Decentralizing the Power Grid

December 27, 2012 (LocalOrg) - Solar Daily reported that the newly opened San Miguel Power Association Community Solar Array constitutes the largest community-owned solar facility in the US. It represents not only a viable model for bringing solar produced power to communities via local facilities - it represents a model that could translate to a variety of power production models, both existing and on the drawing board.

And while solar power may not yet be the ultimate solution to power production it is sometimes made out to be, the concept of a community getting together to produce cleaner energy represents a real, pragmatic solution to improving air quality and the efficiency of our infrastructure. Contrast this local initiative against financial scams like "carbon markets" peddled by some of the worst human and environmental exploiters on Earth - and realize that no mater what our problems are, they are better solved technically, locally,  and with pragmatism - not policy churned out by corporate-funded think-tanks.

As technology moves forward, and as the tools to advance technology fall into the hands of regular people, it may be time to begin thinking about what we can do at the most local level possible to produce our own energy. Larger cooperatives like SMPA are still preferable to leaving power generation to larger, more centralized interests. Power produced from renewable sources like geothermal energy, sunlight, wind, or running water - or even local fuels for biomass plants - removes a level of dependency on external factors like oil, gas, and coal, along with the economic and geopolitical risk associated with each.

It is also more likely that direct involvement in power generation on a local level will spur a larger number of people to take efficiency and progress more seriously, since cutting costs and improving performance will be of immediate importance to them. People can respond quicker with the resources and lay of their local community to improving and maintaining their energy grid in ways large corporations and governments cannot.

Yet another purpose a locally organized hackerspace/makerspace could serve is a meeting point for both educating local communities on the options available, as well as investigating new options for power generation. Training for maintenance could also be done locally. Using SMPA as an example, local groups can begin looking for ways to replicate their success, or building upon it further.