Updated: 29.06.2018, 19:52 Póvoa Nova
Van Bossestraat 70-1, Amsterdam
Before arriving here, back in my apartment in Amsterdam, I was investigating my current usage ‘on-grid’ in comparison in what could be used in an off-the-grid setting, but with obvious less large consumer devices. I was paying around €100 per month for my usage which was around 7kW per week(!). For my budget an affordable off-the-grid solar was max 4kW per week. So I started putting all my devices in a datasheet and started ruling out what was no longer needed or would not fit my new life style (for e.g. the microwave oven which I didn’t like using anyway for health reasons) and setting the time to be used to an acceptable minimum. I managed to bring it down to 3kW per week. My plan was to find a local supplier once arriving in Portugal.
When I arrived here at my off-the-grid site at the end of September 2017, I was confronted with my need for electricity for my ‘modern’ life and the corresponding devices but also just recharging my headlight; A necessity for finding your way in the dark at evening and night. The first few weeks I charged mobile and headlight when driving my car around to explore the surrounding area. This obvious could not remain the status quo, so fortunately the previous owner had left a small solar setup including one PV panel, a 12v car battery and 600 watt Inverter. Why didn’t I start using this the first weeks? Well, it was not clear yet what was inclusive or excluded the purchase of this property. But there was no claim made at the Notary, so it belonged to Regada. Meanwhile I was in the process of ordering and receiving my main Solar Power setup (from Victron Energy: 24 Volt / 3.000 Watt / 70 AMP / 230 v AC with 1.100 watt PV solar panels with a backup Genset 4kW).
Is electricity a basic need? I think it is, well now in the 21st century electricity feeds almost the majority of our household appliances and mobile devices such as our mobile phones, tablets, navigator, etc. But it was and is for me also a chance to go back to basics and manual power. I use manual power for example when washing my clothes, cutting the smaller pieces of wood, most of the work done in the garden. It is all done by manpower. And we are loving it!
And what about the Internet? Is this also a ‘basic need’? Not really, but very much debatable. For me it is a necessity for example running this website, ordering materials online which I cannot find in the local stores, a lot of my social contacts are via Internet.
Satellite versus Mobile internet via a dongle
So yes, for me also setting up the Satellite Internet became also a priority. The challenge however was that my powerdrill could only be used when the 600 watt Inverter had received enough energy on a sunny day. This was needed to install the 12 kilo heavy disk.
But that was just a practical challenge. Why satellite and not Mobile internet via 3G or 4G? None are a ‘sustainable’ choice, but it was one about what is the most healthy choice regarding radio signals? I would rather have a fixed line from my satellite disc to the modem than having to pick-up a signal that is everywhere. At night I switch of the WiFi and receiving of 3G/4G on my mobile devices.
Five months later the definitive Solar was installed. Read all about that process here: We got power!
Ha, guess what!? My new Solar makes an average of more than 3kW per day! So I am more than satisfied and it is proven to be very reliable.
Another source for renewable energy has been wood to keep us warm via the wood burners. In the near future it will also be used for cooking. This is still done by gas bottles as the search for a suitable wood stove oven is taking some time. Currently I am investigating the use of rocket stoves.
Gathering of wood is one of those jobs that goes on all year, but if you plan to take a tree down for reasons because it is dead or it is in another way damaging the surrounding trees and scrubs, always take your safety and of others in consideration.