Man powers his street with ‘microgrid’ house
- National Post (Latest Edition)
- 25 May 2022
- MARCO VIGLIOTTI
OTTAWA • It pays to have a neighbour like Art Hunter.
The retired government scientist, whose resumé includes working on the Canadarm, is providing his rural Manotick, Ont., neighbours with electricity to power their fridges, freezers, cellphones, electric kettles and much more.
It’s all thanks to his “microgrid” house that harnesses renewable energy from solar panels for electricity and geothermal energy to heat and cool the property.
When Saturday’s storm cut off his neighbours’ power supply and disrupted access to their well and septic systems, Hunter stepped in to help, offering up a place to refill on water and allowing people to run extension cords to his place to power their fridges and freezers.
Neighbours can also stop by to charge their cellphones.
“I’m half expecting a SWAT team to swoop in (and arrest me),” Hunter joked about the possible consequences for allowing several extension cords to run across a road to his property, located near Mahogany Harbour.
Hunter said about three houses in the area are running extension cords to his house right now, while some neighbours are dropping by with household electronics to charge. He said neighbours using extension cords can swap out their fridges and freezes for other appliances provided they don’t exceed 16 amps.
The electricity produced from the solar panels are stored in batteries that power Hunter’s house and his electric vehicles. When the batteries are fully charged, power is then sent to Hydro One’s power grid.
The problem is the storm has disrupted access to the grid, meaning that when Hunter’s batteries are fully charged, any excess power is wasted, which he muses “isn’t very green.”
Since he started offering up power and water to his neighbours, Hunter said his place has become a “community gathering spot,” with those stopping in taking time to chat about the storm and the latest developments.
He said he started working to make his house energy independent some five years ago, armed with his extensive knowledge of electronics and energy systems — he is, after all, a rocket scientist.
“I’m one of those people who like to plan to survive before the disaster,” he said of his inspiration.
Power outages caused by the powerful and deadly storm are stretching into another day across Ontario and Quebec, as hydro providers warned customers they could be waiting even longer for things to be fully restored.
Hydro Ottawa’s chief executive said Monday that their distribution system had been “crushed,” noting the 187 poles downed during the storm not only exceeds the number the city traditionally puts down in a year but also tops the number felled during the 1998 ice storm and 2018 tornado.