The Home Power Movement: Technology, Behavior, and the Environment

Tatum, J. S. The home power movement: Technology, behavior, and the environment. Human Dimensions, 2, 141-149.

Extended interviews with about 50 widely distributed participants in the Home Power movement suggest that approximately 25,000 homes in the U. S. now rely on their own photovoltaic (PV) power systems augmented (often) by small windmills or micro hydro systems. These home power systems are typically sized to provide a small fraction of traditional home electricity use and participants in the home power movement have come to be among the most efficient and technically sophisticated of residential energy users, not only adopting but contributing to the development and marketing of super efficient refrigerators, well pumps, and other residential appliances. While most of the installations are in remote homes where utility connection charges would have been comparable to home power system costs, this economic comparison alone is inadequate to explain the full range of observed energy-related behavior. Strongly internalized environmental values, a desire for a rejuvenated sense of community, and attempts to reconstitute work roles in ways that move away from exclusive dependence on specialized paid work, all appear to be more fundamental explanatory factors. The apparent success of the movement and the effectiveness of the motives involved suggest that more attention should be given to PV-based home power systems as a means for dealing with energy and environmental (e.g., global warming and acid deposition) problems than would otherwise be justified by a simple comparison of costs per kilowatt hour.

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