Tuesday, May 7, 2013

In Praise of Distributed Renewable Energy (and why wood and pellet heat makes so much sense)

Distributed energy generation refers to on-site, locally produced energy versus the distant and centralized generation of energy that has dominated our country.  Sheila and Bill Powers, renewable energy experts and activists argue why residential solar and biomass should be the centerpiece of U.S. energy policy, not centralized facilities owned by corporations such as nuclear, gas and coal fired plants or massive solar or wind farms.

“Distributed generation most commonly involves solar photovoltaics (PV), but can also include small hydroelectric, small-scale biomass facilities and micro-wind.  There are several advantages to distributed generation when good policies are implemented.  Foremost is that the bulk of the economic benefits of widely distributed, locally produced clean energy can go directly to rate-payer generators and property owners through mechanisms such as the feed-in tariff, a generous per-kilowatt-hour payment made to ratepayers who generate clean power on their homes and businesses.

“Remote, centralized power production and its associated transmission are substantially more vulnerable to major electrical shutdowns from earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, wind, ice, human error, cyber attack or terrorism than distributed generation.

“Because distributed energy can be locally produced, locally owned and locally consumed – bringing both economic benefits and jobs to communities – there is typically less local opposition to implementing distributed energy projects than to building (and financing) centralized, large-scale power projects.  Large-scale renewable energy projects – such as most proposed solar power plants and industrial wind generation sited in remote locations – represent a continuation of the old paradigm of large scale industrial development, owned and controlled by monopoly interests which externalize the majority of their costs onto ratepayers, taxpayers and the environment while privatizing the profits.  In contrast, small scale projects are often strongly supposed by local communities.”

Sheila Powers is a citizen activist with solardoneright.org.  For several years she has been researching the economic, political and legal biases that promote industrial-scale energy development while artificially impeding the growth of environmentally sound distributed generation.  Bill Powers is the principal of Powers Engineering, an air-quality consulting engineering firm established in 1994. 

The above quotes are taken from a longer essay which appeared in the book “Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth” by the Post Carbon Institute, http://www.postcarbon.org/article/1575982-the-coming-crash-our-addiction-to.

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