Nearly all of Maine’s 1-point-3 million people rely on power companies for their electricity. Nearly all, but there are some exceptions, folks who don’t depend on anyone else when they flip on a switch. They are energy self-sufficient. Tonight we take a look at those who are ":living off the grid.":
Adrienne Bennett is on the story for us, she joins us from our Central Maine Bureau.
There aren’t any state statistics on how many people are living off the grid in Maine. It makes sense because really there’s no way to track them, but it’s not hard to find folks who live off the grid. I caught up with a couple from Montville who make all of their energy right in their backyard.
":I don’t like paying energy bills.":
so Vernon Lecount and his wife Helga don’t.
In 2000 Lecount built this two story house with energy efficiency in mind.
":we designed the house so it would be off the grid. We built 2 electrical systems a DC and an AC and we knew we wanted it to be super insulated and passively heated by the sun.":
Solar panels and three small windmills generate enough power to keep the couple comfortable, but Lecount says it begins with energy conservation.
":energy efficiency and conservation is how I do it.": 13.15 ":looking for phantom loads, getting more efficiency appliances in homes, insulating better, getting thermal curtains.":
All of which has been done here—appliances are on electrical strips to avoid using power when they’re not in use.
Lecount even bought a Danish made refrigerator that only uses a fraction of energy from the solar panels.
But how does it all work
":it’s our battery bank!":
":this is a solar boost. This takes the power from the solar panels and puts it into those battery banks you saw. The windmills come into the battery bank directly (splice) It goes out of that machine and into this machine and converts the 12 volt to 110 and then goes into a normal box like anyone else’s house.":
Lecount admits there is a downfall about the system
":This is the weak link in an off the grid system, it’s storing power.":
16 golf cart batteries aren’t the most reliable storage source because they can overload and essentially burn up becoming useless. to avoid an overload Lecount and helga actually have to use up the extra energy in the system.
":Vacuuming is a great way of using up juice and toasters are also.":
the investment was well over ten thousand dollars, but it’s already started to pay off Lecount says in more ways than one.
":I think my energy conservation originally grew out of being a cheapskate, but now I can see the value of it for reducing my carbon footprint.": >:
Lecount says it would be difficult to live off the grid with only one alternative energy source, but the combination of the wind and sun he says is a good balance.
Coming up on TV5 News at 6 we’ll visit a business that generates its electricity with the largest solar set-up in the state.
We’ll also see how both home and business owners can get the best bang for their buck when it comes to buying renewable energy systems.