There are three people on the Power-Talk crew, Shannon, Rick and Jordan, though you may only regularly hear from Rick and Jordan. Shannon actively works in the power management and conservation program but occasionally gets involved with things like raising and lowering their wind turbine tower when Rick and Jordan are up to their necks in guy wires. However, her preference is to not know why these things work, but rather when she can use the electricity to do her work.
The crew lives in the small community of Chickaloon located in rural Alaska. It is situated 70 miles northwest of Anchorage in the scenic Matanuska Valley.
Though their home is road accessible, and the possibility of commercial power exists, they have opted to remain as independent producers. The idea of connecting to the grid holds little appeal for them except in having the opportunity to supply clean power for the Valley. Currently the local electrical power supplier, Matanuska Electrical Association (MEA), has expressed a lack of interest in supporting renewable energy producers. This leaves no real incentive to be connected, only additional costs.
Though being independent of commercial power is suitable for them, they do issue a statement of caution. "Before anyone decides to migrate into the wilds of Alaska and live off the grid, understand that it is not an easier lifestyle rather a different one. Living with a system that mainly depends on renewable energy, solar and wind, is not always the most convenient way to have electricity. Understanding the cons of breaking free of the commercial power cord is the first thing to work through before making an investment in the world of alternative energy.”
The Power-Talk crew designed and installed the solar and wind system they live with today. Along the way, they found it a bit disturbing some of the pitfalls and misconceptions about generating and living with your own distributed energy system. These range from system expectations to personal expectations. They contend that the problems begin with people wanting to produce power because it is the cool thing to do and end with product manufacturers trying to build something for a market that should have matured years ago but has suffered from stunted growth. With the explosion of new renewable energy products coming to the market, especially wind turbines, it is good to exercise caution when evaluating specific manufacturers claims.
The goal of Power-Talk is to encourage anyone who is motivated to either go off grid, incorporate alternative energy components into an existing system or is simply trying to become more aware of the true cost of cheap power. Though not trailblazers in the alternative energy scene, they do have experiences that you can learn from. They all agree that their own learning has not stopped and probably never will as long as they are living with a system that is not a mainstream product. Jordan responds to these comments, “We started off like most people and looked at some of the wrong stuff, just read about our wind turbine in our ebook and you will understand.” Until then, the crew hopes you will find the Power-Talk material your informational source for alternative energy solutions for everyday people.
Renewable energy is relied upon as much as possible on the Ranch. This means working with the solar and wind energy when it is available but diesel and gasoline powered generation is sometimes used. When running a house or small business, a balanced system may need to have occasional input from such non-renewable sources. Managing power consumption is a daily activity to keep dependence on such generators to a minimum.
The Ranch is located in a wooded area with spruce, birch, and cottonwood as the most dominate tree species. The forests are an important part of the world in which we live and should be sustainably utilized. As such, woodlot management practices are being developed and implemented on the Ranch. A healthy stand of trees is important to the long term outlook when you heat and build primarily with wood products.
Alaska has a great outside dependence for its food supply. Finding locally grown food can be a real challenge. To reduce reliance on a "long distance" food chain, the Crew is developing a garden and green house system that will be useful in the cool Alaskan climate.
They also partner with the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council, a Native Alaskan Tribe, as consultants on one of their projects which is a solar and wind demonstration green house.
Rick has main duties that range from manual labor in the woodlot and on the guest lodge building site to electrician and mechanical repairman.