Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sustainable St. Croix,
part of a continuing series
More power by us

I bet you've heard the saying "No amount of planning will ever replace dumb luck!" That kind of describes how I feel now that I've almost finished reading Bill McKibben's eaarth. I've been advocating in favor of local food, local economy, decentralized but networked energy generation for some time now. Along comes McKibben's book in which he argues that those things, and efforts like them, are a good part of the solutions we need to adapt to global warming.

local coffee shop in Taylors Falls
local coffee shop in Taylors Falls         © harrington

We're coming up on a long holiday weekend during which we'll celebrate our national independence. I come from the region in which the whole ruckus that lead to these United States started, and in which the idea remains deeply embedded that democracy is, first and foremost, a local responsibility (town meetings anyone?).

The area where I now live in Minnesota had a ruckus a few years ago opposing a proposed new power plant that would have been located in my township. Before that (but not by much), there was opposition to a power line crossing the St. Croix River. (It's all reminiscent of the New Hampshire "Don't Tread On Me" motto.) To get a sense of some of what's at stake, feel free to use your imagination to fill in power lines crossing in this photo.

St. Croix River without power line crossing
St. Croix River without power line crossing      © harrington

Now, according to the county's web site, there's yet another new proposal. "The Geronimo Energy "Aurora Solar Project" involves four large scale solar sites in Chisago County and is a solar power development that will be administered through the State of Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Read on..." Isn't it past time to consider (without support from our local utilities who are still wedded to the system of centralized major generation and transmission facilities) a much more decentralized system based on home solar and some distributed generation facilities. We loose about 2/3 of the energy generated to "transmission losses." In the future, I wonder if we can afford that kind of inefficiency. This country and this state were settled by independent folks who were inclined toward self sufficiency, neighborliness and cooperation to get things done. They didn't depend on corporations and a central government to solve problems they could handle locally. This weekend, we might want to give some thought to going back to that kind of future and to putting more energy into creating the future we want rather than fighting a future we don't want. Walt has it right.

I Hear America Singing

By Walt Whitman 
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

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