Plug In or Power Up? Unveiling the Secrets of On-Grid and Off-Grid Greenhouse Options

Our company, Growing Spaces, began as a 100% off-grid greenhouse company with emphasis on helping people live a more sustainable, healthy lifestyle. While the driving force behind what we do has not changed, i.e. we are still here to help you take the steps to live a more sustainable and healthy life. We have realized that by expanding our offerings, we would be able to help even more of you! We now offer electric and solar-powered options to provide you a garden that thrives 365 – no matter where you live!

Off-Grid Greenhouse

Let’s start with where it all began. The Roaring Fork Valley in Aspen, CO is not necessarily what you think of when you think of the ideal environment for year-round gardening. The short growing season and ample amount of snow is what made it imperative to design a greenhouse structure that could withstand the harsh weather conditions and provide locals a reliable year-round food source. 

The Windstar Foundation and the Biodome Off-Grid Greenhouse

Anne and Bucky wearing a geodesic dome birthday cap

John Denver and Tom Crum created the Windstar Foundation in 1976 in hopes to promote sustainable living practices, with the advice and expertise of Buckminster Fuller, they did just that. Bucky, as we lovingly call him, designed a 50’ solar biodome that he called the Deresonated Tensgrity dome. That is a very scientific way of saying that he removed some of the innards of the pentagons and hexagons that make up the dome shape. This was his last dome design and unfortunately he did not live to see it come to fruition.

Original Windstar Biodome, Buckminster Fuller's last geodesic dome design

That did not stop John and Tom from continuing his legacy and the project began in 1983 with the help of many volunteers eager to see such a greenhouse come to life. One of those volunteers is a man named Udgar Parsons. Udgar and his wife Puja went on to take the principles of what became the 50’ biodome at the Windstar Foundation and designed a year-round, solar greenhouse that could fit in your backyard.

The geometry of the Growing Dome is a bit different than Bucky’s biodome, but Udgar found his version to hold up better to the elements. The Windstar Foundation and the 50′ biodome are no more, but The Farm Collaborative is alive and well in the Roaring Fork Valley, and so is regenerative agriculture and their 42′ Growing Dome!

Thus Growing Spaces began when the Growing Dome was born. The end. Just kidding! We are just getting started. Now that you know where it all began, let’s get into where we are today.

42' Growing Dome Greenhouse in a Backyard

Before we do that, hats off to Udgar because in the 40 years since his inspiration from the biodome, we haven’t changed much when it comes to the Growing Dome’s design. Sure we added a snow-shed doorway and standardized the wall height, but the basics of the structure and the features that he added to make it a year-round passive solar greenhouse remain the same. 

Advantages of an off-grid greenhouse

The rounded shape of the Growing Dome maximizes solar gain, no matter the time of year, and reduces the impact of external pressures and temperatures. Our product will always be an off-grid greenhouse in the sense that it does not require anything, except the sun, to function at a basic level. 

The vent openers are temperature sensitive, no need to plug them into anything. The above ground pond absorbs the thermal energy of the sun thanks to its dark color. While the undersoil system that moves air through the soil in the perimeter raised beds is directly connected to its own solar panel. We offer a solar powered water feature, irrigation system, intake fan, and exhaust fan options to add to the basic Growing Dome kit. 

Solar powered components help to decrease your environmental footprint and help foster a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle.

Disadvantages of an off-grid greenhouse

…anybody got anything? 

Well, while we do not consider this to be a disadvantage, the simplicity of our design does not allow for 24/7 operation of the components powered by solar panels (yet…keep reading). Our reasoning for such a simple system is that we wanted to, and continue to strive to, create a product that is usable and understandable by all. We didn’t want to overcomplicate things. Each component is directly wired to its own solar panel meaning that they will only work when the sun is shining. 

On-Grid Greenhouse

26 growing dome greenhouse in Boulder Colorado
Backyard Solar Array

“The times they are a-changin.” Oops, wrong musician. “It keeps changing fast and it don’t last for long”. That’s more like it. Anyways, things are a bit different now than they were in the advent of the Growing Dome. Solar arrays have become more mainstream for homes, homesteads, and businesses. The rise of the “farmfluencer”, or farm influencer, has popularized the self-sufficient lifestyle.

What does that mean for us? We have to evolve. After all, we’re not like the other greenhouse companies, we’re the cool greenhouse company. 

Advantages of an on-grid greenhouse

On-grid components have two main benefits: higher CFM for fans, and 24/7 usability. As we mentioned in our origin story, the Growing Dome was designed in the Rocky Mountains for use in the Rocky Mountains. However, we have since expanded our reach to all 50 states, yes even Hawai’i, and 14 countries around the globe. 

By expanding our reach we now have our Domes in many different climates. Some of those climates do not experience the drastic temperature differences between day and night that we do in the Rockies, so some people desire all the air movement that they can get and need their fans to run 24/7 to continue to cool the Growing Dome throughout the night. 

We now offer an electric intake fan and water feature, and we are researching electric exhaust fans and undersoil fan options.

Electric Intake Fan for Greenhouse

Disadvantages of an on-grid greenhouse

What if you do not have an existing solar array and the grid goes down? Well you could get a generator, but that defeats the whole sustainability thing that we are going for.

Hybrid Solar Electric Greenhouse Fan

Let us introduce the ultimate greenhouse. The hybrid. If you want all the benefits of an on-grid greenhouse and an off-grid greenhouse, we have some options for you and are working on more! 

Our hybrid solar intake fan will bring in cooler outside air with the use of a solar panel and when that panel drops below 14v simply plug it in for 24/7 usability.

What about all the other components? We are currently developing a battery system that will be charged by a singular large panel outside the Growing Dome that will power the solar components in the case of a cloudy day or desire to run throughout the night. 

So which is better on-grid or off-grid?

The choice is yours. Whether you desire an entirely independent off-grid greenhouse, desire MORE POWER, have an existing solar array, or want some combination; we are here to help you design your perfect Growing Dome! And we are listening. If there is something that you would like to see us offer, let us know. We want to show everyone that attaining a reliable, healthy food source is a lot easier than you might think.  Make sure you are signed up for our monthly newsletter so you can be first to know about new offerings!

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author avatar
Shelby Lucero Social Media Coordinator
I graduated from Fort Lewis College in 2018 with a BA in Environmental Studies. I began working for Growing Spaces in August of 2020 and have had the pleasure of working in many departments. I enjoy being a part of this amazing team that helps others achieve their dream gardens! In my spare time, I enjoy working in the 15’ Growing Dome that my husband and I share.

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