Wind turbines spoiling desert landscapes require new transmission lines, and the "intermittency" of the wind requires a new natural gas plant, and more transmission lines. These companies collect a guaranteed profit from you, and then turn around and invest that money in more destruction.
Consider K Road, the company building the Moapa Solar project that is touted as the savior for the Moapa community that is besieged by the Reid-Gardner coal plant. K Road will destroy 3 square miles of desert on the Moapa Band of Paiutes' reservation for the Moapa Solar project -- sharing a relatively minuscule amount of profit with the tribe. At the same time, K Road is building a 600 megawatt coal power plant in the Philippines. To the company's executives in New York, they are investing in whatever will secure a healthy return - what happens to the communities where they operate is not a concern. The Sierra Club's press releases on the K Road project did not mention the company's continued coal development, or plans to build a hydro power dam on a tropical river in South America.
|A photograph of preparations for a single wind turbine pad at the Ocotillo Express Wind project. Notice the new dirt road, and clearing around the pad, with a deep pit that will be filled with tons of cement and steel to anchor the turbine. Photo by Phillip Colla. Aviation support provided by LightHawk.|
All of this is to say that if we are truly serious about breaking our ties to fossil fuels and destruction of wildlands, we need to make energy decisions rooted in a core conservation ethic. We need to deprive these companies of our business as much as possible. And that means that the most sustainable renewable energy path involves a much higher component of distributed generation. Will corporations be involved? Yes. But the investments begin to undermine the corporate paradigm that counts on a centralized and destructive energy grid. Goldman Sachs invested 500 million dollars in rooftop solar leasing this past week. Each of the solar panels installed under that financing will chip away at the stranglehold of utility companies on our communities and ecosystems, and a grid that continues to generate profits for other large corporations.
Solar Mosaic, which allows individual investors -- anybody with at least $25 -- to invest in a rooftop solar installation in the community. Compared to the example of Goldman Sachs giving millions of dollars, Solar Mosaic is more like crowd-funding, and typically involves hundreds of small investments for each rooftop solar installation. This means that investment comes from, and stays in the community. And the end product does not involve bulldozers on wildlands.
|An info graphic by Solar Mosaic shows how hundreds of individuals came together to fund a rooftop solar project in New Jersey. That is capital and clean energy that is undermining the central power of utility companies.|
But even with relatively weak distributed generation incentives, we are still breaking free. California now has over 150,000 rooftops with solar panels, a milestone that the Sierra Club lauded in an interview with KCET's ReWire. In Arizona, citizens are taking a stand against a utility company that is trying to slash rooftop solar incentives, including a vocal conservative icon. In Washington, D.C., communities are finding space for solar panels on relatively small rooftops, and encouraging their neighbors to do the same. This is the difference between renewable energy, and sustainable energy, and it is what will ultimately spare our planet from unnecessary destruction.
|Solar panels on a rooftop in Hawaii, where rooftop solar is chipping away at fossil fuel's grip.|