Renewable Electricity at Dancing Rabbit
Homes at Dancing Rabbit range from being electricity free to having many of the conveniences of modern life — electric lights, computers, the internet, hot and cold running water, refrigeration, washing machines, etc. How do homes at Dancing Rabbit use less than 10% of the electricity that the average American home does?
We don’t have specific rules about energy use; What we do have is a commonly held intention and a culture of conservation. First of all, we always use energy efficient devices such as Compact Fluorescent or LED lightbulbs, laptop computers, and super efficient refrigerators. We also skip electricity altogether for things like drying clothes (we use clotheslines and drying racks) and dishwashing. We’re very careful about turning off lights and appliances when they are not in use, making sure there are no phantom loads wasting power. We generally have a culture that avoids things like television, video games, and blow dryers.
Once we’ve reduced our electricity demands we can meet our needs from renewable sources like solar and wind. Dancing Rabbit covenants require that all electricity be from sustainable sources (net metering is allowed). Many homes or clusters of homes at DR have off-grid solar electric systems, sometimes augmented by a small wind turbine. These systems produce energy whenever the sun is shining and store that energy in batteries for use at night and on cloudy days.
Starting in 2011, DR created a village-wide power cooperative called Better Energy for Dancing Rabbit or BEDR (pronounced “better”). BEDR was authorized by the community to connect to the mainstream utility grid as long as it committed to exporting twice as much renewable power to the grid as it consumed. This allows BEDR to utilize the grid as if it were a large battery bank and thus avoid the expense and environmental impact of battery systems. This system goes beyond net-zero to have a positive energy balance and impact on the world.
BEDR has now installed over 25 kW of photo-voltaic panels and is powering a number of homes and businesses at Dancing Rabbit, as well as an electric vehicle. Long term, BEDR hopes to be able to go back off-grid and demonstrate a fully renewable local electric grid based on solar, wind, and biomass generation, with a small village-wide battery bank. Such a system could show the world that, once we have reduced our demand, renewable sources can supply all the power a community needs.