There has been a lot of talk about renewable energy recently, and much of it has been in the form of various governments and big corporations getting ready to cash in on the green wave. Multi billion dollar megawatt solar power generating plants are some of the latest projects being planned and built around the world.
One concept being considered in North America is a solar field in the Southwest of the USA, with a new power transmission backbone to take the energy to where it is needed. Several solar generating prototypes have already been built throughout Europe, and new projects are being planned in Northern Africa. Each of these projects would provide amounts of electricity comparable to conventional power plants. In fact, solar plants using up just 1% of the desert areas in North America could supply 90% of the energy required in the US.
These solar plants are great news for our environment, of course, as they are far better than our fossil fuel burning power plants; However, this is the reasoning that got us into trouble in the first place: we are all relying on relatively few big energy producers for all of our energy needs. From the perspective of the corporations, that’s a good thing – they want us to be dependent on them, as this is where their profits come from. Such dependence is also great for the economy, just as our dependence on oil is great for the economy, but it is at our expense.
Distributing the energy from such plants means spending billions of dollars on new power transmission lines to get the energy from the source to the users. It also means we’ll have energy losses over the distance, and there’s the environmental impact from the installation of these lines. There is also the increased danger of damage to such a centralized system, which may be from natural causes such as tornadoes and earthquakes, but also could be due to human activity such as war and terrorism.
A similar situation is happening with biofuels – we are seeing major manufacturers mass producing biodiesel and ethanol fuels in centralized places, and then truck it to where it is needed, which causes pollution and costs money. In the meantime, local waste oils are still being discarded just as they have been in the past.
What we really need to do to solve our energy problems and to reduce our overall pollution everywhere is to create the energy where it is needed. This reduces the costs and pollution associated with distribution and makes the overall energy network much more reliable. This kind of setup is much more beneficial to those who depend on the energy – everyone.
It seems that big business and governments are always concentrating on the big solutions, and (perhaps purposely) forgetting some very easy and effective smaller options. If instead of spending enormous amounts of money required for new solar plants and related transmission lines our governments were to provide rebates towards rooftop solar and wind, we would soon have more than enough power available to us, and it would be much more dependable than any centralized system could ever be.
Similarly, smaller biofuel refineries can be set up in our local communities, turning waste oils into fuels. The only problem with that scenario, of course, is that all of us would be saving money instead of sending it to those big central corporations!