I live in a forest in Catalunia, north-east Spain. On a little finca with a small casa is relatively cheap compared to living in other parts of the world provided, that is, you do not expect a takeaway within walking distance or a bar just round the corner. The nearest town is Garcia about two kilometres away on the other side of the river Ebro, – Ebr’e, keep everyone happy – we have now way of getting there quickly – the ferry does not work – so it’s a 15klm drive if we want a drink or the post office. Electricity: well the nearest power line is one kilometre away down the track, and I cannot afford pylons plus a transformer to get a doubtful electricity supply which breaks down in the first storm. So little by little as I could afford it, I purchased one solar panel and two twelve volt batteries plus a small Briggs & Stratton generator – it’s still working after all these years – I added a 300w car inverter and this gave me some power for most of the year, providing a couple of hours tele and a couple of lights. When there was no sun as happens in the winter the generator chugged away.
Then I started saving up. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a fridge, so I purchased a gas fridge, a little pilot light flickering away to operate a heat exchanger but always plenty of ventilation, I didn’t want to wake up dead one morning.
The years past by and so did my savings. It be wonderful to live with a few more conveniences if only I had a bit more power. So I chased away the moths, unwrapped a euro or two and purchased a couple of panels plus six two volt deep cell batteries real power! Added a small windmill to get some extra electricity, ambition always ambition. Then six more batteries appeared along with a two Kilowatt inverter such luxury. A computer but lousy connection so satellite broadband, washing machine this is the life, an electric fridge and freezer now I can close the windows and not get asphyxiated. But every winter a strange thing happened, the sun disappeared clouds rolled over and just sat there. A week here, a week there, so a new bigger generator had to be purchased and fuel had to be bought so that all the gadgets could be kept working.
Now I am not New York city or London or Madrid, but this I do know. Some days the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow so I have to run a generator just like Cities and countries do. They have to run giant generators, be they gas, oil, nuclear, or coal with people employed to run them 365 days of the year because some days the wind just doesn’t blow. We have a nuclear generator not far away from us, and on days when the wind stays away there is a vast cloud of steam covering a section of the sky where this generator is working overtime.
You have to duplicate everything. Ok if you are content not having any electricity for a week or a couple of days here and there, then fine, you can have alternative energy supply at the right price. But, if you want energy twenty-four seven then you have to cover all eventualities and that costs. I know how much my few panels and batteries cost plus a generator to see me through, but what is the cost for a country? what is the cost for energy producers? don’t complain when your energy costs are high look at what you are asking for.
When you turn a tap on water flows, when you flush the toilet it all disappears, switch the light on or do some cooking. I have to hope it rains so that my cisterna gets filled up, I had to install a septic tank and filter system to keep the ground water clean, with a pump to push the water round. I know what energy costs and you get it cheap!
(c) Michael Douglas Bosc