Friday, June 18, 2010

They've Got The Eco-Redneck Niche Taken Care Of

The Consumerist reports on a business giving away guns if you buy a solar power system. 

It really isn't as weird as it sounds.  I'm afraid that solar power still only makes sense in most of the country as a method of getting off-grid.  For survivalists, and those who think there is a real danger of complete social collapse, these work together real well.

I confess: the complete social collapse theory is looking more plausible today than it has in a very long time.  Unfortunately, our soil here isn't well suited to growing food, and I'm afraid social collapse would likely turn my wife and I vegetarian.  I'm not sure how long either of us would eat meat if we had to kill and slaughter Bambi's mother on a regular basis.


  1. Well, if you're eating meat now then it clearly doesn't bother you if somebody else does the slaughtering. That makes an obvious solution - raise vegetables and barter them with your neighbors who hunt! You give veggies, they give meat. Everybody gets a better diet.

    Of course, with bad soil, that may limit your options. If you can raise barley and hops, then you can brew beer. That will really open up the bartering possibilities!

  2. I'd be curious what you define as "complete societal breakdown." Argentina or worse?

    But even if you have bad soil you might try chickens. They're pretty easy to raise and for many breeds you don't need to keep roosters around which is much quieter. We got them for bug control, but the eggs are a nice benefit. I just have to remember to put them back in their coop at night to protect them from the foxes.

    As to off-grid, you can live that way, but it's not easy at all. Most appliances are really designed for 120 AC, and solar delivers DC so you have to convert and that costs a fair bit of energy; even buck converters max out at around 85% efficiency and that's for relatively low currents.

    Then there's the issue that you just don't get that much energy out of solar cells, they're expensive, and energy storage is in expensive, bulky batteries. You really have to change how your live your life if you want to try to go off-grid.

    I'm an EE so I'm interested in these things and helped a friend in Vermont who was seriously interested in living off-grid, but even someone economically able and very motivated philosophically (he was an ex-hippie trust-fund baby boomer tree hugger lawyer) found that it was too much of a lifestyle change. Still, it was a fun design problem and I have to say it reminded me of some of the work I did with NASA on space station power issues.

  3. I suspect you are kidding, Clayton. I'm betting you would turn carnivore quite quickly.

  4. Any reasonable solar system would only provide power for a very limited number of appliances, probably just a fridge/freezer, a few lights.

    Everything else would have to go, unless you can afford an acre of cells. Probably easier and a lot cheaper to invest in a few of those big natural gas tanks farmers use. They'd run out eventually, but that would give you time to adjust your lifestyle gradually.

    I can't see one family maintaining a 21st century lifestyle for long if the rest of the country goes to hell.

  5. Tom, most folks who live off the grid don't use electric fridges, they use propane ones. The amount of electricity it takes to run a fridge is frightening -- it's about 25% of the typical bill.