Here at Northern Edge Algonquin we pride ourselves as being an award-winning nature retreat with an eco-friendly facility and operations. A big part of that includes operating on solar power. It provides us with the energy we need for pumping and heating water, efficient lighting, music, and most of the comforts you are likely familiar with at home.
Todd and Martha, the founders of the Edge, first brought solar power to what was then a small three bedroom cottage with six, 75 watt solar panels in the early 1990s (producing a total of 450 watts in a day while your average blow dryer uses about 1500 watts – so, not a whole lot of power).
Luckily for us, the technology of both solar panels and things like lightbulbs, refrigerators and other appliances and items that require electricity have improved significantly so that 450 watts eventually increased to about 2400 watts and thanks to a recent purchase of another new solar panel – we are now able to produce approximately 4200 watts of power solely on the sun’s energy.
While it might sound like a big number, most people in their home are likely using roughly 1500 watts at any given time to passively power things like air conditioners, refrigerators and TVs.
Up until recently we were only using about two amps per day on site to power our refrigerators, a few lights and a few light loads of laundry. Then about three years ago, we extended the power from just the main house to power the cabins up the hill as well.
The reason why we were able to do this was, again, an amazing improvement in both the technology of the solar panels, as well as the efficiency of lightbulbs.
The first set of lights we ever had at the edge was a panel of fluorescent lightbulbs which used 140 watts of power. So, every time you would turn the lights on, you would use 140 watts of power. But a few years ago, we were able to install a new fixture that uses about a TENTH of that.
So while we have always tried to be as efficient as possible with whatever technology happened to be available at the time, we are continually improving and growing the capacity of what we are able to do here solely on the power of the sun – who knows what the future might hold?