The drumbeat to deal with the immediate problem of global warming gets louder. Ice caps are melting and glaciers shrinking at ever increasing rates. Sea levels continue to rise and the oceans are becoming more acidic. 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history and 2015 appears on the way to surpass that. The hottest 10 years on record have occurred in the past 17.
Meanwhile human activities added over 40 billion tons of Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere in just the last year. Human activities are also increasing the amounts of other climate forcing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Frightening feedback loops serve to intensify the rate of climate change: A warmer atmosphere hold more water vapor, a very strong greenhouse gas in it’s own right. Melting sea ice reflects less solar energy back into space and thawing tundra in the far north releases Methane.
The data from above is measured on a daily basis across the globe. There is no controversy. We are creating a situation that will continue on for generations. The only question is just how badly do we want to burden our children ? The longer we delay the more costly it gets; in environmental degradation, in money, and in human lives.
President Obama has taken a bold step with the clean power plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions by 30 % compared to 2012 levels by 2030. It is a first step, but only a small one. Basically we have to find alternatives for energy production to replace the use of fossil fuels. The United States is behind many other countries but we have the resources available, wind and solar, to rapidly catch up and become the preeminent power in the world again.
Our heartland, the Midwest, is considered to be the Saudi Arabia of wind, but to properly exploit the resource requires a rapid expansion of the grid to deliver the power to where its needed. Part of the expansion of transmission should pass through Arkansas. Utilities are beginning to show interest, or at least are prodded on by the clean power plan. They tend to favor large “ utility scale” projects for both wind and solar.
Wind resources here in Arkansas are limited but readily available from our neighbors to the west. A utility scale 500 acre solar farm will soon be built near Stuttgart Arkansas. Large scale projects like this are financed by long term contracts with the energy producer and the power companies that have the transmission and distribution capacity to deliver the power to the consumer.
Big power producers and big industries have the lobbying might to bring on the large projects, but that needn’t be the only way to generate large amounts of clean power. If individual home owners and small businesses were afforded the the same long term contracts, there wouldn’t be a need for large tracts of land, only south facing roofs.
You could be a power provider by using the sun falling on your roof everyday. Just measure how much energy your roof can capture, then go to your grid operator and request a long term contract based on the power you could be producing (and profiting from.) With contract in hand go to the bank for underwriting a loan, to be paid for through the power contract. Alternatively lease agreements could still earn a tidy profit.
In Arkansas this could be as simple as the Public Service Commission mandating that long term contracts be available to small producers, just as they are to the big boys. Voila, large scale distributed energy.