Off grid living in Alberta ( Sunshine Province )

Alberta is located in the western part of Canada, currently, it has a population of around 4.37 million, and over the past couple of years, the population is steadily growing. Most of its neighboring provinces have a significantly lower population density than Alberta. The main reason why so many people move here is due to the climate as it is somewhat milder and there are a lot of big companies located in this province.

Alberta is one of the best provinces for off grid living, the climate is not that harsh, you can grow crops, the cost of property and the cost of living is fairly low. The local authorities also offer generous incentives and rebates for solar and wind power systems. On the other hand, Alberta has a big problem with unemployment, currently, it is higher than the national average and it is rising every year.

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As Alberta’s population is around 4.37 million some might expect this province to have a lot of cities with over 100k residents, the truth is that this province only has 3 cities with a population of over 100k people. Alberta’s biggest city is Calgary with 1.24 million population followed by Edmonton with 935k, and Red Deer with 100k residents. From an off grid living perspective, this province is a lot better than in the neighboring provinces which are located in the north.

Alberta gets through the year more sunshine than any other province in the country. Living off the grid here is a lot easier than in the northern provinces, mostly because the climate is milder which means that you can also grow your own food. Due to the fairly high population density, the cost of living is around the same level as the national average. Generally speaking provinces with a higher population density are more expensive but where there are more people there is more demand.

If you compare Alberta to the Northern Territories for example, then you will notice that there is a massive difference when it comes to population density. The northern provinces have such a harsh climate that everyday life is a struggle. Generally speaking, the best area to live off the grid in Alberta is in the southern parts, although the cost of living is somewhat higher here but living off the grid in the northern parts of this province will cost you even more. If you want to compare Alberta to one of its neighbors in the north then check out my recent article Off grid living in the Northwest Territories ( Canada’s Last Frontier ).

Alberta climate

Alberta’s climate is mostly humid continental and in the northern parts, the climate is somewhat less humid. During the wintertime, arctic winds can sweep through this province fairly often which lowers the local temperatures significantly, and these winds can last for days or even weeks. the average summertime temperature is around 80 °F  ( 26C ) and the average temperatures during the wintertime are between 23°F to 5°F ( -5C to -15C ).

When the arctic winds are blowing the temperatures can drop off significantly in a matter of hours to anything between -22°F to -40°F ( -30C to -40C ). If you want to compare this province to a state then check out my recent article Off grid living in Pennsylvania ( Quaker state ).

Types of crops grown in Alberta

The most common crops grown in Alberta are canola, wheat, and barley. In addition to this, you can also grow several types of fruits and vegetables although you most likely will need to set up a greenhouse, especially in the northern parts of this province. Generally speaking the best lands for growing crops are in the southern parts of the province. During the past couple of years, the southern parts of Alberta are getting less and less rainfall every year, and since the past couple of years, the amount of crops harvested is declining every year with around 5-7%. If you want to take a look at a province with more or less the same climate but with a lower population density then check out my recent article Off grid living in British Columbia ( The Pacific Province ).

Freshwater availability in Alberta

Most of the province has plenty of fresh water although in some parts of the southern regions the yearly average rainfall is fairly low. The average yearly rainfall is between 13″-19″ ( 350mm- 500m), generally speaking, the northern parts of the province have the most amount of yearly rainfall. The average yearly snowfall is around 70″ ( 1700mm ) and in some areas, it can get as high as 30ft ( 9m ) like in the Canadian Rockies.

Alberta wildlife

Alberta has a fairly diverse wildlife, you can find in this province wolves, coyotes, moose, grizzly bears, black bears, elk, bison, lynx, mountain goats, and big horned sheep. The most common types of fish in Alberta are burbot, bull trout, arctic grayling, cutthroat trout, walleye, and rainbow trout. You will need a license both for fishing and hunting https://mywildalberta.ca/buy-licences/buy-licences-online/default.aspx.

Generating power off the grid in Alberta

  • Solar power: Alberta gets the most amount of sunshine in the entire country so generating power with solar panels is fairly easy. Generally speaking the best areas for generating power with solar panels are in the southern parts of the province, in the northern parts the days are significantly shorter. Alberta has the Alberta Municipal Solar Program which is a rebate that pays around $0.90/kW, in the US most of these rebates pay only around $0.10/kW.
  • Wind power: If you want to set up a wind turbine then you can apply for the Renewable Electricity Program which will reduce the costs of the wind power system significantly.

Alberta off grid laws

Living off the grid in Alberta is legal, although not all regions are good for off grid living mostly due to the climate. Generally speaking the best areas for off grid living are in the southern parts of the province. The homeschooling laws are also fairly relaxed, although you will either need to register online that you are homeschooling your children or notify the local authorities.

Alberta road access

For the most part, Alberta has fairly high-quality roads, during the wintertime they do not use salt on the roads but sand instead, this means that the roads do not get corroded and the vehicles also won’t get damaged or rusty from all the salt on the roads. On the other hand, you will have to change your windshields once every couple of years as the sand on the roads tends to clump up and freeze, which are basically as hard as rocks. In the northern parts of the province, there are very few roads.

Price of land in Alberta

The price of land in Alberta is a lot cheaper than in the eastern provinces. In the southern parts of the province, the price of land and property is somewhat higher than Alberta’s average due to the higher population density, although you will still pay less than in the eastern parts of the country.

Alberta cost of living

The cost of living in Alberta is fairly low, the cost of living in Canada is mainly dictated by how remote the areas are and not how high the population density is. In most of the northern provinces, almost everything has to be imported by plane. Due to its unique geographical position Alberta can import and even export a lot of items without costly fees for transportation.

Alberta jobs

Alberta’s unemployment rate is at 8.7% which is a lot higher than the national average of 6.9%.  The main problem with the unemployment rate is that it is growing every year, in 2018 the unemployment rate was only at 6.2%. The minimum wage is $15 per hour and the biggest industries where most people work are agriculture, forestry, tourism, finance, manufacturing, and government.

Alberta natural disasters

Alberta is prone to having the following natural disaster severe storms, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, landslides, and avalanches. During the wintertime when the attic winds are blowing it is fairly dangerous to go out as temperatures drop significantly.

In conclusion

Overall Alberta is a good province for off grid living, the simple fact that this province doesn’t have to import everything means that the cost of living is a lot lower than in the northern provinces. If you love nature you will love this province, especially if you love fishing.