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Thread: Requiring places to be "on the grid"?

  1. #1

    Requiring places to be "on the grid"?

    Our college is starting to really drill sustainability into it's architecture students. We've already heard stories about successful sustainable sites.

    However, I recently heard a story about a group of people that wanted to basically live as green as possible and almost like Native Tribes... However the local government stepped in and was upset that these people weren't a part of the "grid" and weren't tapped into the water supply or power supply. (Not to mention they didn't have a main road leading to them)

    Should this be stopped? Should we stop requiring places to be connected to the "grid"? Isn't all this just a convenience rather than an absolute necessity?

    Shouldn't cities not have a say in whether a building is connected or not?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Dynamic Grids a Better Optinon than Off the Grid

    In my opinion, living technologically and green are not mutually exclusive. Dynamic, local, de-centralized electrical grids using renewable energy are a green technological solution that can help mainstream communities become more green. Some attempts at being green seem a bit escapist to me.

    As far as requiring communities to be connected, policy models for the instance you mention might be available from communities who live in alongside communities such as the Amish. The Amish limit their technological participation for their ideals. The community you mention also structures their technological participation because of their ideals.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    However, I recently heard a story about a group of people that wanted to basically live as green as possible and almost like Native Tribes... However the local government stepped in and was upset that these people weren't a part of the "grid" and weren't tapped into the water supply or power supply. (Not to mention they didn't have a main road leading to them)
    It's impossible (at least for me) to comment without knowing the specifics. Would you provide a link? Thank you.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    Our college is starting to really drill sustainability into it's architecture students. We've already heard stories about successful sustainable sites.

    However, I recently heard a story about a group of people that wanted to basically live as green as possible and almost like Native Tribes... However the local government stepped in and was upset that these people weren't a part of the "grid" and weren't tapped into the water supply or power supply. (Not to mention they didn't have a main road leading to them)

    Should this be stopped? Should we stop requiring places to be connected to the "grid"? Isn't all this just a convenience rather than an absolute necessity?

    Shouldn't cities not have a say in whether a building is connected or not?
    Whether a building or group of buildings is "connected" to the "grid" or not depends largely upon how much land the building sits on and how many people are going to inhabit it. The people living "off the grid" need to dispose of their sewage and garbage, and they need to get fresh water. They will also need some means of lighting their building after dark and of heating it in the winter if they live anywhere outside of the southernmost US, but that's probably more do-able than the sewage and water needs.

    If the building sits on 5 or 10 or more acres, then these needs can probably be met without attaching to the grid if the number of people is limited. However, 200 people living on 5 acres would probably overwhelm the septic system and well(s).

    If the building sits on less than an acre (approx 200' x 220'), it's less likely that septic and water needs can be met even for an individual family much less for more than one family. There are lots of people who live on rural lots that are less than an acre, but many of these people struggle with water shortages and contaminated wells. Many unincorporated hamlets and small towns in rural NY have been forced to provide public water services because of these problems.

    As for the need for connection to the rest of the community through a main road, this is primarily to provide for fire and police protection as well as access in medical emergencies.

    So, basically, living "off the grid" is not necessarily "greener" than living "on the grid" since public water, sewage, and garbage disposal can be much "greener" if done right by the local government rather than in a haphazard manner by a few hundred residents, some with higher standards than others. This is especially true in urban or suburban areas where homes are sited on small lots.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    It is about money. It has nothing to do with sustainability. Being on the grid financially supports the local utilities.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    Our college is starting to really drill sustainability into it's architecture students. We've already heard stories about successful sustainable sites.

    However, I recently heard a story about a group of people that wanted to basically live as green as possible and almost like Native Tribes... However the local government stepped in and was upset that these people weren't a part of the "grid" and weren't tapped into the water supply or power supply. (Not to mention they didn't have a main road leading to them)

    Should this be stopped? Should we stop requiring places to be connected to the "grid"? Isn't all this just a convenience rather than an absolute necessity?

    Shouldn't cities not have a say in whether a building is connected or not?
    It sounds like the issues in this case extend beyond just wanting them to be on the grid. If there is no sewer, there are public health concerns (is the amount of land adequate to incorporate a leech field, cess pool, or other in-ground filtration system?). If there is no access road, there are fire concerns and this threatens not just these houses, but potentially other neighbors, open spaces, air quality, etc. They do have a responsibility to their neighbors from a health and safety standpoint.

    I am not aware of any ordinance requiring that homes in an urban center be connected to the electrical grid, but I could be wrong. There are some energy-independent homes in my city and it does not seem to be an issue of concern to anyone. At the same time, if you are producing energy yourself, being part of the grid has some advantages: a) saves you some money on equipment (you don't need battery storage) b) ensures that you have backup power in the event of a system failure c) if lots of people produce their own energy and are part of the grid, the grid is more stable and provides/uses energy more efficiently (excess energy enters the grid and is used locally as opposed to being created by a large power plant far from the urban center and transported across the landscape where a lot of energy is lost in transmission). this last strategy is one Great Britain is considering implementing - having lots of households retrofitted with micro-turbines (they fit inside your exhaust chimneys for hot water heaters, bathroom vents, etc), solar units, etc. These would be paid for by the government with everyone feeding locally into their grid. On their own, each method produces miniscule amounts of energy, but collectively, it could have a significant impact.

    In our urban center, water access is an issue worthy of closer analysis as well. We recently switched our municipal supply to surface water from the Rio Grande. Previously, it was drawn from the aquifer which has been depleting. The move to stop pulling from the aquifer is intended to recharge it and is part of a region-wide long-range environmental stabilization plan. We live in a high desert environment. If the aquifer drops too low, many trees will die and it will be an (even more) inhospitable environment. This might be a reason why at least our city would want to keep urban dwellers from using well water in large numbers. Water catchment, though, would probably not be a problem (and the "Earthships" in the Taos area do catch rainwater for household use - its filtered).

    Lastly, I wasn't sure if the "living like Native Tribes" comment was yours or theirs, but, really, I think this is a romantic notion of "other" people that is largely inaccurate and, frankly, may be perceived of as rather insulting. Sure, there are some people on Native land that live without running water, sewerage or electricity, but most Native folks live with all of these amenities. And many that don't wish they did (and they don't because of issues of poverty, in many cases). Improvements in public health alone are a major reason. Clean drinking water and sanitary sewerage systems are not a modern inconvenience, they are a great improvement to public health. Also, Native American people live in the same time we all do. They watch TV, wear the same clothes and use the same appliances. They are not stuck in time. Not to flame you, but if I were a Native American, I would find that sentiment rather disconcerting.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    It is about money. It has nothing to do with sustainability. Being on the grid financially supports the local utilities.
    This statement doesn't make much sense to me. Are you commenting on the OP or on what I posted about why people should be on the grid? The people who are proposing to live "off the grid" are the ones who are arguing for sustainability in the OP. Do you think supporting "the local utilities" is a good or bad thing?

  8. #8

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    This lamentable story of 'Wannabe' tribe sounds highly suspect...

    I know in our community as long as you can meet state health regulations regarding wells and septic systems, you're good there.

    Then there is the electrical grid aspect... for one thing, I am wondering how the local municipality is involved in the supplying these folks with electricity? Does the municipality or county act as the power company? Just curious because in my burg electrical power acquired from publically held entities, usually a Southern Company.

    I was reading that Tennessee Valley Authority (the nation's first great experiment in regional public power - their words, not mine) not only will purchase 100% of any green power output produced - even giving residential users incentives for start up costs and, thus, encouraging folks to get off the grid. Sounds like a great opportunity - Check it out...

    http://www.tva.com/greenpowerswitch/partners/

    Has anyone any experience with this or similar programs?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JMo View post
    This lamentable story of 'Wannabe' tribe sounds highly suspect...

    I know in our community as long as you can meet state health regulations regarding wells and septic systems, you're good there.

    Then there is the electrical grid aspect... for one thing, I am wondering how the local municipality is involved in the supplying these folks with electricity? Does the municipality or county act as the power company? Just curious because in my burg electrical power acquired from publically held entities, usually a Southern Company.

    I was reading that Tennessee Valley Authority (the nation's first great experiment in regional public power - their words, not mine) not only will purchase 100% of any green power output produced - even giving residential users incentives for start up costs and, thus, encouraging folks to get off the grid. Sounds like a great opportunity - Check it out...

    http://www.tva.com/greenpowerswitch/partners/

    Has anyone any experience with this or similar programs?
    New York has a similar program requiring electric companies to buy local user- produced power for years, and I suspect that many, if not most, states have something similar. I don't know how many customers have actually taken them up on it. The thing is, these programs don't really encourage people "to get off the grid" because in order to sell the excess power, one has to still be connected. What it does is lower the amount of power one uses from the grid, perhaps even turning it into negative power usage, which, if multiplied thousands or hundreds of thousands of times or more across the country, could significantly lower demand for electrical energy.

    If I understood the original post correctly, this group wanted to be "off the grid" for their own ideological reasons. I think the bigger issues are water and septic as opposed to electric.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Captain Worley's avatar
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    As long as they have potable water (probably a well) and a spetic system, I'd say let 'em be. I don't see any logical reason to force electricity on them.
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Captain Worley View post
    As long as they have potable water (probably a well) and a spetic system, I'd say let 'em be. I don't see any logical reason to force electricity on them.
    I can see where there would be a reason to force the hook up to electricity on them, but there is no law that says that they have to pay the bill. If they don't want to have the electricity on, that's their right. Kind of like I have the ability to plug into an outlet at a campground, but I may choose not to.
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  12. #12

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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    If I understood the original post correctly, this group wanted to be "off the grid" for their own ideological reasons. I think the bigger issues are water and septic as opposed to electric.
    You've got an excellent point - you do need to be 'on the grid' in order to sell your electricity back to the TVA. I deserve the technical foul.

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