Everyday, it seems that some big company or other announces “the biggest solar/wind power project yet” and everyone oohs and aahs. “We can power the United States with solar panels in the southwestern deserts”, they say, and everyone applauds. And why not? Wouldn’t it be nice to be out from under our dependence on foreign oil and dirty power plants? Well, yes, and no.
While I’m all for using the sun and the wind to produce energy, I’d prefer that it be a little smaller and closer to home, rather than from some huge, major grid project that has my Maine home’s electricity coming from solar panels in Nevada or windmills in the mountains of Vermont. And instead of covering acres of wilderness and mountaintops with solar panels and wind turbines, why can’t we use the rooftops of structures that already exist for solar panels and reclaim the mountaintops Big Coal scraped and scarred for wind turbines?
My idea of a better system for generating power includes more individual control. Allowing big corporations to control the oil supply for decades led to the mess that we’re in now in the Mid East and in the United States. Having a huge grid system to deliver power to each region of the country leaves us vulnerable to equipment failure and weather-related outages. No one owns the sun or the wind and everyone can use solar and wind power, as long as their location will support it.
So, am I saying we should all go out and buy solar panels, climb up on the roof and install them ourselves? Well, it’d be nice if we all could do that, but not all of us are spry enough or good at building things. Some of us can, if we’re able to afford the materials and handy enough with tools to follow directions like these at Your Green Dream, where there are several plans for DIY home solar and wind projects.
For those of us who are hammer and nail challenged, it would be very helpful if there were low-interest loans available for home solar and windpower – and hydro and geothermal also. There are new heat pumps that work even in cold climates and small hydropower generators that are suitable for homes or clusters of homes. How about a planned community – maybe Section 8 or for elderly people – with its own solar power, small wind turbines or hydro-generator?
Thin-film solar panels are competitive in price with metal roofing and there are new, more compact, quieter wind turbines that can be installed on the roof of apartment buildings, schools and factories. Because they’re vertical axis, they don’t pose a hazard to birds or ruin the aesthetics of a building’s roofline. I would think that wind power could be shared by several homes, also. What if developers included the renewable energy source from the beginning of the planning stage and included the cost in the price of the homes? If buyers realized that they’d be saving a bundle on energy costs in future, it could be a strong selling point.
More tax breaks to encourage consumers to use renewable energy, drive more fuel-efficient cars, use public transportation and conserve resources should be part of the next president’s plan to both free us from our dependence on oil and also address global warming and environmental degradation of our soil, water and air. Instead of giving millions to big companies, why don’t we invest money in many smaller projects on rooftops in every city and town? After all, freeing consumers from high energy bills would give them more money to spend and save, which would be good for the economy.
If this post has inspired you or if you already have solar in your home or life, here’s a link to a company that will give you a free t-shirt just for sending them a photo of your solar-ness. They even say that they’ll send you something if you draw them a picture of “an avenging sun god doing battle with an army of winged zebras.” I wonder if they allow stick-figure zebras?