off grid power system, rain water harvesting, and other off grid tech, see


Grid Beam – Erector Sets for Big Kids

Grid Beam is a modular system for building all kinds of things. From go carts to bunk beds, it’s an open source construction set. It’s simple to build with, so kids of all ages can enjoy building life size projects. It’s just as easy to take apart, and rebuild, or build something else.

How to Build with Grid Beam: A Fast, Easy and Affordable System for Constructing Almost Anything

Yet grid beam is a real building system, not a toy (although children do enjoy it and can build their own play structures to boot!). With it, ordinary people can create strong durable, real-world projects ranging from furniture and sheds to vehicles, full-sized buildings, and industrial equipment. Key to grid beam technology is flexibility and reusability. We all strive to build or buy products that will be relevant in our future. But, since none of us knows what the future will really look like, design flexibility and reusability is essential.


Off-Grid Radio Interview

We want to interview some of you for a Radio 4 report in July. We are looking for Brits living off-grid anywhere in the world, who are willing to let Radio 4 into your home or camper van, for a chat about why you do it, how you do it, and what you get out of it.

If you live off-grid, especially in the UK, please get in touch. Please send details about your off-grid life and situation, plus contact numbers to Nick Rosen,, or ring 07971 543703. Thanks!

Nick Rosen


[Green-Trust Off Grid] Off-Grid in Uganda

Yesterday, Daniel Lugumya, the founder of a orphanage in Uganda that specializes in HIV/AIDS orphans, stopped by to chat about solar and wind solutions. Apparently, electric power is very sporadic and expensive in Kampala. We showed him our various solutions for generating power, explained how inverters and chargers work, and have decided to take on their mission as a joint project for Green-Trust and Woodhenge. Jim Juczak and I are planning a trip to Uganda in January to teach the kids how to build and maintain wind turbines, solar water heaters, and solar cookers. We gave him a inverter to take back to Uganda to run their PA system, dvd player and video projector for mobile video projection. If you would like to help with this project, please visit and donate funds for the wind turbine project. They will be grateful.

Posted by Steve Spence to Green-Trust Off Grid at 8/29/2006 03:18:00 PM


Are you off-grid, or want to be?

Come join the discussion at one of the premier off-grid discussion groups on the net. Learn what off-grid living is like, or share your experience. You’ll be communicating with hundreds of off-gridders on all sorts of off-grid topics like:

Rain Water Harvesting
Solar & Wind Power
Organic Gardening
Animal raising for food, transportation and clothes
DIY Home building
Soap Making
DIY Fuels

and much, much more. It’s a warm friendly group, and we look forward to your questions and experiences. Come on home to Simply Off Grid!


How do I go off grid with solar and wind?

We have been getting a lot of requests for information on how to conserve energy, how to go off grid, or even partially off grid with wind and solar. I recommend two things to help educate yourself. First you need to know how much energy you are using. Your monthly electric bill will show you a total kWh consumption, but for tracking individual items for daily consumption, you need a $20 device called a Kill-A-Watt. You plug an appliance into this, and it tells you how much energy you are using, now, and over time. This is important for planning and design purposes. The second item I recommend is Bill Kemp’s “The Renewable Energy Handbook”. One of the best resources for educating yourself on what renewable energy is all about and how to implement it. Another $20 well spent.

A good discussion group for all things off grid is the Simply Off Grid group at


Take Yourself Off-Grid!

pv_systemYou probably have heard horror stories of $30k + solar power systems that don’t work when the power goes out (grid tie), complicated power company rules, and expensive and complicated equipment.

We lived off grid for 6 years, and designed and installed our own power system. I’m sharing some of the things I learned, and the full journey is found in the pages of this blog.

You can start the off grid journey yourself, with minimal investment, and grow your system at your own pace. No legal complications.

I’m providing a DIY guide to setting up your own off grid power system for free. Great for cabins, boats, and RV’s, it gives you the basics you need to expand to a larger system.

Good starter equipment includes a small wind turbine if you live in a windy location and a good quality solar panel and charge controller:

400 Watt Wind Turbine

100 Watt PV Kit

This is a good start on your journey, and you will learn a lot about the technology before you build a larger, and more expensive system yourself.









Off the Grid and On the Cloud

Our friend Nick Rosen, Author and director of off grid books and videos, is working on another project. His previous work on people who live off grid and why they choose to so met with critical acclaim. See Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America.

Had it with The Man? You’ll love this series about 12 off-grid households – managing their own power, water and waste. Its freedom, eco-living, self-reliance.

Off the Grid Crowd-sourcing from Nick Rosen on Vimeo.


Learning to install solar, and to live off grid

We have two discussion groups (ok, so we have more than two) that help folks trying to go off-grid. One is aimed at helping you design and install your own solar power system, the other is aimed at learning to conserve, and live in a off grid friendly manner (energy conservation, cooking, gardening, and more). Check them out, and see if they are helpful to you. You’ll find a few thousand friendly folks with similar interests.

A few others you might find helpful are the Low Voltage DC (off grid) group and the DIY Generator group.


Alternative Energy Discussion Groups

Where do you go to ask questions, and talk with others about renewable energy topics? We have a series of discussion groups on a variety of topics related to living off grid, solar energy, rain water harvesting, and more:

12VDC_Power – We’re here to discuss 12VDC alternative power systems for off-grid homes, whether off-grid by choice or necessity. We’ll talk about any type of generation — wind, solar, hydro or whatever. And, we’ll also discuss storage and distribution systems for 12 VDC. And, not to eliminate anyone, we’ll gladly talk about 24 and 48 volt DC systems too. Our planet is rapidly running out of fossil fuels, and the pollution from those is destroying our environment. It’s time to utilize renewable energy and that’s why our group is here.

AlRutanMethane – This is a working group dedicated to developing methane digesters. This work was started by Al Rutan, The Methane Man.

AxialFlux – This group is dedicated to the Axial Flux Permanent Magnet Alternator, as designed by Hugh Piggott, with additional development by Dan Fink and Dan Bartmann of Otherpower, Steve Spence of Green-Trust and Jim Juczak of Woodhenge. This alternator uses rotating magnets and a fixed stator with handwound 3 phase coils. This design is applicable to wind, water, engine, even human and animal power.

DIYSolar – Home of the DIY Solar Install Guide This is a support group for those who want to install their own solar power system. There is an ebook, “DIY Solar Install Guide”, found at The eBook tells how to install your own solar power system. Includes tips on siting the panels, battery maintenance, and sizing a system.

DIY_Propane_Gen – Discuss convert your gasoline generator to multifuel, propane, methane and gasoline. There is an ebook, “DIY Propane Conversion eBook”, found at

DIY_Generator – This is a working group for home built generators and battery chargers for off-grid applications. We discuss instrumentation, smart charging, inverters and battery banks, and other off-grid components. The results of this group has been distilled into an eBook.

DIYVeggieDiesel – This is a support group for those who want to convert their diesels to run on vegetable oil.

DIYElectricVehicles – Building and modifying vehicles for human power, electric assist, and solar power.

HPWD – The discussion of any type of equipment or transportation using human muscles, usually leg muscles with cranks and chains. This includes generators, mills, drills, presses, boats, planes, and land vehicles. If a human muscle powers it, it’s on topic.

LogHomeTalk – Over time we have become a small log home community, separated only by distance we have become friends. We share a common goal of wanting to live in a log home. We also share the joy and pain of reaching that goal.

RainWater – A group dedicated to harvesting rain water as our source of water for household and garden needs. Water collection, purification, and storage will be discussed. Cistern construction, water conservation, system sizing and other topics are welcomed. Photo, Diagrams, and instructional material can be found in the files and photo’s section. Members may list photo’s of their installations. Links to other helpful sites are found in the links section. Grey water recycling is most pertinent, as are any topics that promote water conservation and non-aquifer depletion water sources like distillation of dew or sea water.

Resource_Conservation – Discuss tips for conserving energy and resources, and using it more efficiently. Download the guide from the files section.

SimplyOffGrid – This is for people who want to live off grid, at the same time, want to keep it simple as possible. If you are like minded, then you are welcome to join! We are all here to help each other out and to learn from common experience and research. Please post your links and research here so we can all glean from it. Book reviews are great too! Please share your experience, links, research and any tried and true ideas with us!! We share ours!