By Tim Gaynor
BISBEE, Ariz (Reuters) - With energy prices going through the roof, an alternative lifestyle powered by solar panels and wind turbines has suddenly become more appealing to some. For architect Todd Bogatay, it has been reality for years.
When he bought this breezy patch of scrub-covered mountaintop with views to Mexico more than two decades ago, he was one of only a few Americans with an interest in wind- and solar-powered homes.
Now, Bogatay is surrounded by 15 neighbors who, like him, live off the electricity grid, with power from solar panels and wind turbines that he either built or helped to install.
"People used to be attracted to living off-grid for largely environmental reasons, although that is now changing as energy prices rise," he said, standing in blazing sunshine with a wind turbine thrashing the air like a weed whacker overhead.
Spry and energetic, Bogatay makes few sacrifices for his chosen lifestyle. He has a small, energy saving refrigerator, but otherwise his house is like any other, with satellite television and a computer with Internet service.
"Electric and gas are going to skyrocket very soon. There are going to be more reasons for doing it, economic reasons," he said.
Bogatay and his neighbors at the 120-acre development are among a very small but fast-growing group of Americans opting to meet their own energy needs as power prices surge and home repossessions grow.