Thomas Edison, Off-Grid and Solar

One does not think of Thomas Edison as a "green pioneer" but oil was expensive at the turn of the century, and he worried that it might be running out. According to Heather Rogers in the New York Times, Edison was also eager to sell his light bulbs and phonographs to people far away from the electrical grid, and developed alkaline batteries for electric cars.

"In 1912 Edison unveiled an energy-self-sufficient home in West Orange, N.J. Billed as an experimental "Twentieth Century Suburban Residence" and designed to showcase his batteries, it bulged with luxuries like air heating and cooling units, a clothes-washing machine, an electric cooking range and, of course, plenty of light bulbs. Completely off the grid, the house received its juice from a generator that charged a bank of 27 cells in the basement. For this first attempt, Edison used a gas-run motor, but evidence suggests that he hoped to hook up to a wind turbine. The system would allow the prospective homeowner to be, according to The New York Times, "utterly and for all time independent of the nearness or farness of the big electric companies."

In 1931 he told Henry Ford: "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that." ::New York Times

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