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Living “Off the Grid”

July 1, 2010
This week I am “roughing it” beside Lake Norris in Tennessee. Our annual family vacation, presumably, is an exercise in living simple for a week as we spend time among family and let the real world go on without us. Closing out my first year at the EWI Energy Center opens my eyes to just how hard this is to do. Through the lens of energy production and green alternatives, I am beginning to realize my clan would never have made it as pioneers. Surveying the lakeside house that I and 22 family members are sharing, I see the five laptops, multiple DVD players, LCD TVs. coffee pots, microwaves, refrigerators, and of course, two air conditioning units servicing the 5000+ square feet of “cabin”. Roughing it indeed.


Lake Norris was created as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority Parks and Recreation and is controlled by Norris Dam which faithfully supplies our electronics. The lake was created in the 1930s to control flooding and also bring economic prosperity to the region. It seems to have been successful with both goals. Infrastructure brings jobs. Energy keeps them there.


In light of this, supporting initiatives to seek new efficient forms of energy production seems a prudent investment in our future. As citizens who have an increasing need for electricity, finding ways to improve efficiency of solar panels, getting the hydrogen infrastructure in place for fuel cell operation, siting wind towers where they can feed the grid, and harvesting wave energy as it laps onto our shores will ultimately be a boon to us. Please keep pressure on our legislators to fund these activities so that we can enjoy more summers in the “simple lifestyle” we enjoy so much.


Norris Dam



Posted By: Kevin Arnold, P.E. 

EWI Energy Center