In common with seemingly most of Europe yesterday was a bit wintry and cold, grey and miserable here near Gubbio in Umbria, Italy. Made all the worse by a day without electricity.
It surprises me just how dependent we all have become on this invisible product. Here, during the restoration at Bellaugello Gay Guesthouse we spent a great deal of time researching ecological solutions, and installing eco-sustainable systems. As a result we have installed large rain-water holding tanks, re-connected the long abandoned spring and buried large water holding tanks for the water which we use for flushing lavatories, our washing machines, watering the garden, the cold shower for the Finnish Sauna and the swimming pool.
Our heating plant includes an installation of six vacuum sealed solar panels, which in the summer provide all of our domestic hot water, the surplus planned this summer to be sent to the swimming pool, whilst in the winter the solar panels help augment the temperature of the heating system. Our main boiler, a big handsome powerful brute runs on pellets and wood which is cut locally. All the Suites here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House have modern technology underfloor heating sooo cosy on the feet!
Many of the lightbulbs here are low energy (not that I really approve of or like them, or believe they are really ecological) and led lights, our refrigerators are all class A+ or better, however everything relies on electricity.
Here in Italy there are incentives and financing for the installation of photovoltaic panels for the production of electricity, however we have not yet gone down that road, I am not sure of their efficiencies and the financial outlay is extensive, and they look horrid, carbuncles on the roofs of the most beautiful country houses, and hectares of silica fields are not exactly picturesque, so they are currently something I am keen to avoid – my excuse is that I am waiting for the technology to improve. A quote for photovoltaics for the spring water pump was €4,000.00, would have involved a large ugly aluminium and steel mounting pole and would have provided a perfect target for the local hunters with their rifles, and the pump requires only a few tens of watts!! Panels placed on mountings on the ground are an easy target for thieves, a couple of bolts and – they’re away….
So on tuesday the wind picked up and blew from the north east. The winds evidently swung the overhead electric cables which are festooned all over the valley here in Valdichiascio, and the power flashed on an off all day like a tacky Christmas tree. Yesterday without warning the power went off at 08.15 and remained off all the day.
Ok so the house is ecological and we have solar and biomass heating…… It ALL requires electricity to function. Everything here has a pump, yes everything, the solar panels, the boiler, the underfloor heating, the patent fireplace in my sitting room, the spring water requires to be pumped up 80 metres and 300 metres in distance, and without electricity nothing works!! No electricity on a sunny summer day and the solar panels reach above boiling point, jettisoning their precious treated fluids, no electricity in the winter means no recirculation of any pump, and no internet.
It can be romantic, yes I lit the fire in my bedroom lit some candles and snuggled down under the duvet, and caught up on some reading, but it was very odd without electricity, and I felt so isolated without the internet, I am an internet junkie, I love my life here in this beautiful corner of Umbria but I also love the contact with the outside world, emails, and skype keep me in touch, and news and comedy programmes keep me amused, and I do so like the odd rant on my blog, but it would be nice with electricity……