Friday, April 04, 2008

Reality Check

Michael Hoexter throws cold water on the immediate future of distributed energy products like wind, solar, and other renewables and concedes that more traditional grid-based, high voltage transmission (tied to fossil fuels) will continue to hang around unless we adopt a radically more efficient and conservation-oriented lifestyle.

Hoexter notes:

"Distributed energy will continue to grow in importance and popularity, but alone it is insufficient to address the climate crisis. Large-scale renewable power in combination with aggressive energy efficiency and distributed generation will be absolutely necessary to meet the very ambitious GHG reduction and energy independence goals that we are setting for ourselves."

At the root of this slow evolution is human nature:

"Some fans of self-sufficiency are willing to devote time, mental bandwidth, and money to set themselves up to live off the grid (or live in remote areas anyway). But most of the population is either not inclined to live this way nor in the position to act on the inclination. The ideal of autarky is not everybody’s social or energy utopia; however, a substantially more energy-efficient lifestyle and built environment is, in my book, a categorical imperative.

Currently, grid-tied distributed generation is the far more user-friendly option. A hidden component of the argument for these systems is “grid storage,” the notion that when your system isn’t producing energy, the grid will supply you with the energy that you need. Unfortunately, that grid is emitting some of the GHGs that you may be trying to avoid with your distributed generation system, especially in areas with coal-fired baseload, a fairly common situation in the sunny Southwest or windy Great Plains."