Slump in Demand for Power

Coronavirus is laying waste to the global energy system – its biggest shock in at least 45 years, and the implications will be with us for decades. For Off-Grid.net that is something to celebrate!

For the tens of millions of working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, it may feel as though their energy use has soared as extra hours working on laptops, video calling and watching television add to their electricity bills.

But overall electricity demand has plunged by up to a fifth in OECD countries since governments lockdown at the end of March. The sharp decline reflects the closure of many businesses and industrial sites forced to shut because of the pandemic.

The flexibility of our grids is being tested, as demand spikes and cliffs put unprecedented stress on the system. Renewable energy sources, which do not require a supply chain for their fuel inputs, add stress to these systems due their variable nature. The higher the penetration of renewable energy systems in modern electricity networks, the more flexibility, storage capacity, and smart grid capacity is needed to manage sudden spikes in demand. Users are at a heightened risk of blackouts.

On the plus side, carbon emissions have fallen at an unprecedented rate due to the economic lockdown, possibly paving something of a clear path for a green energy transition. But such a transition requires commitment and a plan. The fossil fuel consumption decline and the parallel decrease in C02 emissions are only a temporary phenomenon. 2010, the year we recovered from the Great Recession, also saw highest year-to-year increase in CO2 on record. 2021-2022 may be not much different.

Renewables’ share of overall electricity generation reached a peak of 60.5 per cent in the UK at one stage last month, according to National Grid data.

Britain’s electricity system is not set up to cope with such high levels of renewable generation, said Paul Verrill, executive director at the energy consultancy EnAppSys, who added that the grid is “stable” at around 50 per cent renewables.

The grid was designed around large fossil fuel plants, whose big, heavy spinning turbines can help moderate volatility in the system giving engineers more time to keep it stable.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), one of the most accurate organizations at forecasting and analyzing the latest trends in global energy, released a report yesterday with a real-time view of COVID-19’s devastating impact across all major fuels. The IEA report includes estimates for how energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions trends are likely to evolve over the rest of 2020 with slashed demand for all fuels, in particular those oil derivatives used for transportation.

Large industrial power users, non-essential businesses, schools, and government buildings remain closed. In the past 100 days we have experienced a 6% decline in global energy demand, five times what was lost in the 2008 crisis. In absolute terms, …

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Customise your favourite outdoor gear

A kayaker and his brother painted shark jaws on the front of their kayak. A long-distance cyclist attached mirrors and lights to his handlebars and frame. RV campers often customise by adding portable solar panels to recharge their camper batteries.

No matter what sets you free in the outdoors, you can make the outdoors your own by customizing your gear. With summer here, now is the time.

Across the spectrum, here are some ideas how to make your outdoor gear your own, plus somesecrets that can help every trip. I have employed many of these.


The fastest way to make your vehicle your own is to add a rack or two — that is, racks for bicycles, kayaks or camping supplies. If you have a pickup truck, you can build a bike rack out of PVC pipe or buy a kit with a steel rack to fit in the back. Add a rubber nonskid bed liner, and you’re ready to head out. Racks are made to fit on top of SUVs, cars and pickups with camper shells, and also in hitch mounts designed for the front or back of rigs.

or long miles, you can add seat support for perfect posture and lumbar reinforcement. You can upgrade your tires for off-pavement use, add a loud horn to ward off wildlife along the road ahead (they don’t know you’re coming, of course), and strap an altimeter watch to the rearview mirror.

One cool customization is to mount as-bright-as-possible fog lights out front, rigged with a set-aside interior switch. On two-laners, when oncoming traffic is approaching in your lane or it looks like someone on a side road could pull out in front of you, flip on those lights to get their attention.

Pro tip: When a vehicle rolls to a stop at a diagonal with the potential to turn in front of you, watch the wheels and not the relative motion of the vehicle. If the wheels are turning, the vehicle has not stopped.

Cycling/mountain biking

On your handlebars, mount a phone holder (you can track your rides), trip computer, strobe light and mirrors. On your seat, mount a flat repair kit, blinking red light and an LED red/orange light and reflector. Brent Jacinto, with more than 40,000 miles and no accidents, taught me this. One of his bikes even has red tires. Keep a CO2-powered inflator in your kit to inflate a repaired tire in the field. Get the ergonomics of your seat and handlebar heights perfect, where bigger people can use spacers to raise the handlebars; it should feel near effortless to pedal and propel forward.

Pro tip: Do not mount a bell or horn on your handlebars with the intent to get walkers out of your way. It is not their responsibility to avoid you. They have the right of way. Slow or stop, call out, “On …

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Freezers and fridges in Africa

One of South Africa’s largest producers of household appliances has announced plans to offer solar powered fridges and freezers to 600 million low-income African families.

Let’s hope they also manage to export a few hundred thousand in our direction.

The Defy group in Durban has signed a joint development deal with Specialised Solar Systems. Defy was the first company – way back in 1932 – to manufacture electric stoves in South Africa, and the company launched its solar-powered appliances, revealing it had spent R500 million since 2012 on upgrades to the East London and Durban plants, with another R450m set aside for plant and equipment investments by 2018.

Defy was acquired by the Turkish-based group Arcelik in 2011. Arcelik chief executive Hajan Kozan, who was in Durban for the company’s 110th celebrations, said the Defy acquisition was motivated by South Africa’s potential as a gateway to the continent.

He said the latest products were environmentally aligned with global best practice.

“When you open a tap in your house, in one minute you can use six litres of water. Our washing machines can do a full wash using just six litres of water.”

He added that new designs on the machines had also cut electricity usage by 25%.

“What we have to do now is educate the consumer on the importance of buying appliances that use less energy and water.”

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India, yurt vacation, unplugged,

Indian getaways

Here’s some ideas about where you could holiday off the grid in India…


Sunbathe on pristine-white sand beaches, hunt for seashells and swim in the warm sea. Aquatic enthusiasts could take a dip and get `up close and personal’ with some of the world’s rarest underwater marine life, including schools of dolphins, sharks and manta rays in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

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reduce, reuse recycle WRAP

Recycling for fun and profit

reduce, reuse recycle WRAPThe circular economy is being talked up at the moment. The safeguarding of valuable resources by keeping them in use for as long as possible through repair, refurbishment, re-use and recycling is a motivating force for many non-profits and individuals.

It could also make you a good living as part of a low-cost lifestyle.

If you are tech-savvy you could tap into the market for hazardous electronic-waste recycling. ecoATM’s(R) self-service eCycling kiosks, found in malls across the country, provide consumers with an easy, eco-friendly, and economical way to convert unused and outdated phones, MP3 players, and tablets into holiday spending cash.

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Cob house with no electricity and water from a stream

£150 idyllic house made from waste

A British farmer has built a house for just £150.

Using an ancient building technique and materials he found in skips, Michael Buck, 59, built the ‘cob house’ at the bottom of his garden in the Oxfordshire countryside, reports the Daily Mail. Info on HOW to build a cob house at the end of this article.

‘The house is built from locally-sourced materials and apart from the glass they are biodegradable, said Michael. ‘With proper maintenance it could last forever but it would also naturally return to the Earth if it was left alone.

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Prefabulous and Almost Off the Grid – book review

In homebuilding, innovation in materials technology and energy efficiency is everywhere, but construction methods seem always to lag behind as many contractors stick to the familiar and sometimes the cheap. The Guardian reports that choosing a home has become “as simple as picking furniture from the Ikea catalogue” for residents of Nijmegen in the Netherlands, where a neighbourhood of affordable architect-designed kit houses has just been launched. If you can’t afford pricey designs that does not mean settling for generic or uninspired aesthetics, inefficiency and mid-grade craftsmanship.

Author Sheri Koones champions this alternative path – prefabricated housing – that she has been promoting for years in a series of books about this option. The latest is “Pre-fabulous and Almost Off the Grid,” which features more than 30 homes built using some sort of prefabricated components.

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Service charges for off-grid buildings

SEATTLE (AP) – Why should off-gridders pay the same rate for County services as those who are on the grid?

King County in Washington State is figuring out whether buildings that go off the grid must still pay for the regional wastewater system they don’t use.
The Bullitt Foundation has proposed a building in the Capitol Hill neighborhood that would collect, treat and reuse all the water on site.
The county currently requires such innovative projects to be hooked up to the county system.
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Off-Grid 101

Roll out the rain barrel

Rainwater harvesting is legal in Colorado – but still hedged about with too many rules – most people ignore the law and just gather the water they need

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Beyond biofuels

Byrnes educates Senators
Byrnes (left) and Senator

Statement by Robert Byrnes, Nebraska Renewable Energy Systems to Congressional Small Business Subcommittee on Rural and Urban Entrepreneurship, June 11, 2008.

I operate an Energy Farm in Northeast Nebraska that has produced its own energy for years and these advanced biofuels will continue to be part of our mix. This facility is currently in use to as an energy training facility to help others reach these types of energy goals. I co- founded the Nebraska Renewable Energy Association in 2006 and am in the process of spinning off another energy business focused on the needed processing of the materials that will supply these second generation oils and feed to the market. Transportation to (and from) this hearing is being done using 100% biodiesel fuel produced in Nebraska (and Virginia ) using my unmodified 2005 Jeep Liberty.

As the first registered producer of biodiesel in Nebraska, I have been involved with developments in my state from the ground floor and just recently completed technical development and commissioning of a second generation commercial biodiesel facility capable of 5 million gallons of biodiesel per year. This facility is also currently the largest completed facility in Nebraska and is 100% farmer owned. I am now personally involved in the development of second generation feedstocks for biodiesel and processing facilities on a daily basis and appreciate the opportunity to visit with this committee.

Nebraska finds itself way behind in developing these technologies.

US Current Situation:

When we started the Northeast Nebraska Biodiesel facility two years ago, soybean oil was $0.23/lb which reflected the ten year average. Since soybean oil tracks with petroleum, board values have increased as well and are currently trading in the $0.67/lb range which reflects almost a doubling of the cost of a gallon of finished biodiesel. Biodiesel production cost per gallon is 75% feedstock based and currently costs about a dollar a gallon to convert the oil into fuel that meets the strict ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) tests that are established for this material using standard base catalyzed technology. As a result of this surge in commodity vegetable oil costs, at least half of the biodiesel production capacity built in the last three years is currently off line. Similar price surges have also been seen in animal fats and used vegetable oil markets. It is clear that the first generation of feedstocks available for biodiesel have run their course.

A diverse pool of biodiesel plants have been built. The seemingly more profitable large biodiesel facilities in the 30-50million gallon/year (MM GPY) range have not done as well as many would have expected. Most of these larger facilities that were required to buy refined vegetable oil as a biodiesel input became the first to shut down as their processing technology required them to buy the most expensive oils available. Many have looked to increasing their …

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