Decentralization Department: Microgrids!

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.

Too small to have internet? Tiny German village builds own broadband service

Google this idea. There are others.

Meanwhile, for the overview:

The Emerging Power of Microgrids

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.)

About Ann Kreilkamp

PhD Philosophy, 1972. Rogue philosopher ever since.
This entry was posted in 2014, local action, visions of the future, waking up, wild new ideas. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Decentralization Department: Microgrids!

  1. Rich Buckley says:

    My concern is maintaining a peaceful, nonviolent transition on the one hand and regain our freedoms and liberties on the other.

    The most likely zero point energy (zpe) migration seems to be a double stream transition.

    First, it seems probable through the good cottage industry efforts of over 400 ( what I’m calling Foster Campbell – Thrive Movement facilitated ) zpe device inventors, that small devices will be built and sold going to rural and third world underdeveloped areas and a smattering of suburbanites on a hyperbolic growth-supply running over 20 years, +-.

    Second, there will likely be much larger zpe devices built by existing mega corporations, and used to replace or upgrade coal, nuclear, and gas fired base power production plants. These will attempt to provide lower cost energy over existing power distribution networks serving high density population centers.

    This may take two decades. Major buildings in high population centers that are critical enough in their functions and currently use the grid but must have emergency non-interrupteable power back-up are likely candidates to spearhead the integration of zpe-devices for autonomous stand alone building power operations. This class of building is usually locally politically powerful, employ significant community members. It will make economic sense to become stand alone power independent. Such facilities have resouces needed to de-link from the power monopoly.

    The first sector to be put out of business (or transformed) will likely be peak power plants, “peaker-plants.” These are power plants that now only come on line when power demand is so high the power net forecasts power shortages. These plants are inefficient for continuous operations. Their survival strategy could potentionally be to try to now become “community partners” running clean zero point energy production for the communities in which they are currently located…but on a full time basis.

    Entire communities could then start “opting out of the monopoly net,” with a vote of their local citizens and transferring over to former peaker-plants.

    There would still be power nets that need repairs and maintenance. The economic disruptions are mitigated and phased out as power grids continue reducing in area of coverage. Reduced area grids alone has huge national security benefits to offset fear-mongering from those who are currently trying to scare us that an EMP pulse from a nuclear bomb can take down military and civilian power and communication nets….especially the “mega transformers” that are house size transformers in several key distribution sites. These mega transformers have no viable back-up for uninterrupted power.

    In summary, step by step, over a couple of decades we shrink the size of our power nets from national, to regional, to community, to neighborhood to building size and rural farms.

    Transportation probably follows a similar path in breaking the hydrocarbon linkage. I’m not personally ready or interested in “jump-room” time travel to Mars, the moon, or to my local outlet shopping center. I’ll fricking drive my car instead as long as I can find my way home after dark.

    Equally necessary is our delinking from the Federal Reserve by issuing our own Treasury Dollars and calling in Federal Reserve Notes … something our Constitution allows the executive branch to do.

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