While at Breitenbush you are “off the grid.” The power of the river and heat from the hot springs, combined with simple living, allow us to thrive in this sanctuary without significant dependence on fossil fuels.
Our small hydroelectric plant produces about 40 kilowatts, the amount of electricity typically used in three urban homes. And yet it supports a community of about 85 full time residents and up to 250 guests. There is no extravagant use of electricity. By sharing kitchens, conducting electricity audits and avoiding power-hungry appliances like clothes dryers, the community is able to live within our energy limits.
In 2005, the community completed the multi-year project to rebuild the fish diversion and flume for the hydroelectric plant. The facility can be viewed from the footbridge over the river. A Shinto Torii Gate (constructed by community alumni using cedar logs from wind-downed trees on our property) soars over the head gates, welcoming the waters.
In its early years (1977-1980), the Breitenbush community drilled several geothermal (literally “heat from the earth”) wells and developed the technology to use that natural hot water to heat our buildings. Today over 100 buildings are kept cozy year-round, making Breitenbush the largest privately owned geothermal facility in the Pacific Northwest.
One of our building design principles is to use recycled/sustainable/renewable as much as we can. Much of our lumber comes from “volunteers,” trees that offer their wood to us by falling or being blown down in the Breitenbush forest. Some we mill into beams and boards, and some we use whole.
To read an extensive article in Homepower Magazine about our off-grid systems click here.