BUTTE – Living off-grid may sound as primitive as can be, but Chris Borton will tell you there are many misconceptions about living a life disconnected from the power company.
“People think that when you’re living off-grid you’re living in a hut, barefoot and running around all dirty, but basically we have all the modern conveniences of a modern home,” said Borton.
They just don’t have a monthly utility bill. Borton and his partner Linda Welsh started Sage Mountain Center southeast of Butte more than 20 years ago as an educational facility to demonstrate how to live sustainably off solar and wind power. Sustainable energy is becoming more feasible each year.
“The price of solar energy is cheaper in 27 states than coal and oil right now; we never thought solar energy would go to those levels. Wind energy is also the cheapest energy right now,” he said.
Through wind and solar, they can capture the 7,000 watts of energy needed daily to power the main home and two guest houses. He says Montana has ample sustainable natural resources.
“We’re about the second or third windiest state in the country. Montana has the same solar energy amounts as Jacksonville, Florida, which is incredible,” Borton said.
One solar panel can generate 1,000 watts an hour on a perfectly sunny day. Borton also has a solar panel on the roof and the wind generator, making it easy to supply power to all three buildings on the property, particularly on a recent sunny day.
“Today’s a perfect day, crystal clear sky. We got a nice light breeze. It’ll charge our batteries in a couple hours and we’ll just ride off that all day,” Borton said.
His passion for off-grid living is a family value going back to his youth.
“We’d always upheld values of sustainable living, connection with the earth, farming, living off the land,” he said.
They hope others will see the value in this too. For those who want to learn more about off-grid living, Borton will be the guest speaker at Wednesday’s Brown Bag Lunch event at the Butte Public Archives at noon. The event is free.