Puerto Rico just got hit by a huge hurricane, which knocked power out across the island and left most of its more than 3 million residents in a blackout. But for a select few buildings, which were outfitted with either solar panels or an emergency generator, the blackout meant needing to change energy sources temporarily rather than deal without it altogether.
This kind of thing is called a microgrid, and it can be as small as a single house or unit or as big as a campus or complex of buildings. But the idea is that it can be separated from the larger power grid at will and can operate independently if needed.
Puerto Rico isn’t the only place where this is a thing. Last year, when Texas went through a winter storm, the University of Texas Austin campus was able to keep the lights on because of its microgrid despite blackouts throughout the city. In the UK, there are some places where these island-like microgrids have popped up (although there are some regulatory hoops they need to jump through, too, which is a different convo). And individuals are even doing it with their own homes, like Katie Erickson and Greg Mooney, who are documenting their journey of building a home that’s totally off the grid on YouTube.
The idea isn’t just for the tinfoil-hat folks. See, because climate change is causing both the frequency and intensity of natural disasters to increase, people are worried about what they will do if the power goes out. People who go off the grid with their own microgrid don’t have to worry about it.
Plus, with the rising energy prices because of the war in Ukraine, most people aren’t opposed to putting solar panels on their roofs for some much-needed savings.
So ultimately, while going off the grid sounds a little crazy at first, it might just be the way of the future.