Monthly Archives:March 2005

What type of batteries for cheap electricity?

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HANS HENRICO ASKED US: I’m from sunny SA and battle to get my solar setup arranged. Re batteries: what type should be used at what rating – I have 6 x Arco 12v panels (at 22 Watt per panel) and wish to drive an 3000 watt inverter for 240 AC output for a common household. We have appr. 8 hours strong sunshine here in Messina, Northern Transvaal, RSA.

There are so many types of batteries available. What deep cycle type should I get?

Some say wet cell, others Gel-cell and others MG types. I think Gell-cells are supposed to perform better at high temperatures (our summer could go to 35-40 Celsius).

There’s so much conflicting advice regarding batteries. Please help!

Hope to hear from you soon.

Hans Henrico


Meet the Reclaimers

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Salvage is so now! It’s not only planet-friendly, its also the cool way to cherish off the grid craftsmanship.

SALVO FAIR, Knebworth, Hertfordshire, England, 2 & 3 July 2005, is a full-on weekend, where you can get down and dirty rummaging amongst hundreds of architectural salvage and garden antique exhibits for sale or dress to the nines and be entertained by craftspeople like Wocko the singing woodman, who will be splitting lathes in the traditional fashion.

Go Gooshing

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Don’t go shopping, go gooshing. The Ethical Company Organisation (ECO) has launched a new ethical products web site, listing products sold by ethical companies that care about animal rights, human rights and the environment. Look out for the sign on the right, to tell you that a company has joined the scheme. Buying their stuff sends a message to the companies that are not ethical as well as to ones which are.

Green, green grants of home

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Alex Benady guides you through the maze of UK government payments to reduce your dependence on the grid.

After promises from the Prime Minister to take climate change seriously, the UK government has ended its solar panel subsidy programme seven years early. The pot of £31m lasting until 2012 was intended to offer cheap electricity and green electricity with grants of up to 50% for building solar panels.

The decision to end the grant was intepreted by many as anti-environmental backsliding. No such thing claims the Department of Trade and Industry which administered the programme. There are still plenty of cheap loans and grants for saving energy in your home. It was a spot of much needed house-keeping designed to tidy up the higgeldy-piggledy system of grants and subsidies and that has sprung up around the areas of energy conservation and alternative energy.

Media discovers Off-Grid

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The off-grid world is going mainstream in the US, as this story shows – reprinted from the Chicago Tribune March 8th and LA Times, April, yes April, 10th —

More warming to off-grid living
People who live without access to the electric grid that powers most homes don’t have to exist like rural pioneers, thanks to solar energy and other alternatives

By Clarke Canfield
Associated Press
Published March 7, 2005

BINGHAM, Maine — Just because Richard Roberts and Martha Maloney live more than two miles from the nearest power line doesn’t mean they have to read by candlelight and take cold showers.

One day this winter, with the temperature at 8 degrees and whipping winds making it feel 20 degrees colder, Roberts and Maloney were warmed by the fire in their 25-year-old wood-burning stove and the heat from three propane heaters.


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Daryl Hannah has a massive commitment to the environment, and unusually amongst the Hollywood A-list, she puts in real time and effort to forward her beliefs. In this exclusive interview she spoke to Off-Grid’s Steve Spence. © Off-Grid 2005

Actress Daryl Hannah is often referred to as the Blonde Goddess of Hollywood, but as far as we’re concerned she’s the Green Goddess of the Rocky Mountains. Hannah lives there, off the grid, and she spoke to us about her setup and why she got into that life. The details were fascinating, from the technology of her farm-tractor to the soft couch in her living room made of moss covered stone.

She was in New York with Charris Ford who has lived off-grid for the past 18 years. They are on a tour to promote use of biodiesel fuel, one of the issues that most concerns her. She started learning about the environment as a pre-teen, and she found nature to be the thing that has centred her, where she can “think about things”.

Charris, who runs Grassolean Solutions , got Daryl into bio-diesel as a way of reducing energy consumption on the planet, and now, as is well known she drives a bio-El Camino as well as running a bio-truck, and a bio-tractor on her farm in the Rockies.

But Hannah is not a one-issue campaigner. Her whole way of being is all about the interconnectedness of things and her favourite saying is on that theme:

Sleeping in Airports

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We have all had to do it at one time or another, and some do it out of choice. is an essential travel companion when you are trying to save a few dollars on your way round the world. Its as off the grid as you can get.

Sleeping in airports is often the only answer and sometimes the cheapest answer when you have an early morning flight. After all, airports are safer and more comfortable than some hotels. This site is a useful guide to the sleeping facilities in most of the world’s major airports and many of its minor ones.

Green Home Loans

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The Ecology Building Society is one of few UK lenders to look kindly on loans for off-grid properties. Borrowing on unusual properties is made harder by big lenders like Nationwide and Halifax — they charge extra-high interest rates for the loans, while the Ecology Building Society offers a normal rate — for them the use of solar and wind energy is a plus.

While it is unlikely you will find cheap loans on Green properties, there are also a few local councils, for example Burnley’s Community Credit Union, offering averagely-priced loans for home improvements to save energy — but none are as wide-ranging as The Ecology which is “dedicated to improving the environment by promoting sustainable housing and sustainable communities.” The building society is focused on energy efficient housing; ecological renovation; derelict and dilapidated properties; small-scale and ecological enterprise and low-impact lifestyles (i.e.providing finance to those living off the grid).

The Ecology granted its first discount mortgage on an earth-sheltered dwelling in 1998. Earth sheltering combines low energy use and minimal disruption to land and flora. The mortgaged property forms part of the Hockerton Housing Project in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, one of the most advanced developments in sustainable housing in Europe.

Learning windpower from Africa

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Wind energy guru, Hugh Piggott of Scotland, designed one of the world most rugged and useful wind generators as a project for Zimbabwe.
Piggot, one of the most active wind energy advocates on the Internet, went to Temaruru, a site in the eastern highlands where Powertronics of Harare has installed a stand alone community wind power station.

The goal of the project was to design a simple yet powerful method for small communities well off the grid to be self sufficient and have reliable power. The result? What is now known commercially as the African Wind Power 3.6, a 3.6m powerhouse of rock solid reliability.