Guest contributor Ali Dockerty explores the growing popularity of off grid technology and its potential for addressing major world challenges.
The latest figures show that 1.7 billion individuals worldwide live off the grid. While the motivations for living in this manner vary, the technologies that make the lifestyle possible are the same. From solar power to wind energy, there are almost daily advancements in how people build their homesteads. Aside from common uses, off grid technology has started to be put to use in exciting new ways in 2019. Instead of simply serving individuals and their families, innovations used in remote home locations are now solving some of the planet’s biggest problems. Explore four ways in which off grid technology is changing and improving the world for everyone.
Improving access to education and healthcare
The same methods which help bring power and internet to off grid locations are now improving access to education and healthcare in remote locations. Due to the cost efficiency of setting up off grid power sources in comparison with building large new systems, areas which previously did not have access to consistent electricity now have it. This is especially true in parts of West Africa, where experts recently stated that ‘off grid solar power startups are…offering pay-as-you-go kits in a race to claim tens of millions of customers who lack reliable access to electricity.’ As a result of the introduction of this reliable power, access to education and healthcare resources are improving by the day.
Providing fresh water to remote locations
All-in-one remote off grid solutions have been a primary goal of scientists and developers who are looking to introduce exciting new technologies. This goal was reached in a major way in July 2018, when a desalination plant designed and built by GivePower was launched in Kenya. The plant is solar powered; and is one of the first of its kind. Since the launch date, this large scale version of a common off grid tool has been able to provide fresh water in areas where access to the resource has been limited. In specific, the plant is now able to support an estimated 25,000 individuals in the region.
Reducing the impact of climate change using off grid technology
Among those who choose to live off grid, one of the main motivators is reducing one’s carbon footprint. Since the technologies that allow one to run a household off grid are energy efficient, and do not contribute to the current climate change crisis, this lifestyle is highly sustainable. To get power in remote locations, there is limited to no reliance on fossil fuels. Additionally, alternative energy sources are cost efficient over the long term and can provide backup in case of a power outage. Now, those who live as part of traditional neighbourhoods are adopting these same climate friendly technologies for their homes. In recent years, solar panels and wind technology have become massively popular among residential and commercial customers. Solar Power Europe reports that in 2018 alone, the market for solar power grew 36% in the EU.
Providing much-needed resources to those affected by natural disasters
Across the globe, the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, and tornadoes have continued to increase. Euractiv reported earlier this year that ‘the 33 European Economic Area countries have experienced a collective loss of €13bn a year since the turn of the decade’ as a result of natural disasters. Since power loss is one of the most significant obstacles in the hours following a natural disaster, off grid technology is bringing solutions to individuals around the world. Cities are becoming equipped with backup power solutions that do not rely on the grid, which is helping to bring relief quicker than ever before.
Although many think that off grid technology is exclusively used by individuals living this particular lifestyle, scientists are using these innovations for life-changing purposes. From bringing fresh water to remote locations, to combating the effects of climate change, it will be interesting to see how off grid technology is used in the future for the good of the world.