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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Clean power for all (Offer not available in some areas)

A great article from Erik Curren from Energy Bulletin. Here is an excerpt:

The U.S. is lagging other industrial nations in renewable energy. And it’s not for lack of technology but rather, too much politics.

A year ago I would’ve loved the optimistic and can-do tone of Power from the People: How to Organize, Finance, and Launch Local Energy Projects.

While all too many solar panel and wind turbine buffs are Polyannas who promise that America can enjoy decades of economic growth in the future if only we’d dump dirty energy for solar and wind, author Greg Pahl offers a more realistic assessment of the limited potential of clean energy. Pahl is a peak oiler who understands the concentrated power of fossil fuels and knows that no amount of renewables can replace the energy we now get from coal, oil and natural gas.

Power from the People

Power from the People: How to Organize, Finance, and Launch Local Energy Projects by Greg Pahl, foreword by Van Jones, Chelsea Green Publishing, 250 pp, $19.95.

Fortunately, Pahl is also free from the cynicism of many self-appointed “net-energy” experts who, when asked about solar and wind reply, “If it ain’t as powerful as oil, why bother?”

Instead, Pahl is practical enough to see that once the coal and natural gas deplete and get too expensive, if we want any electricity at all in the future it will have to come from renewables.

Before my own descent into the hell of working with a company trying to develop renewables in a conservative southeastern state, I would’ve cheered Pahl on as he called for a switch from today’s centralized power plants to a bright democratic future of distributed generation — a solar panel on every roof.

But now, after my company had to fight off two cease-and-desist letters and an expensive legal battle with the state’s largest electric utility before we were able to complete a solar installation at a university, I bring a wary eye to Pahl’s cheery case studies of cutting-edge community energy projects in such greenie paradises as Oregon, Colorado and Pahl’s own Vermont.

I no longer say, “Wow, that’s impressive. Why don’t we try that here?” Instead, I just find myself getting jealous and resentful.

Damn Vermont, I think to myself, with all their farmers-market-shopping, bicycle-commuting, townhall-meeting, New-York-leaving, clean-energy-installing old hippies.

In my state of Virginia it sometimes feels like we have plenty of NASCAR fans but barely enough old hippies to fill one floor of an assisted living place.

And that’s a big part of why we have to suffer under a Republican governor who pays lip service to “all of the above” energy sources but spends his real effort pushing offshore drilling, and coal and uranium mining all while America’s seventh richest state enjoys about as much clean energy as Rwanda.

In this state, you’ll get coal. And you’ll like it too.

Some parts of the United States offer excellent incentives and support to help level the playing field with grid power and make renewables affordable. And this public policy makes all the difference.

California may be #1 in solar, but un-sunny New Jersey is #2. And that’s not because you need to slather on SPF 60 if you’re visiting Newark or Teaneck.


Read the full article here.

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