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Distributed Renewable Generation – Sheila Bowers and Bill Powers

Distributed Renewable Generation – Sheila Bowers and Bill Powers

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Industrial-scale wind and solar power projects
can produce significant quantities of renewable energy, but distributed renewable energy generation—particularly rooftop photovoltaic installations—can achieve the same objective much faster without the environmental harm and at lower cost. With state and federal policies that favor distributed energy, the U.S. could greatly expand the direct involvement of individuals and communities in renewable power generation.
Industrial-scale wind and solar power projects
can produce significant quantities of renewable energy, but distributed renewable energy generation—particularly rooftop photovoltaic installations—can achieve the same objective much faster without the environmental harm and at lower cost. With state and federal policies that favor distributed energy, the U.S. could greatly expand the direct involvement of individuals and communities in renewable power generation.

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Published by: Post Carbon Institute on May 20, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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DISTRIBUTEDRENEWABLEGENERATION
WHY IT SHOULDBE THECENTERPIECEOF U.S. ENERGYPOLICYSHEILA BOWERSAND BILL POWERS
 
This publication is an excerpted chapter rom
The Energy Reader: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth
, Tom Butler, Daniel Lerch, and George Wuerthner,eds. (Healdsburg, CA: Watershed Media, 2012).
The Energy Reader 
is copyright© 2012 by the Foundation or Deep Ecology, and published in collaboration withWatershed Media and Post Carbon Institute.For other excerpts, permission to reprint, and purchasing visit energy-reality.org or contact Post Carbon Institute.Photo: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
about the author
SHEILA BOWERS
is a citizen activist with solardoneright.org. For several years she has been researching the eco-nomic, political, and legal biases that promote industrial-scale energy development while articially impeding thegrowth o environmentally sound distributed generation.
BILL POWERS
is the principal o Powers Engineering, an air-quality-consulting engineering rm established inSan Diego in 1994. He is a respected analyst on issues relating to electrical transmission, power plant emissions,and permitting.
Post Carbon Institute | 613 4th Street, Suite 208 | Santa Rosa, California 95404 USA
 
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istributed electricity generation (local, decen-tralized energy production) has the potential toradically alter America’s energy landscape. Our cur-rent energy mix is dominated by large, remote, central-ized power acilities such as nuclear, gas, and coal-redpower plants, as well as massive wind arms and trans-mission inrastructure. Today, improved technologies,environmental and economic concerns, and a recog-nition o the vulnerabilities in large centralized power production make distributed generation coupled witheciency upgrades a viable and, in act, preerable alter-native. Every properly situated building, parking lot, andbrowneld (disused, contaminated land) in our com-munities can potentially become a producer o energy.Distributed generation most commonly involves solar photovoltaic (PV), but can also include small hydro-electric, small-scale biomass acilities, and micro-wind.There are several advantages to distributed generationwhen good policies are implemented. Foremost is thatthe bulk o the economic benets o widely distributed,locally controlled, and locally produced clean energycan go directly to ratepayer-generators and propertyowners through mechanisms such as the eed-in tari,a generous per-kilowatt-hour payment made to rate-payers who generate clean power on their homes andbusinesses. Additionally, distributed energy generatorsoten enjoy substantial improvements in property val-ues, according to the Appraisal Institute.Remote, centralized power production and its associ-ated transmission are substantially more vulnerable tomajor electrical shutdowns rom earthquakes, hurri-canes, res, wind, ice, human error, cyber attack, or terrorism than distributed generation (which connectsto the local power grid). Because o local redundan-cies and geographic diversity, a well-designed localgrid with distributed power production and adequatestorage can reliably provide critical energy in times o storms or emergencies with less disruption and pollu-tion than conventional solutions. Perhaps most impor-tantly, millions o acres o healthy, intact ecosystemsare let undisturbed when generation is sited within thebuilt environment.With the proper incentives and policies (such as aGerman style eed-in tari) distributed energy can bebuilt much more quickly than large centralized poweacilities and their attendant transmission inrastructure.For instance, German residents installed 7,400 mega-watts (MW) o local, rootop solar PV in 2010 alone, atan installed cost substantially lower than the projectedinstalled cost o utility-scale solar thermal or PV power plants sited in U.S. deserts or arid grasslands (not oneo which came online in 2010 or 2011). And the paceo such installation is accelerating; in just one month(December 2011) 3,000 MW o solar PV was added toGermany’s energy portolio.
 
Industrial-scale wind and solar power projectscan produce significant quantities of renewable energy,but distributed renewable energy generation—particularly rooftop photovoltaic installations—can achievethe same objective much faster without the environmentalharm and at lower cost. With state and federal policiesthat favor distributed energy, the U.S. couldgreatly expand the direct involvement of individualsand communities in renewable power generation.

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