Lawrence, KS - Events Local News Groups Contact
Finding Energy Where You Need It
By Indy Media / filmsforaction.org
Jan 26, 2008
From PostCarbonCities.net:

A local energy system will be more resilient in the face of fossil fuel energy uncertainty, and it will look different for different places. A careful consideration of the qualities of a place -- including what people do there or have done there -- can result in surprising sources of energy.


The other day my friend Steve Darnley in "that other Portland" (i.e., Maine) sent me a link to an article about changes in his office building. He has sent me photos of the office before, because it's in a cool old converted mill. But now it's even cooler, because the new owners are taking advantage of the building's siting and construction to generate hydro-power, of which "a bit more than half goes to the grid, the remaining to the tenants." (Portland Press-Herald, 4 Jan 2008) It's as if high energy prices and greater awareness of consumption led to a realization of why that building was sited there in the first place!


Getting power locally, an alternative to relying on generic fuels shipped from far away, requires paying attention to the special qualities of a place. I'm seeing more and more examples of this as I read energy-related news. In some places, it's obvious: solar power in North Africa and the Southwestern United States. Offshore wind where ships once sailed: in the Great Lakes and off the California coast. But in others, it takes a little more consideration about what's there and what's going to waste. For example: a less-obvious source of windpower is our highways, where traffic creates constant breezes.


There's a principle in permaculture that "pollution is energy in the wrong place." It may be that the most profitable places to look are the places where we might otherwise just see a useless by-product of human activities. (I seem to remember Jane Jacobs predicting something like that in her 1970 book, the Economy of Cities.)


Harnessing waste heat from industry was the subject of an article by Bill McKibben in Orion late last year. Biodiesel proponents have been collecting fryer grease for a while; the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland is going a step further and making biodiesel from grease from restaurants' kitchens' sewage. The utility district will power at least some of their fleet with the fuel, if it turns out as planned. As one of the Oakland engineers says, "if we can produce fuel from a waste, it's very exciting. There are other ways to derive energy from waste such as producing methane for electricity, but to have something that can replace transportation fuel, that's even more exciting."


Stockholm's Central Station
Stockholm's Central Station


It gets more science-fictional in Stockholm and Japan, where the energy is coming directly from people. There's a project in Stockholm where they will capture the heat generated by the commuters that pack the city's Central Station each day to heat a nearby office building. That heat would otherwise be a waste problem to be dealt with through venting. The Japanese project is a power-generating floor, powered by the energy of people walking across it.


Developing these sources may seem like small potatoes, but they are examples of human ingenuity in the face of large problems. Energy and fuel solutions that are locally-based will be more resilient, and can be better tuned to the specific resources of a place.

0.0 ·
0


Love Films For Action? 

Films For Action empowers citizens with the information and perspectives essential to creating a more just, sustainable, and democratic society.

If you feel like you get some value from this library, consider making a donation today. Every little bit helps.

Trending Today
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley2,716 views today ·
Joe Rogan Interviews Paul Stamets
133 min2,705 views today ·
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min2,378 views today ·
Trump Expands Police-State Crackdown on the Left
26 min2,043 views today ·
Ending Sexual Violence Requires a New Culture
Dara Silverman931 views today ·
John Pilger on ISIS: Only When We See the War Criminals In Our Midst Will the Blood Begin to Dry
John Pilger879 views today ·
This Facebook Comment About the UK Election Is Going Viral
Chris Renwick785 views today ·
Seven Sins of Our System of Forced Education
Peter Gray, Ph.D.717 views today ·
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga582 views today ·
Load More
Join us on Facebook
Finding Energy Where You Need It