Can Your Town Go Completely Off-Grid?
If you’re as smitten by the solar revolution as we are, it’s highly likely that you’ve thought of going off-grid. Build your own house away from the city, and live off the energy from the sun and the wind.
What if we told you about two entire towns following the same principle? One is in Germany and derives 100% of its power from renewables. The other is in Texas and is gunning for the feat by 2017.
Interested? Read on.
Feldheim lies 80km southwest of Berlin and has a population of 150 residents. The town might only be the size of an Indian extended family, but it is the first in Germany (and perhaps anywhere) to cut its dependence on the national grid, relying instead on a combination of solar, wind and energy from biomass (pig and cattle manure, shredded corn and forestry waste).
A wind turbine powers the tiny settlement, along with a solar power plant that is built on a former Soviet military base. The locals are very happy with the setup as they no longer have to spend money for 100,000 liters of heating oil to heat their homes in winter every year, and because of the fact that the transition has created a number of local jobs.
Texas Town Rooting for Off-Grid Electricity
The second town in question is called Georgetown, in Texas, USA. With a much larger population of around 50,000, it has declared its aim to ditch fossil fuels entirely and go completely off-grid by the year 2017. Very Texan, you might say: independently striking out into the wild.
It plans to do so by relying on its abundant sunlight during the day (through solar farms) and its high speed winds (through wind turbines) after dark. We assume that rooftop solar systems will also play a major role in the town’s ambition.
And the added benefit for Georgetown – or for that matter, any town that decides to adopt renewable energy on a large scale – is that it affords sizeable savings in water consumption, which would otherwise be used in thermal power stations to steam turbines.
The dream of going off-grid is not unachievable. Just look at the entire country of Costa Rica (population: 4.8 million): it powered itself exclusively from renewables (hydro and geothermal energy) for the first 75 days of 2015 and want to now aims to become 100% renewable.
So what does this mean for India? Do we have the potential for off-grid towns? Of course we do! We have one of the longest coastlines of any country in the world, and also one of the best solar insolation rates, apart from abundant biomass in the form of manure, agricultural waste and forest products.
Therefore with correct scoping studies and well-designed systems, India could not just contribute to, but in fact lead the world in the development of entirely off-grid towns and villages.