While we debate the tired question of dirty, unsustainable, finite fossil fuel or clean, relatively “free” renewable energy, what may be the more important distinction is between centralized vs. decentralized power, whatever the source. Dreams of gigantic solar arrays and wind farms in remote areas to be fed to cities elsewhere are just more examples of oligarchic centralization, and thus control.
The point is, we need to get local, stay local, think local, and join with others to create what we jointly need. Can you imagine: a hilly neighborhood wind mill? A sun-baked desert suburb’s solar? And for that we need to transform the process that drives “neighborhood associations” to degenerate into impotent complaint societies. Even more crucial, we need to realize that wherever we are, there we are, with all sorts of folks who may not “think” or “live” exactly as we do, but who are human, with the same needs and longings.
One example of plucky independence and ingenuity surfaced recently.
Google this idea. There are others.
Meanwhile, for the overview:
Reading the comments below the above article, I found this one especially informative:
The most efficient approach has been found to be the community microgrid. Through economy-of-scale, community microgrids are more energy efficient than even net-zero-energy-use homes (homes that provide all the energy they consume also need all their own equipment), and more carbon efficient than net-zero-carbon-homes (it takes energy to make the equipment).
But there’s another huge advantage to local renewable energy power supply that isn’t mentioned in this essay and generally missed elsewhere: local renewable energy power plants don’t export money to import energy. And at the community scale this fact becomes truly paradigm changing because it permits us to create alternative payment systems, such as local currencies: If I pay you to supply my energy using local money, then you must spend the local money locally, such as paying me to develop more local energy resources.
The same money goes round and round instead of away, and the result is that everything that can be accomplished locally is funded as everyone pursues their part of the local money for paying their energy bill: energy, food, water, education, sanitation, daycare, eldercare, some medical care, much housing, and don’t forget all the arts, and much much more. It is a fact that using this approach and starting with almost nothing, every essential commodity and service can be developed almost anywhere and everywhere without squeezing any national budgets.
Another bonus: you get to use your national money for other stuff, so the global marketplace does better. And the biggest bonus of all: people who develop local resources for local consumption are empowered and impelled to take care of each other and the ground beneath their feet. This makes them sustainable suppliers for the global marketplace, as well as better customers. And a world filled with communities like that might be close enough to a prosperous, sustainable world that those generations yet to be born won’t be asking us what we did about the mess we’re in.
(Just for the sake of clear discussion (and with my apology for being pedantic), a “grid” is an energy network with 2 or more power sources. Thus even one person could constitute all the users of a grid. In this regard, someone using a wind turbine and a solar panel exclusively for their own needs might be usefully described as “off-grid” but actually has their own microgrid. The value of a grid is supply resilience, as anyone truly off-grid with either a wind turbine OR a solar panel might learn to their dismay. Distributed energy production through two-way meters connected to a regional utility grid has high resilience, but this is reduced to the degree that economy-of-scale is applied to other elements of the system, and enhanced to the degree that instead there is redundancy to compensate for equipment failures.)