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Life Off-the-Grid

The Solar-Powered Skating Pond

By Cam Mather

I have a solar powered skating rink and it’s totally awesome! So what is a solar powered skating rink? Well, anyone who reads this blog has probably caught on to the fact that when you live off-the-electricity grid in a solar powered house, everything that uses electricity is “solar powered.” I watch solar powered TV, have a solar powered fridge, solar powered washing machine, solar power toaster… you get the picture.

This weekend I realized that the pond near the house could be used as a rink again.  We had been able to skate on it during our Winter Solstice celebration in late December. Usually by January 1st I’m tired of shoveling the snow and the rink dies a slow honorable death. We have had next to no snow this year and last month we had two days of rain which filled up the pond even more. There were rough patches but when I shoveled off the little snow that was there, the rink was pretty good. And it was twice the size of the solstice rink! It just needed some water in some of the rougher places. I was able to run a hose from the house and use water from our well, and the pump is powered by our solar array. So that makes it a “solar powered skating rink!”

And what an awesome rink it is! It’s in the shape of a huge oval, which I’m comparing to the Olympic Oval for speed skating. I love to skate around and around and this is the perfect rink for it. Skating is insanely great. It is just overwhelmingly efficient. Now a bike is the most efficient form of transportation for humans in terms of taking the energy you get from your morning granola and converting it to muscle power which then uses gears and round tires to provide motion. I love riding a bike. It’s like wind surfing. I love the feeling of channeling the wind’s energy through my arms which hold up the sail and into forward motion on the board.

But skating is a special kind of efficiency. You need cold weather. You need frozen water. And you need steel on your feet. That thin steel gliding over that frozen water provides next to no friction, so you get exceptional speed for very little effort. It’s why hockey is such a great game to watch in terms of speed. Players can blast up and down the rink with insane speed. And so can I on my rink.

Ottawa, the capital city of Canada,  has a canal which is flooded and freezes every year to make a 7 km long skating rink. When our daughters lived there we often skated on it… along  with 500,000 other people! It was a fun skate, but there were just too many other people. I live 4 km from my nearest neighbor. It was human contact overload for me. On my rink I can skate for hours and never encounter another soul. I’m skating near my solar panels, under my wind turbine and it is a pretty amazing feeling. I’m skating on the same pond where I’ll be deafened by the sound of the spring peepers as I stand beside it on a warm May evening. It’s the pond where I watch turtles and snakes sun themselves on logs, where minnows become small fish and where muskrats often make their home. The frogs and turtles are all buried in the mud at the bottom of the pond right now. My skates on the ice are probably deafening to them and they’re down there cursing me.

Oh well, hopefully they’re in a deep blissful sleep, just as I’m in a blissful state racing around and around solving the problems of the world in my head on my totally awesome solar powered skating rink.


1 Comment

  1. David

    Your skating rink sounds positively idyllic. As for your good natured reference to any appliance or device in your home as being solar powered (eg. my solar powered waffle iron), somehow the 1970’s/1980’s Canadian rock band Prism was ahead of you. Despite what must have been less advanced techology at the time, according to their song ‘Spaceship Superstar’, they had a “solar-powered laser beam guitar” Would that have been 12 V or 110 V?

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