As the developer a rooftop wind turbine that converts turbulent, gusty, non laminar air flow into power I pay close attention to the global movement toward energy decentralization. Decentralized energy (DE) is power that is produced at or near the point of consumption and has advantages over the centralized power generation model we have all become accustomed to.
Benefits of DE are multifold and include efficiency by way of both thermal gains for fossil fuel generators and reduced line or 'wheeling' losses. Economic modeling indicates that in the US DE will average 44% lower capital costs and 15% lower retail costs. Other benefits include climate or carbon neutrality, reliability and security.
A major benefit of DE is the reduced environmental footprint of producing energy. Centralized energy, whether it is from renewable sources such as wind or hydro, or from fossil fuel powered plants or LNG terminals use vast amounts of land and in the case of wave energy, vast amounts of cubic ocean space and sea bed. Centralized power further imprints an enormous environmental footprint via pipelines or the high voltage transmission lines needed to transport energy to the consumer.
Prior to privatization of power generation in the US community ownership of power generating facilities was common and is implemented widely in Europe. Community owned wind, for example, is defined as locally owned, utility scale wind projects interconnected on either side of the meter. Currently there are no community owned wind farms in Oregon, however, the State strongly encourages the development of these projects.
Studies analyzing corporate and community owned wind farms in Washington State, showed community owned projects provided benefits to the local population over corporate owned with a 16% increase in output, 42% increase in wages and 25% higher increase in local jobs. Local business revenues were 53% higher and tax revenues 8% higher than the corporate owned farms in the comparison. All of these benefits are realized and maintained during the ongoing operational phase of the wind farm.
American manufacturing jobs fell from 2000 levels of 17,263,000 to 14,197,000 in 2006. Community-owned wind projects provide high quality jobs, creating and retaining wealth that can then be re-invested in the community to grow new business opportunities. By keeping energy dollars circulating within the community – instead of being exported to other nations or states – energy independence becomes institutionalized at the local level.
Finally, to the matter of national security as it pertains to energy independence. The United States is already lumbering under record trade deficits and importing foreign fuel such as LNG for electrical power generation will only contribute to this deficit, further our dependence and expand our national debt. Terrorists would not have to blow up an LNG terminal to attack the United States. LNG producing nations such as Iran would only have to withhold shipment.
The resulting havoc and chaos when electricity demand couldn't be met would make a mockery of our national security. The United States has a lot of experience in this very tactic. A US corporation shut down its power plant in the Dominican Republican to force the government to pay its debt to them and in 1998 another US corporation shut down its production in Canada until it could negotiate higher rates. Importing foreign fuel like LNG is worse than a bridge to nowhere it is a bridge to Armageddon.