On a beautiful fall day in Central Oregon, a dozen of our Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty brokers ventured North to visit Three Rivers Recreation Area at Lake Billy Chinook. The trip, inspired by Meg Cummings and Kent Crook, was set up to educate our brokers about the community and the Off-Grid lifestyle that it represents.
After touring several homes with Meg, the team was enlightened by a Solar Power educational seminar conducted by Kent who is very knowledgeable on the subject. Here are some excerpts from the class:
How Do Solar Panels Work?
When photons hit a solar cell, they knock electrons loose from their atoms. If conductors are attached to the positive and negative sides of a cell, it forms an electrical circuit. When electrons flow through such a circuit, they generate electricity. Multiple cells make up a solar panel, and multiple panels (modules) can be wired together to form a solar array. The more panels you can deploy, the more energy you can expect to generate.
What are Solar Panels Made of?
Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are made up of many solar cells. Solar cells are made of silicon, like semiconductors. They are constructed with a positive layer and a negative layer, which together create an electric field, just like in a battery.
How Do Solar Panels Generate Electricity?
PV solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity. With DC electricity, electrons flow in one direction around a circuit. This example shows a battery powering a light bulb. The electrons move from the negative side of the battery, through the lamp, and return to the positive side of the battery.
With AC (alternating current) electricity, electrons are pushed and pulled, periodically reversing direction, much like the cylinder of a car’s engine. Generators create AC electricity when a coil of wire is spun next to a magnet. Many different energy sources can “turn the handle” of this generator, such as gas or diesel fuel, hydroelectricity, nuclear, coal, wind, or solar.
AC electricity was chosen for the U.S. electrical power grid, primarily because it is less expensive to transmit over long distances. However, solar panels create DC electricity. How do we get DC electricity into the AC grid? We use an inverter.
When the training session was complete, everyone enjoyed a BBQ and had great things to say about the trip:
Big thank you to you and your husband. It was a wonderful day and worth every minute. So much great information and worthwhile knowledge of a super place for those buyers who want something different.
– Tim Collette
Just wanted to say thanks to you and Ken for putting on such a nice event… not only informative, but also really fun! After wolfing that (delicious) burger, we did make it back to Bend in time for Frank’s photography session and our movie.
– Sandy and John
Thank you for a wonderful afternoon! I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never been in your area and I was blown away by the beauty of the setting you live and work in. I also want you to know Meg how much I enjoyed being with you through the tour. Your love of your community and passion for what you do and how you do it was inspirational and I was uplifted by the experience. Kent’s knowledge of solar systems was super impressive and I’m thankful I had the opportunity to learn about how it all works. And finally, your hospitality in having us all over to your place was the icing on the cake. I feel very fortunate to have you and Kent as colleagues in our company and office. Thank you again for a wonderful afternoon…
– Phil Arends
Three Rivers Recreation Area offers environmentally friendly living with starry sky views.
Central Oregon is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country. With the increasing number of residents comes more infrastructure—and more light pollution. But there is one neighborhood in the high desert that still offers the chance to see the Milky Way on a clear night. It’s the Three Rivers Recreation Area, a 4,000 acre community near Culver.
Three Rivers is known for being entirely off-grid. Originally created as a vacation home destination in the mid-20th century, the neighborhood slowly developed a year-round group of residents who were drawn to the rustic lifestyle and close access to some of Central Oregon’s best recreation opportunities. Even as more residents moved in, the area was never developed with traditional city utilities. Today, the eighty-five full-time residents rely on solar or wind energy to power their homes. Given the recent growth in solar and movement toward living more sustainably, it’s also become an easy option for homeowners who are looking for a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
“We are totally off the grid,” said resident and Cascade Sotheby’s broker Meg Cummings. She and her husband started visiting a vacation home in the area in the 1970s, and bought property and built a home in 2003.
Off-grid living can have many connotations, but in the Three Rivers Recreation Area community, off-grid living doesn’t sacrifice luxury living. There are about 600 deeded properties in the private community, and about 200 are developed with homes. Each property boasts a five-acre minimum size, and undeveloped properties sell for a price between $100,000 and $150,000. Housing styles range from small manufactured homes to large custom homes.
Three Rivers has a disc golf course, a shooting range, common land for ATV and dirt bike riding and private access to Lake Billy Chinook. The community is also gated, and a community center is being built from money raised by collecting deposits on recyclable bottles.
The amenities and the location make Three Rivers more than competitive in the tight Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook County real estate markets. “Real estate goes priced under the market in Deschutes County and Jefferson County,” said Cummings. And the area is popular; 2017 marked the biggest year for sales in the neighborhood in a decade.
The better technology for solar power, as well as private internet and reliable cell phone service, have made it easy for people to live there full time. Combined with convenient access to Madras less than an hour away, the community is a desirable place to live for people looking for a more sustainable lifestyle and a quiet neighborhood, without sacrificing city access close by.
Gary Sweet lives in Three Rivers with his wife and runs a part-time insurance business from his home. They’ve lived in their home since 2006, and Sweet has installed a well for their water and uses solar power for electricity. Sweet said he enjoys the small community and unique lifestyle there. “It’s a relatively close-knit community,” he said. “At Three Rivers, you do a lot of things together. We rely on each other. You get more of an old town, small community atmosphere.”
To find out more about Three Rivers Recreation area and view property listings, click here to visit the community page.