Amish Adore Solar Power

amish buggyWhen we think of a group of people who enthusiastically utilize the latest in technology, we don't tend to think of the Amish. They shun cars, photography and wars. But the Amish communities of America have taken to solar power in a big way. And I'm not just talking about using the solar energy to make sun tea. Wired Magazine reports that 80% of Ohio's Amish community has gone solar.

Separate From the World

Why would Amish use solar panels? They aren't allowed to use any electricity, aren't they? Actually, they are allowed to use electricity in certain circumstances, depending on what order (or denomination) of Amish they are. 

For example, this writer used to live in Lancaster County (and I am a relative to the owners of the Dairy Queen featured in the movie "Witness"). My car's mechanic - was Amish. He never drove, but he could take a car apart and put it back together better than a corps of Army engineers. His garage had a very impressive array of electric drills. Electricity is allowed for work or for absolute survival, but is not allowed for frivolous home use or just for mere entertainment.

I wonder if my old car mechanic is still in business. Last I heard his son was taking over. I bet that they are using solar panels instead of the electrical generators or gasoline powered engines. My old car mechanic was not hooked up to the Lancaster's electrical grid, following the usual Amish determination to be separate from the world (from Romans 12:2, "And be not conformed to this world...")

Amish Solar Panels

Not only do the Amish use solar panels and fluorescent bulbs, but some also make solar panels. Some have even switched from traditional marketable skills like cabinetmaking in order to make solar panels, push mowers and solar powered products for both the Amish and "the English" (everyone else who is not Amish, no matter what country you are from).

In order to use solar power, the washing machine or even the old gas-powered generators, many orders of Amish ask their bishops whether it would be allowable. The answer is usually yes, provided the electricity is to be used for business and not for pleasure.

Apparently, the bishops had a good sense of future world events. Sales of Amish crafts, livestock and produce are down, except for the Amish solar panel businesses.

1 comment

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Charles M. 110°

PV is hardly "the latest in technology". Sure, it has gone through significant refinements but PV is something that we've had in various products since the first half of the 1900s.

PV is not (yet) a viable solution for high electricity demand applications -- such as powering a completely electric "modern" household -- but it is fine for those with modest power needs. That's why the first step in any practical PV conversion is to severely reduce your electrical consumption.

Written in November 2008

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  • Posted on Nov. 5, 2008. Listed in:

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