What better topic for Labor Day than reduction of necessary labor by moving off the grid? When you make the decision to cut the power lines, you are making a contract with yourself: to do whatever labor is necessary to keep your alternative energy system running to provide your necessary power. Luckily, whether with solar, wind, or micro-hydro power, once you’ve invested in the initial construction phase, you’ve gotten a lot of that work out of the way and you can let nature take it from there.
However, all systems do require upkeep. Solar panels need dusting and readjusting, wind towers need tuning, and hydro systems must be cleared of debris. This upkeep is one thing that turns a lot of people off about off-grid power. It SEEMS like a lot of work when one is addicted to simply having on-demand power by signing a check every month. However, when you see the bigger picture of your energy consumption scheme, things make more sense. The majority of the power generation in an off-grid system is generated by nature. This is also true in a utility power generation system, but there, workers must transport the raw materials (usually coal) to the power generation site and physically feed the burners. Between the labor costs of mining the materials and getting them to the power station, and then the labor required to string and maintain power lines to transport the electricity to you, you’ve racked up a lot of human capital for each kilowatt hour you consume. By taking a pledge to do minimal maintenance on your own system, you are freeing up human capital for other tasks, like designing new generations of alternative energy delivery or other such noble tasks. (I won’t expound on humanity’s likelihood for picking such noble professions over, say, sleeping on the couch on a holiday like today. There are limits – enjoy your time off!)
In fact, this discussion underlines a concept that interweaves into a lot of simple living theory. In order to see your real savings, you should be able to see outside your own life to the greater good of our neighborhoods, nations, species, and planet. By investing a small amount of time, you can count yourself a philanthropist. Go ahead, put it on your resume! After all, time is a luxury of which each of us only has so much. You’ll probably find that you end up freeing more time by not having to work to pay certain bills than you will spend in upkeep. In conclusion, if you want to save energy, your fellow man, and the planet all at once while building your karmic bank account, start planning a way to get off the grid today. That way, by Labor Day next year, you might celebrate by DOING some labor for a change, instead of needing a break from your daily grind. Happy holiday!