Self-sufficiency is a major ideal in Tennessee. Of the state’s great strengths has always been the do-it-yourself and independent attitude of our people. From the days of voyageurs, trappers and settlers to the present day, many Tennesseans live in the country and we want to be free to do what we want. That can mean growing and hunting your own food, having the land to be out in nature, or – to many people – unplugging from the utility companies.
Dependency on Electricity
For the last hundred years this has been one of the hardest aspects of independent country living. Electricity is simply a necessity, at least from the perspective of maintaining comfort and functionality at your home. TV, internet, lights and power tools have become part of our lifestyle, and for most people there’s no going back – even if it means being free from the grid.
For other households, cost is a major factor in the quest for energy freedom. Energy bills skyrocket during the middle of summer and winter, and the idea of being energy independent has a fiscal appeal. The environmental cost of our current energy infrastructure is also becoming a leading concern for Tennesseans, many of whom value the beauty of the outdoors.
The obvious answer to the problem is to switch to some other power source – to generate your own. But how? The conundrum has frustrated homesteaders and environmentalists alike since the 1970s.
Alternative Power Solutions
Windmills are a common method, and they work well – but the small windmills meant for individual homes generate comparatively little power. Likewise, fuel-powered generators are great in case of an emergency power failure, but fuel is pricey and the environmental impact is no better.
Fortunately, solar power has been becoming far more accessible – and affordable. Adding photovoltaic solar panels to the roof of a home was long considered expensive and inefficient. But that trend has reversed, and solar panels have become far cheaper while putting out more power than ever. Slowly, we’re getting more solar homes in Tennessee.
Passive solar has also become popular. By using efficient home designs and thinking about the direction a house faces, significant cost savings can be achieved with passive solar homes. Tennesseein particular is well suited to passive solar, with generally mild winters.
In many cases, these options won’t give a homeowner 100% energy freedom – but they can offset both the cost and the problem of over-dependence that come from relying only on the power line.