The Micro Grid — Meet the Energy YIMBYs
Want to see what is wrong with Big Green and Big Transmission? Want to see what the real alternative looks like, now, in operation?
Here is an article in the July 2009 Fast Company magazine that describes what distributed generation looks like in the real world. Fast to start up, cheap, reliable and safe. You will meet the people who have said, “Yes in my backyard” not to huge power lines, but to small distributed generating capacity that they control.
Here are some tasty quotes to whet your appetite:
Twenty-eight states have pledged to shift their energy mix to at least 10% renewables, and at press time, Congress was considering a national target of 15% by 2020. But if many of us see this moment as a defining one, a key opportunity to reassess how we create and use energy across the country, the federal government seems content to leave the owners of the old energy world in charge of designing the new one. Big utilities are pushing hard to do what they do best — getting the government to subsidize construction of multi-billion-dollar, far-flung, supersize solar and wind farms covering millions of acres, all connected via outsize transmission lines.
Harvey says he has a better idea. The founder of the Alliance for Responsible Energy Policy, he’s no NIMBY complainer. “We’re just the opposite; we want it in our backyard,” he says. “We want to put solar panels on our roofs and our neighbors’ roofs.” The nearby city of Palm Desert rolled out a program last August funding fixed-rate loans to private homeowners for rooftop solar, and within weeks, the money had been spent and panels were up on roofs. “The choice is clear,” says Harvey. “If you want renewables, you want ‘em clean and you want ‘em fast, and the best way to do that is [rooftops]. But the utilities have been so adamant about thwarting these programs. They are the ones that are standing in our way.”
The evidence is growing that privately owned, consumer-driven, small-scale, geographically distributed renewables could deliver a 100% green-energy future faster and cheaper than big power projects alone. Companies like GE and IBM are talking in terms of up to half of American homes generating their own electricity, renewably, within a decade. But distributed power — call it the “microgrid” — poses an existential threat to the business model the utilities have happily depended on for more than a century. No wonder so many of them are fighting the microgrid every step of the way.