I took charge of my energy future by building simple small-scale solar energy systems that I use to run both my farm and garden. For too long, my approach was costly and out of my hands. Positive change didn’t come until I adapted to a cost-effective, simple approach.
Although solar energy resonates with my values, I wasn’t able to make the transition to renewable energy for many years. When I lived with my parents, it was their house. When I was a student in university, it was in the hands of the school. And when I was a renter, the landlord made the decisions.
Finally, I got my own place and it was up to me. How disappointed was I when I discovered the costs associated with changing to solar were way too expensive. I felt frustrated and confused, not understanding why I couldn’t make the change. I felt plugged in and dependent on an energy system that was out of my control.
A big appeal of gardening and farming for me was that I could grow my own food without so many barriers. Finally, although I had lucked out with moving to solar, I had found something I could change that not only aligned with my principles, but also reduced my environmental footprint.
As my food-growing grew from a hobby to a job, I was again presented with the dilemma of having to use an energy source that didn’t meet my needs or values.
I had to deal with energy once again. But this time, things would be different…they do say that necessity is the mother of all invention.
My challenge was that I needed to pump water out to my garden for watering, except I was hundreds of feet away from the nearest electricity outlet. I was able to string together all of my extension cords to run an electric pump to the edge of the garden. But that was as far as it would go, and it was a pain running electrical cords that quickly got lost in the garden.
So I tried making my first solar water pump and it worked! After a few weeks of using it, I had a reliable, portable water pump and my plants were happy. I could collect rainwater in tanks or pump water from a well. My pump also ran sprinklers and drip irrigation.
Then late one night, disaster struck. My little tractor stopped working and I needed to fix it quickly. This time, no amount of extension cords could reach the tractor.
Eureka! I realized that I could take the portable water pump and add a light off the battery. As the old saying goes, “Let there be light!” And in this case, the light bulb going off in my head was to start building small solar energy systems.
After that day, I created a portable Solar Bucket that allowed me to take the sun’s energy and store it in a battery. With bucket in hand, I could go anywhere and plug in different tools, like a water pump or a light. I’ve learned a lot about solar energy with my Solar Bucket and, best of all, I am changing my energy system.
It’s not all out of my hands like before. Now I have a say. I still use energy from the grid, except now when the power goes out I don’t really care, because the Solar Bucket is there to run my important systems. Our farm currently has six small solar energy systems and counting.
For a long time, changing to a solar energy future seemed like one big, impossible step. It felt like I’d be stuck supporting an energy system that didn’t match my values and principles. The Solar Bucket not only made it a much easier first step, but has enabled me to learn a lot using it.