An Off-Grid Green Retreat on an Almost Abandoned Island
As it has emptied of inhabitants, an island off the coast of Maine has reverted to a pre-20th century level of public services. The 20 homes still remaining after the year-round lobster fishermen moved away share no electric power grid, or water supply.
So, when a Columbia University professor got around to building on land he had first set aside for the purpose 30 years ago, the cabin had to be off-grid. Solar supplies the power. It also had to be off -pipe. All the water is caught in a cistern on-site.
Over the thirty years since he bought the land, his daughter had grown up. Maybe a childhood of mulling over this canvas of empty land had turned her thoughts towards architecture… By the time he was ready to build, she had begun her own architectural practice: Alex Scott Porter.
She designed this off-grid home for him and his new wife and daughter. Inside the tiny green cottage, the wood is left unfinished. “I wanted the interior to be super simple, using local material,” is how Alex describes the process to Dwell Magazine, who featured the home in their November issue.
They have to trust entirely to four solar panels for all their electric power. Unlike suburban solar on the grid, where a surplus can be stored on the grid day times, and taken back as needed, they are truly on their own on the desolate island. There is no grid.
But the solar array can produce enough extra that they can store up to a week in the batteries. The fridge has been adapted to run on DC raw off the solar roof, so no inverter is needed to convert the solar power.
Because it is not a permanent retreat, when they are gone, the house closes up tight with sliding metal panels to protect the windows, and the standing seam metal roof resists being whipped off in high winds. Weather can be ferocious on this North Eastern coast of Maine’s isolated Ragged Island.