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Off the grid: company owner uses alternative energy products he sells.

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 said.

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 right planning.

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."

By LIZ COWAN Northern Ontario Business

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Title Annotation:GREEN; Rick Guthrie of Temiskaming Independent Energy
Author:Cowan, Liz
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Sep 1, 2012
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