The rapid rise of community renewable energy and why the added benefits of local, clean power can help accelerate transition
Ultimately, a greater reliance on local power would eliminate one of the most destructive side-effects of the grid: the implicit notion that energy is limitless. The expectation is that our homes and workplaces should have as much power as we’re willing to pay for, 24/7, year in and year out.
The future is bright for wind and renewables just about everywhere. Now it’s a matter of people, and communities, recognizing and acting on that potential.
As more distributed energy resources arrive unbidden onto the power grid, they are increasingly requiring us not to just think about new utility business models, but to radically rethink what a utility might look like.
Direct heat production thus offers the possibility to save three times more greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuels using the same number of windmills, which are also cheaper and more sustainable to build. Hopefully, direct heat production will be given the priority it deserves.
Going off-grid? Think twice before you invest in a battery system. Compressed air energy storage is the sustainable and resilient alternative to batteries, with much longer life expectancy, lower life cycle costs, technical simplicity, and low maintenance.
A locally based vision of renewable energy generation could eliminate global or national-level domination of the energy infrastructure by a few large players, and thus the concentration of profits in the hands of a very few. It could also reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to very low levels, comparable to the emissions before the industrial revolution.
It has been almost a month since Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Since then, most of the island’s 3.4 million residents have been without electricity or running water. The power grid was effectively destroyed, with only 7 percent back online to date. This means that the entire system, from generation to distribution, will need to be rebuilt. The question now is: how?
Today’s new IEA report shows that coal’s role in expanding electricity access is set to decline dramatically. Renewables, both on and off the grid, will provide most new connections, as the population without access falls by another third to 700 million. If the world hopes to meet its goal of universal electricity access by 2030, then the IEA report suggests it is solar – not coal – that will bridge the gap.
It seems clear to me now what SolarAid should do in the next year. We should try to work with enough of those companies and organisations, in clever enough ways, that we play a useful role – maybe a catalytic role, if we can – in ensuring that civilisation passes The Test.
A hot shower, even where there is no electricity: low-income families in Argentina build their own solar water heaters using recycled materials. A non-profit organization hosts the workshops, gathers helpers and shows participants how to utilize renewable energy.
“Microgrids, not large-scale power generation, will be the most effective way to provide electricity to those still unconnected,” Wilder says. Microgrids are essentially small power grids customized for single communities.