Rick Guthrie, owner of Temiskaming Independent Energy, has first-hand knowledge of the products he
sells. He’s been living off the grid for the past 16 years about 10
kilometres outside of Elk Lake.
“We started off pretty humbly and
then we would get dissatisfied with something so we have been
upgrading ever since,” he said.
It was by choice that he built a home
on his father-in-law’s property after spending 23 years in a
stressful job in southern Ontario.
“I was thinking that I was just going
to end up getting burned out so we came here,” Guthrie said. “The
property never had a hydro pole on it so we had no choice but be off
the grid. Going on it would have cost a fortune.”
He tried farming but found he wasn’t
cut out for it and then he formed his company about 13 years ago.
He sells solar panels, windmills,
generators and other products associated with alternative energy.
“We have wind and solar power and a
backup diesel generator at our place. It’s more than we need right
now and we have all the appliances every other home on the grid has,”
he said. “I also have a barn and shop where I can run power tools.”
He uses a cell phone and Internet is
connected to a hub.
“I spend $30 a month on diesel fuel
in the winter.”
Most of his customers who are off the
grid are cottagers but any combination of products can be arranged to
suit the customer’s needs.
“Each system has to be designed for
them and is unique,” he said. “But if you build a system with the
end in mind, like I did, then it is easy to add on to.”
If the bare minimum is installed, the
wiring may not be sufficient to handle anything extra.
“Every installation may be different
but once you hit the fuse box, it is the same wiring,” Guthrie
When alternative power systems became
popular, many people were eager to add the systems but they didn’t
have the knowledge, or the trust, to take advantage of them.
“Once I got into this, I started
taking a lot of technical courses and training. I also service what I
install so there is that aspect of my business as well,” he said.
He has also done testing for
manufacturers since it can get extremely hot and cold so the property
offers an ideal location.
He is also conscious of not wasting his
power so all appliances, when not in use, are not plugged in.
“We all have wasteful behaviours so
if all of us do a little, just by unplugging things like microwaves
and television sets, we can save a lot,” he said.
Those wishing to go off the grid must
also be prepared to change their consumption habits.
“If you are using a lot and used to
it, it will become really hard and expensive to change your ways.”
But fitting electronics, electrical and
mechanical products into an alternative system can be done with the
His customers range from the Far North
to southern Ontario and he does a fair bit of travelling.
“I can’t see myself in any other
place and don’t miss what we left behind,” he said. “And I
think we are the only residents in this township. Maybe that’s why
we only pay $500 a year for taxes.”