Community Power- Putting People into Power
Through our Windfarm Photo Contest we learned of a presentation last night at the Massive Change exhibition (more about that for days to come)and attended it at the Art Gallery of Ontario. James Murphy of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association presented a vision of a Community Co-operative model of distributed energy generation. And what a vision it was. Empowering local communities to generate power by the most appropriate means- MicroHydro (small plants on small rivers) Biogas. (methane from pigshit is a huge greenhouse gas problem- why not make power from it?) Solar, both PV and thermal. And, of course, wind power.
James pointed out the response to the major objections to turbines:
noise- its barely more than 45 decibels, you cannot hear it 100 metres away.
birds- everyone uses the example of an early California wind farm in a valley, using smaller, high speed turbines, on a migration route. Larger turbines spin far more slowly; in Toronto last year they picked up exactly two birds. A few blocks away in downtown, the "fatal light awareness program" - a group devoted to getting building owners to turn off lights to stop attracting birds- collected 10,000 dead birds in the same period.
aesthetics- well, here it is in the eyes of the beholder but they are pretty damn elegant structures. One was put in a park in New Zealand after much protest about its impact and it is now a symbol for the town.
In the end, we were most impressed by the implications of the Distribution model. A huge proportion of energy is lost through transmission losses- the farther we are away from the source, the greater the loss. A study in the city of Sudbury showed that 75% of every dollar spent on electricity left the community.
Purchasing power locally, like purchasing locally grown food, saves energy and keeps money and jobs in the community.
-it stimulates economic development.
-it strengthens rural communities and generates income for farmers.
-it reduces pollution and climate change impacts.
The economic base of the Province of Ontario was built on cheap and available hydroelectric power. Through negligence and stupidity it was allowed to deteriorate to the point of near-collapse. Billions of dollars are going to be spent rebuilding it- Community power may be a good alternative.