Thursday, May 21, 2009

Off the Grid

Part of the beauty of our property is that it’s located in an area where there is very little development. Its steep mountain terrain is unsuitable for farming, and there are very few places flat enough to build. On the positive side, we’re surrounded by forest, filled with animals, birds and towering trees. On the negative side, the population density is not high enough for our cash~strapped municipality to justify connecting our area with water, telephone or electricity.

Now, you might think us crazy for building a restaurant and guest house totally off the grid. Well, I though so, too, until Patrick and I took a trip to Uganda in late 2007 and stayed at some of the most wonderful, disconnected, out~of~the~way hotels. They were fully~functional solar and generator powered places that had river water or rainwater pumped into their rooms. If they could do it in the middle of the bush (much farther away than we are from big towns with services), then we certainly could, too!

For us, telephone service isn’t a major issue because we do have cell phone reception on our property. With wireless internet service, we should be able to manage all the company’s business over the airwaves. Water is a trickier issue, but with an average of 15 feet of water falling annually in our rainforest, we aren’t too terribly concerned. We have installed huge, 3,000 gallon water tanks next to each of our buildings which will collect rainwater from our roofs. We’ve built small pump houses that will be equipped with filtration systems to provide all the water we’ll need. If we do happen to have an exceptionally dry period (like we did this year from January through April), we can easily have an outside company deliver water by truck to fill our tanks.

Electricity has been our biggest challenge to date ~ mostly because of the cost involved than anything else. Ideally, we would have liked to install solar panels to supply our energy needs, but the price tag for that was out of our range (especially considering we would have needed a back~up generator during the rainy season). Our second choice would have been to install underground electrical lines, which would have been much more aesthetically pleasing, as well as safer for our wildlife. Unfortunately, that too, was cost prohibitive (not to mention it would have taken eons to dig through our rocky ground!). So, we are currently undertaking the private installation of 20 poles to bring power the 1.5 km from our closest electrified neighbor to our new place. Despite the fact they are above ground, we are taking some comfort in the fact that the lines will be covered with a special insulation to protect our furry friends.

Throughout this process of infrastructure development, we’ve gained a new appreciation for public services. Yet again, we’ve realized how lucky we’ve been in our (past) lives to have been able to take hot running water, high speed Internet and lamp light for granted. Still, there’s no substitute for a candlelit dinner to enhance the romance of the rainforest!

No comments: