Posts from — August 2012

South Africa finds answer to Eskom failure
by NICK ROSEN on AUGUST 31, 2012 - 1 Comment in SOLAR

South Africa’s unlikely saviour – Kangping Chen

As China expands its presence in Africa, a new wave of renewable energy companies are bringing off-grid innovation to the continent while Western competitors stand around and watch.

JinkoSolar, a Chinese solar module manufacturer has declared that it is supplying South Africa’s first  utility scale, off-grid photovoltaic solar system. The 1 MW plant will supply electricity to a chrome mine in the Limpopo province, in the north east of the country.

Oil-replacement photovoltaic solutions are continuing to emerge as a fully-proven power source in mission-critical situations.

This installation will sharply reduce the daytime diesel usage at the mine in the northernmost South African province, an area in which utility company Eskom is active, but repeatedly letting its customers down, allegedly through a mixture of corruption and poor management in the opinion of some. Reports suggest that the State-owned utility will shortly seek yearly price increases of between 14.6% and 19% – well over the rate of inflation.

Installation in the Limpopo mine will be designed and constructed by Solea Renewables and will employ 4,170 JinkoSolar modules. The plant is likely to be completed in October of this year.

Mhlanzi, the Director of Solea Renewables, stated that, “Mines and other consumers face power supply constraints due to capacity challenges at Eskom. The delivery of our PV plant will not only benefit (the chrome mine), but in turn help reduce the ever increasing energy demand Eskom faces.”

JinkoSolar, indicated in announcing the supply deal, that it has “great expectations” for the country. According to, Kangping Chen, Chief Executive Officer of JinkoSolar, “The region’s booming population, strong economic growth and abundant sunlight represent an exciting opportunity for solar and for JinkoSolar.”

As well as ordering a clean-up of Eskom management criminality, South Africa has taken a number of steps in recent months to drive the growth of cleaner energy in the country. In August, the US Export-Import bank signed a declaration of intent (DOI) with the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa which will see the Ex-Im bank provide financing up to US$2 billion worth of US technologies, products and services to South Africa’s energy sector, with a focus on clean-energy development. This is expected to lead to bribery by US energy companies, and  further corruption during the tendering process

As hurricane brews, how to stay connected
by NICK ROSEN on AUGUST 28, 2012 - 0 Comments in MOBILE

Spare batteries are a must for staying in touch

Anyone living off the grid develops much better-than-average skills at surviving during power outages and natural disasters. Here are a few words of advice on battery maintenance and staying connected that may be useful to those in Tampa or New Orleans over the next few hours or days  –

After Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on safety and security initiatives to ensure cell service is available as long as the cell towers are still standing, so an empty battery will likely be the first challenge to keeping in touch and keeping informed.

Battery tech and capacity has failed to  improve or even kept pace with modern electronic technology  and the problem is particularly acute with the latest smart devices . And everyone is carrying more of these devices, which means more batteries. Smart devices do 20 times more than cellphones used to, but they also draw 20 times more power.

The result is a much shorter overall battery life per charge due largely to all of the extra stuff that smartphones and iPhones have built into them. Regardless of which smartphone you have, when the power is out, you are going to want to make its charge last as long as you can. There are a number of ways that you can accomplish this with a little care and planning. (more…)

Make money off-grid – ways to pay, part 2
by JULIAR on AUGUST 27, 2012 - 0 Comments in WORK

Cam and Michelle Mather run a publishing business whilst living off grid north of Kingston, Ontario.

They founded Aztext Press ( in 2003. Cam, already a working in publishing, was disappointed to find a lack of books providing information about living off-the-grid with renewable energy. At about the same time he was introduced to Bill Kemp, an expert in small to mid scale renewables, and from this partnership “The Renewable Energy Handbook for Homeowners”  was born.

Written by Bill and published by Cam it has  been updated and republished. In the years since, Aztext Press has published 6 more books all focused on issues around living off-grid. Now they have taken this further by writing books as well. One of which, ‘Little House Off The Grid’, details their journey to self sufficiency. (more…)

Huge off-grid community
by NICOLA on AUGUST 27, 2012 - 21 Comments in COMMUNITY

Ralph and Mary Johnson (pictured) live in Three Rivers Recreation Area, a 4,000-acre development near Lake Billy Chinook that relies on solar power for electricity.

The  development in central Oregon now includes 625 properties on 4,000 acres in a gated community where everyone is off the grid. Some of the homes sell for several million dollars, and include all of the amenities of modern life, including air conditioning. Others are little more than shacks bought for a few thousand. (more…)

How to earn a living in the Boonies – Part 1
by JULIAR on AUGUST 24, 2012 - 4 Comments in WORK

We begin a new series by Julia Moore exploring working patterns in off-grid communities:

Fred and Susan – craft sales

Fred and Susan Klotz run their online businesses from their off-grid home.

Susan sells quilts and laptop bags, made on her sewing machine, and Fred uses the web to find customer for the furniture he makes in his solar powered woodshop.

They have lived together in Oregon for 5 years, not far from Crater Lake National Park, in a remote cabin with 95% of their power supplied by the sun, “and the rest from hard work.” Fred worked in high-tech before moving off grid 35 years ago and Susan was as a corporate trainer, a high stress job, until she began living with Fred. (more…)

Seeking a permaculture solution…
by LILY on AUGUST 23, 2012 - 0 Comments in I WANT TO GO OFF GRID

My husband and I are looking for a place to park our live-in vehicle over the autumn months, and possibly beyond. Our choice to live on wheels is both an ecological and financial decision, and a conscious choice to enable us to explore life beyond the perimeters of convention. We are embarking on a project that looks at positive alternatives to our current paradigm, and as part of this we are seeking a base in or near Brighton and the surrounding area. We imagine the back of your garden, the corner of a field, a driveway, or disused yard. We need very little, but access to an outside tap would be preferable. If there were a garden or potential for a veggie patch, we would love to help you bring it to life. We are 33 and 34 yrs, Pete is an ecological designer, specialising in permaculture, and guest lecturer at Brighton University; he is also a skilled carpenter and handyman. I am a sports massage therapist, permaculture student and community volunteer. We can offer help with cooking, cutting wood, caring for your garden, children or animals, our skills, enthusiasm, and a love for living synergistically with nature. If you would like to discuss possibilities, please email, or call 07832 258 877

looking for an off-grid adventure. many skills to offer !
by RONNIED3D on AUGUST 20, 2012 - 12 Comments in I WANT TO GO OFF GRID

exp. carpenter looking for an otg community to join. willing to just go, at anytime.very little holding be back, very little baggage. honest, dependable, hard working. Would prefer somewhere i can work a part-time job also to help support the community.

Whole house vacuum aka Bobbage
by WRETHAOFFGRID on AUGUST 20, 2012 - 3 Comments in WRETHA

PB is such a tinkerer, his ability to take nothing but scraps, often discarded items and make extraordinary and useful things is one of the biggest reasons we have been able to live off grid while spending very little money, I think of him as my personal MacGuyver. He had been talking about making a whole house vacuum for quite some time now. Normally I really like PB’s inventions, but honestly I wasn’t on board for this one, don’t ask me why, I have no real reason except that I just couldn’t see how it would be better than just running a vac in the sky castle like normal, or could it be the fact that I hate vacuuming? LOL… (more…)

Solar panels for sunless setting
by NICK ROSEN on AUGUST 12, 2012 - 0 Comments in SOLAR

A hunting lodge in Maine with two small solar panels, some old used car batteries,a quarter mile of wire and careful management. An old-timer explains how he does it in this video.

The old batteries are important – recycled from the owners car once he buys a new one. The Deep cycle batteries which we are told are the right product for this environment, in reality do not hold a charge over the winter when not in use. (more…)

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