While nearly all Treehuggers want to use energy generated from cleaner and more renewable sources, most of us wouldn't take the seemingly extreme step of going off-grid. A small but growing neighborhood outside of Decorah, Iowa, is proving that living away from power lines doesn't have to involve deprivation, though. According to the DesMoines Register, no one in this thriving community is "freezing in the dark." They have, however, developed a consciousness of their energy use that's quite rare by contemporary American standards. Resident Dale Kittleson claims, though, that residents' attention to their energy supply is about the only difference he really notices from a more "normal" life in a grid-connected home:
"People ask us how we can live like this. Jeepers, I just come home, turn on the lights, grab a cold beer from the refrigerator and watch the news on TV," he said.While nature-lovers do flock to this area of Iowa because of its relatively unspoiled environment, costs initially determined the choice to go off-grid when the first residents moved into the area in the late '90s: the $10,000 needed to bring power lines to the area seemed better spent on microgeneration equipment, including a wind-powered water pump and solar photovoltaic arrays. Current homes are well-insulated, and residents make use of wood-burning stoves for heating and cooking. The comfort of these homeowners in their off-grid digs is apparently obvious: when one family decided to move out of the neighborhood recently, and their house was sold before they even put it on the market.
"The only difference is when you are making your own energy, you are more aware of the energy you use."
As he says this, his daughter Clara, 10, gets a drink of water in the kitchen of the spacious, warm timber-frame and returns to listen at the dining room table.
If you've got kids, hold on here in disbelief: She flicked off the light switch after leaving the kitchen.
"Our system is part of our whole life out here, but it doesn't steer us," he said.
"This time of year when the days are short and have less sun, maybe we won't vacuum. But we are not doing without."