Saturday, June 16, 2012

Power To No Name

I love industrial electrical power. Not everyone shares my joy in the convenience of unlimited electrical power available at the flip of a switch.

When a group of people gets an idea in their heads that money is to be made the idea won't die and such is the case on No Name Key, where a vocal group is demanding the arrival of remotely generated electricity.

No Name Key is famous as the place where Cuban exiles trained to fail at the Bay of Pigs, it's also famous as the only island in the Keys where homes are not supplied by the electrical utility. Now that seems bound to change.

Driving Cheyenne out for a walk there was a utility truck ready to plant a cement pole. It must have been lunch time for no one was working but the equipment was ready.

It looks like they mean business even though the legalities of powering up the island have been and are being debated by the county, the state, the utility, conservationists, and two groups of residents. One lot say leave things as they are and the other lot, widely rumored to be speculating that power will increase the value of property exponentially say it's time for change.

When we were looking at homes in the Lower Keys we checked No Name even though it's more than an hour's drive from the jobs of Key West. Also the homes seemed no cheaper than homes on the grid elsewhere in the islands. Fresh as we were off life on a sailboat, powered by the engine and a solar panel, I was reluctant to engage in a life ashore dealing with diesel generators, solar panels, batteries and home maintenance on an industrial scale.

So we went mainstream and I don't regret it. I have a small portable generator for prolonged outages and I have a cistern that supplies my house with drinking water, but I like the silence and ease brought to me by power lines.

There are plastic fences marking presumably the locations of power poles to come along Watson Road. The plans are coming to fruition which strikes me as odd. I mean, it's no secret there is no power on the island, though they do have buried telephone and cable TV (!) utilities wired to the homes. So why buy here if you want to have your home on the grid?

So why is it that a bunch of people who did buy here without utility power decided to screech for it's installation, if not to speculate on the value of a home attached to the grid? And here are the first two "test" poles installed by Keys Energy last year. I guess they are solid enough for expansion to continue. It is coming and it can't be stopped, it seems.

If I have out of town visitors keen to see Key deer I bring them here because they are always on view. Some say power poles will upset their rural seclusion though I doubt that.

Rainwater cisterns have fallen out of favor for some reason and many people are afraid of the purity of such reservoirs even though their widespread use would help preserve the South Florida aquifer which is being depleted and salt water intrusion is an interesting problem facing our not very distant future. I have been drinking filtered rainwater for years with no problems.

The thing is homes on this backwater are not any less suburban than those across the bridge on remote Big Pine Key.

They have solar panels, as we all should, but they don't deprive themselves of any modern conveniences here to live a simpler more frugal lifestyle, which I think is a little odd.

I mean if you want to live off the grid it's usually as a statement, not necessarily as a member of the tin foil hat brigades but simply in pursuit of a less involved lifestyle. Around here that stereotype doesn't apply, everyone is fully involved with maximum possible energy consumption.

This is a community that males little sense to me, it seems so incoherent. That said I see no reason why these homes shouldn't continue their eccentric trajectory.

I shall be sorry to see the island connected to the grid as seems inevitable.

Its nice sometimes to remember what the skyline looks like where utility poles and wires don't interfere with the views.

Of course there's a reason No Name Pub is on the Big Pine end of the bridge and not on the eponymous island. It would be hard to run a business without the grid. And maybe that's the point.

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