Friday, November 06, 2009

Farmers Growing Electricity Along With Their Crops

Do you dream of living off-the-grid, completely on renewable energy, not to mention with all the amenities of a farm?  Fresh eggs in the mornin', bringing some hay out to the horses?

Then you'll love this story.  It left me yearning...

Besides the 40-some dwarf Nigerian goats they milk to make artisanal cheeses, they also raise chickens for meat and eggs, a steer for beef, horses to ride and vegetables for the table.

Unlike most small farms, their heat and electricity is entirely home grown. They produce electricity from solar panels when the sun shines, and a micro-hydro turbine when winter rains put water in the creek. Oak and fir cut from the farm fire a boiler that heats the cement floors of the dairy and cheese making room, as well as the hot water to wash the goats and themselves.

"We thought we should be responsible for our own energy," said Vern Caldwell, a retired U.S. Marine Corps aircraft maintenance officer. "So that drove a lot of everything else that we did _ where the buildings were placed, how they were placed, taking advantage of passive solar, how we were going to heat, how we were going to cool. All those issues then got driven by this one decision to be off the grid."

Pholia Farm is unusual in the degree to which it is energy self-sufficient.

But more farms are installing renewable energy, said Stephanie Page, renewable energy specialist for the Oregon Department of Agriculture. The motivation was sparked by the 2008 spike in fuel prices, and is being fanned by a range of grants and tax credits handed out by state, federal and private agencies.

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