The micropower revolutionApril 23, 2012
I have never been a big fan of large, industrial scale wind and solar energy projects. The supply is too inconstant, energy storage is not sufficiently developed, and the installations are enormously expensive. Big Solar and Big Wind are simply not competitive without ongoing government subsidies.
At the same time, however, I have long been a fan of distributed wind and solar – small scale projects developed by landowners for their own local use, with the ability to sell excess power into the larger grid (and, eventually, it would be nice if small scale local producers could sell directly to their immediate neighbors).
Bloomberg Markets has a good story up about how micropower is revolutionizing the third world, and how large corporations – especially mobile phone providers – are finding ways to enable and profit from it. Distributed power can eventually break the power of energy utility monopolies, kill (or at least radically transform) the subsidy-dependent failures of Big Solar and Big Wind, and, of course, enhance personal freedom. Win-win-win.
I must note, however, that I disagree with Jeremy Rifkind’s contention that distributed power is causing carbon based energy systems to “sunset.” Distributed power is an additional input into global energy consumption, but solar and wind still lack the potency and portability of carbon fuels. Distributed power will lessen some demand on fossil fuels, and thus extend their life expectancy (another reason why Peak Oil is a zombie theory).