Oh brave new world

October 12, 2006

It's no longer considered revolutionary or cutting edge to try to live 'off the grid' or use photo-voltaics to feed into the existing electricity grid. It's not necessarily even trendy to have moving solar collection panels or solar heated hot water.

It's a little amazing to capture energy from the water in small backyard streams and brooks and it's still inspiring to hear about families who manage to live 'off the grid' for more than half of the year in Vermont where we're not known for our solar output.

The technology has come a long way in the last several decades, although many would argue that it has not come far enough. The technology has focused on how homeowners can generate some of their own energy needs and, in some cases, feed energy into the existing power grid.

The next step for forward-thinking communities may be to seek community-wide sources of power, capture that power and initially feed it into the grid, but ultimately capture that power and use it to power our town offices, our schools and our libraries.

It may be time to think about how to seize control/ownership of the power distribution system and use it to bring locally generated power to local users. It may be time to explore the many ways power can be captured from the environment, whether it is wind power, water power, solar power or human generated power.

Can we, as some local planners suggest, create energy independence in The Valley? If it can be done here where the sun does not shine 365 days a year, what can be done in other parts of the country? 

Can we legally co-opt the power transmission lines? Can we create energy and feed it into the grid with the understanding that in 5 years we'll own 20 percent of the transmission lines and in 10 years we'll own 50 percent and in three decades we'll own them 100 percent?

These ideas may be 30 to 50 years from fruition, but the time to begin working on them is now.

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