My shop power is a mix of human power, photovoltaic panels, and fossil fuel. In deciding how big our off-grid system should be, I have tried to keep in mind Schumacher’s words in his chapter entitled “Peace and Permanence.” When wondering whether universal prosperity is possible, he asks, “Is there enough to go around?” He points out that the modern economist has no concept of enough. “There are poor societies which have too little; but where is the rich society that says ‘Halt! We have enough’? There is none.”
My system has 500 watts (.5 kW) of solar panel capacity. From this I power lights in the shop and my home, a freezer, a small table saw, charge batteries for cordless tools, as well as run two computers and other electronics. There is a backup generator used infrequently to boost battery levels after several overcast days. In the shop, a small diesel engine runs the large band saw and thickness planer, two machines that would take an inordinate amount of electrical power from our small system. I am acutely aware of our fossil fuel use through watching the gas or diesel gauges and having to take the fuel containers to town occasionally for a refill. I sense the waste and pollution I create if the band saw is running while it is not cutting wood. We turn off lights, not only because we should, but because we have to unless we choose to purchase more panels and batteries to power the waste.
–Harry Bryan, excerpt from “Intermediate Technology in the Shop: Inspiration from E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful,” in Issue Eight