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How To Choose The ‘Perfect’ Location For Your Off Grid Homestead or Community

What exactly is “the perfect off the grid location to build your cabin? Well, ideally there are some things to look for in a piece of property that make it a good off the grid location. This is not a comprehensive guide, but only meant to give a good general point of reference to start from

In our quest for the perfect off grid location we’ve literally searched all over the United States from the East to the West. We know what we want, and we know what we need, but finding a good balance between the necessities and comforts and balancing that with budget and location sometimes is difficult. Like most folks, we can’t afford a huge piece of land, nor can we be too picky about the land we buy.

First determine your needs. What do you really need?

Do you need power hungry appliances, central heat and air, and all the luxuries of a tradition suburban home? Not really. So you make a list of things you “need” to survive in the wilderness in order of importance.

Going into this with an open minds is important, but also with a realistic point of view. It’s not going to be easy, it will probably take longer than you think, it will probably be more expensive than you think, but it’s probably going to be a lot better than how you’re living now.

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“The perfect off the grid location” doesn’t exist in a one-size-fits-all package. The point being it’s all about personal preference and what you feel you need, versus what you want balanced by your goals.

Goals are relatively simple; to become 100% self sufficient, spend more quality time together with family, and experience to good things in life without having to worry about the mortgage, bills, and whether you’ll have a job next month.

Like most folks, you probably want to be independent, yet, you may want to keep the social aspect of living in a community of like minded individuals with similar goals.

So, you ask yourself what you really truly need.

NEEDS: The “Holy Trinity” of survival.

  • #1 – Water: No animal on Earth can live without water, and we’re no different; this is why it’s #1 on my list instead of shelter. You’ll need a local water source, river, stream, lake, pond, spring, etc. Or you’ll need a machine to produce water, and a large plastic container for water storage.
  • #2 – Shelter: Technically in a milder climate you don’t even really need shelter, maybe a wind break or lean-to would be sufficient for survival. But in most areas, a shelter is needed for protection from the environment.
  • #3 – Food: We have to eat to live, so look for an area that in an emergency situation wild game and/or local plants can be harvested for food. Also choose an area the lends itself to growing your own food either in the ground, or in a greenhouse. I personally like a hydroponic/aquaponic system myself. It’s efficient and you can grow food almost in any climate with current technology.

That’s really it. The property you choose must have these 3 resources available to produce them from the land without importing them. There are very few place on Earth where this is NOT a possibility. So what does that mean?

With current technology, and the knowledge of traditional building and survival techniques, you can live almost anywhere on the planet except maybe the North and South poles. There are even people in South America (and other parts of the world) who build their homes on the water! Talk about off the grid… WOW!

OK, since you can pretty much build anywhere on Earth, the question is not whether it can be done, but what you personally prefer. Some people love cold weather and the snow, others prefer the desert heat, while still others like milder tropical zones.

Once you figure your “needs”, you then list your “wants”. This of course varies widely.

WANTS:

  • Amenities & Luxury: Electricity, hot and cold running water, major appliances, TV, internet, cable, satellite,  comfortable furniture, etc.

  • Large Land: A nice big parcel of land to expand and build. You don’t “need” a big parcel, but we’d like one large enough to experiment with different building techniques, and grow our ranch.

  • Affordability: Anyone can go crazy and buy an outrageously expensive piece of property, but the point of living off the grid for us means not having a massive mortgage payment each month and being completely self-sufficient. We’d like a piece of property that’s affordable which we can pay off within a couple few years, this way we can concentrate on the important things like FAMILY for example. This limits the land selection somewhat, but, it also opens doors to things that might normally be overlooked for a good off grid location to build on.

    Practicality becomes the determining factor at that point.  Most people will need a job to live and pay for their normal bills, but for us, the goal is 100% self-sufficiency.

    To do that, we must have a home based business, and be able to make our living off the land, literally. Some folks will opt into working a 9-5 until they can become self sufficient.

    It helps that we’re experienced and have owned our own successful company before. It’s imperative that we are able to make a living from home to be completely off grid. This doesn’t mean if you live off grid that you wouldn’t be contributing to society mind you. Creating products and providing services for the local economy is part of the plan.

    The Internet:

    The advent of the internet and high technology is enabling people to rethink the way we live as a society, and is bringing with it major cultural change. It’s now possible to not just survive off grid, but to thrive and live very well. The internet allow one to reach literally hundreds of millions of people all over the world. This expands everyone’s horizons and provides opportunity such that has never been seen before in the history of humankind.

    Hi-Tech Off Grid Living

    Combining high technology with an internet based business, means you can literally live just about anywhere on the planet. Now that people can do this I believe it will contribute greatly to the overall economic stability of the entire populace, including the local and world community, especially if one is contributing to society with their valuable products and services.

    Start a Home Based Business

    Living off the grid, and owning your own business (becoming self sufficient) isn’t just the American Dream, it’s the dream of millions of people. People want their independence, but they also need the social aspect of life. Having the internet provides this social connection, while allowing one to keep their private lives private.

    Our world is much smaller now that technology has made it possible to travel anywhere on the globe, and communicate with anyone, anywhere with the click of a mouse, or dialing a cell phone number.

    We’re quickly becoming a mobile society, and there are those of us who see this as an opportunity unlike anything that’s ever presented itself. to make our living while still providing for and spending valuable time with our families.

    Energy is crucial, and most off-gridders will generate their own power, so pick a place that has good wind and/or solar energy potential. This, is the most important thing next to your water source.

    So, how do you pick that perfect off the grid location?

    For example, northern Arizona has everything a person would need…except easily accessible sources of water. It has tons of Sun, trees, good cheap land, and mild winters.

    • TEMP: 22 – 91 degrees (MILD CLIMATE)
    • SUN: 77%-90% Sun (HIGH POTENTIAL)
    • WIND: 6.5 – 9 mph (HIGH POTENTIAL)
    • RAIN: .5″ – 2″ (LOW)
    • HUMIDITY (LOW to AVERAGE)

    This is just an example. Are there better places for an off grid homestead than this? Sure… But price and affordability is most probably an issue for most folks.

    • Pick an area where the property is very affordable, and not that many people have figured it out yet. If you play your cards right, perhaps you could bring business and more homesteaders and off grid people to the area and that might actually create a land rush and make our land even more valuable; we can dream right?
    • Pick a property where the potential for wind and solar energy production is great.
    • Picking a place where the climate is mild and the winters aren’t that bad, and/or  have low snowfall levels; which means you won’t have to shovel snow all day everyday just to drive around your property or go into town.
    • Pick a location is relatively near multiple popular major national parks, tourist attractions, and has LOTS of outdoor adventure activities which can be a BIG income opportunity year round if you’re creating a community. It will become a draw for people, and a source of income for your off grid community.
    • Pick a location isn’t that populated, but where cities nearby are growing, and the potential for expansion in the area is great.
    • Pick a location is close enough to major shopping destinations to resupply weekly, or if you wanted to cruise into town for dinner and a movie it’s practical.
    • Pick a place where the land is beautiful. Where it’s not too hot in the summer, not too cold in the winter, and there are lots of TREES and GRASS.

    To really do this, you’re going to have to change the way you live. Family is more important than paying the banks for 20 years only lose your job and your home you’ve paid on for decades. Having your property paid for so you can concentrate on enjoying your family life and making good memories is by far the most important thing.

    Going off the grid is how to do it. Living small is how to do it.

    You can do it.

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Five energy surprises for 2016: The possible and the improbable

Many energy analysts like to make predictions at the end of the year for the coming year. Instead, I’ll point to five possible surprises in energy–surprises because few people expect them to happen. I am not predicting that any of the following will happen, only that there is an outside chance that one or more will occur. Naturally, these surprises would move markets and policy debates in unexpected directions.

1. Crude oil ends 2016 below $30 per barrel. With oil hovering in the mid-$30 range it doesn’t seem implausible that at some point in the not-to-distant future, crude oil will dip below $30 per barrel, if only briefly. What would surprise most people is if the crude oil price finished next year below $30 per barrel. The conventional wisdom is that cheap oil is giving a boost to the economy that will lift worldwide economic growth and thus demand for oil. There is also a belief that high-cost producers will simply have to stop drilling new money-losing wells after more than a year of financial Armageddon in the oil markets. This will bring down supply just as economic growth is rising, sending prices much higher as the year progresses.

The alternate view is that oil in the mid-$30 range is a reflection of an economy that has been weakening since the middle of 2014 and foreshadows a worldwide recession which should hit in full force by the end of 2016. In addition, with Iran almost certain to add to the current oversupply as sanctions are lifted and with the continued determination of OPEC to destroy the viability of tight oil deposits in the United States, the oil price could surprise on the downside, even testing $20 per barrel.

2. U.S. natural gas production declines. Despite persistent low U.S. natural gas prices, U.S. production has continued to grow. Most of the growth has been coming from two places: the Marcellus Shale where ample deposits continued to be economical in the range of $3 to $4 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) and Texas where furious fracking for oil locked in deep shale deposits also produced associated natural gas without concern for the price of that gas.

With oil drilling across the United States in precipitous decline because of low oil prices, we won’t see nearly as much new natural gas associated with oil drilling as we saw in 2014 and 2015. With natural gas now hovering around $2, even the very sweetest of the sweet spots in the Marcellus are unlikely to be profitable to exploit.

Having said all this, U.S. natural gas production growth has continually defied predictions that it would dip in the face of low prices. Part of this had to do with desperate drillers carrying heavy debt loads who had to produce gas at any price in order to pay interest on that debt.

3. Several approved U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects are postponed or abandoned. One of the memes of the so-called shale gas revolution was that the United States would produce far more natural gas than it consumes and that that would open the way for liquefied natural gas exports to other energy-hungry countries. Two things went wrong. First, U.S. production, while growing, has not exceeded U.S. consumption. Despite the highest natural gas production in history, the United States had net imports of natural gas of about 3 percent of its consumption so far this year.

Second, with the price of landed LNG around the world between $6 and $7, LNG exports from the United States are currently noncompetitive. Even with U.S. natural gas at $2, when the cost of liquefying and transporting gas–about $6 per mcf–is added to the American price, landed LNG prices would have to rise to about $8 just for American suppliers to break even. And, of course, just breaking even is not a proposition investors are very much interested in.

Now, some of the export projects have already undoubtedly received commitments from buyers to take U.S. LNG under long-term contracts, usually priced at Henry Hub plus a certain amount for liquefying and transporting the gas (plus something to reward investors, of course). If those contracts are in place, then the builders of the LNG export projects don’t care what U.S. prices are. They make money no matter what. And, it doesn’t matter whether they export so much LNG that the United States is forced to IMPORT more from Canada via pipelines or possibly in the form on LNG itself.

Whether buyers make out under such an arrangement will all depend on how world spot LNG prices unfold over the next couple of decades. Undoubtedly, many of those with long-term contracts today would be better off buying in the spot market. But, of course, when prices are high, they have no protection.

What we’ll find out this year is which projects have contracts from buyers and which do not. The ones that do not yet have such contracts will almost certainly be postponed or abandoned. For those that proceed, investors who are not careful to understand how much of the capacity of the project has been taken up by long-term contracts and how much will be sold on the spot market may be in for rude surprises if they are too exposed to the spot market and that market remains soft.

4. Bipartisan support for climate change measures emerges in the U.S. Congress. You will certainly think I’m reaching here, and it would be a surprise if this does happen. But expectations for the recent climate conference in Paris were extremely low. And yet, world leaders hammered out an agreement that committed the parties to emissions limits with regular reviews. True, there is no enforcement mechanism. But even so, this result was better than most anticipated.

The same could go for a U.S. Congress stalemated on the climate issue. Even though the Republican majority has taken the view that regardless of the science, Republicans are better off opposing any measure to address climate change, not all Republicans have taken this extreme position. If enough of them peel off and join Democrats on even a small measure, it will mark progress–though it will certainly be a surprise coming in an election year.

5. World oil production declines. In the past world oil production has declined only during recessions or once in the early 1980s following a long period of rising prices and the most severe recession since World War II (that is, until 2008). We’ve had a long period of price rises from 2000 onward, followed by a severe recession. But production continues to eke out some growth.

According to figures from the U.S Energy Information Administration, worldwide production of crude oil including lease condensate (which is the definition of oil) grew by 15.7 percent in the nine-year period leading up to 2005. In the nine-year period from 2005 to 2014, production grew only 5.3 percent despite record prices and investment.

If worldwide production declines, it will almost surely be because drillers simply lay down even more rigs and companies delay development of tar sands mining projects in Canada to wait for higher prices. This restraint would have to counterbalance additions to world production expected from Iran which will have sanctions lifted in 2016 allowing it to increase its oil production and exports substantially. If peace breaks out in Libya, then the rise in Libyan oil production will probably prevent an overall decline in world production.

Recap of 2015’s list of possible surprises

1. U.S. crude oil and natural gas production decline for the first time since 2008 and 2005, respectively. While U.S. crude oil production in 2015 looks like it will exceed total production in 2014, production began to slide in June this year and continues downward. So, there was a surprise for those who thought the so-called shale revolution could go on without high prices. Natural gas production continued to rise so there was no surprise there.

2. World crude oil closes below $30 per barrel. This hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t with only a few days left in 2015. But a price in the mid-$30 range has certainly surprised a lot of people, especially those who were touting the midyear recovery of prices to around $60 as the beginning a new oil bull market. So, this did come as a surprise, but not quite (yet) the $30-per-barrel variety.

3. Developments in solar thermal energy show that it can solve the storage problem for electricity from renewable energy. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to broader use of electricity generated by renewable energy is the high cost of storing that energy for use when people need it. A Maryland inventor is still trying to put together funding for a prototype of a possibly revolutionary solar thermal capture device that he claims has 90 percent efficiency. There’s no prototype yet. Perhaps in the coming year we’ll find out whether the claim can be confirmed. So, no surprise here yet.

4. A climate agreement in Paris calls for binding greenhouse gas emissions limits. Okay, the greenhouse gas limits weren’t binding. And, of course, that’s not a surprise. What surprised me is how unanimous the world’s leaders were about the problem of climate change and how specific they were about limits in the agreement.

5. Oil prices reach $100 per barrel before December 31, 2015. This possible surprise was premised on a robust world economy and an OPEC relenting on its war on frackers in America and tar sands in Canada. The OPEC war continues, and the world economy seems weaker at year-end than when it began.