The perfect place

I am an expert of electricity. My father occupied the chair of applied electricity at the state prison.
W. C. Fields-comedian

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a community of true renewable energy believers would put it all on the line and make their community carbon free? Well, it happened. (Click Link)

The Isle of Eigg, off the west coast of Scotland, is not what one would call a typical location for the development of green energy; one would call it an excellent location. As a small island, with a population of 87, its energy needs were small. On the twelve square mile island, the constant offshore winds were considered ideal for wind turbines, there was sufficient space for solar collectors, and the annual rainfall was suitable for hydroelectric production. Oh yes, and there was a need. The island once had a small hydroelectric generator, but it broke down. The community therefore survived with small diesel or gasoline generators at each house or business.

The cost of the green system needed turned out to be 1.6 million in Euros (1.9 million dollars). That breaks down to just under $22,000 per person. The residents spent twenty years trying to acquire funding. By 2006, the residents, the European Union, lottery cash and other bodies had come up with the money. The great experiment began, and the lights were switched on in 2008.

What happened? Well, in January of this year, Eigg won a million Euro prize (Click Link) as a model community for the renewable era. If they used the prize to pay off the cost of their green energy, it brings the cost per person down to $8,400. As a place with no other form of energy, it is almost reasonable.

I must reiterate, Eigg is not a typical green energy installation. It is ideal.

So, you might wonder, how are things going with Eigg today? Not so well. Mother Nature can be so fickle (Click Link). Now, with 96 residents (the population explosion may be the result of available power), Eigg is in the middle of a hot spell. Rainfall is down, and so is their hydroelectric plant. The constant offshore wind has become very intermittent, so the wind turbines cannot be counted on. One can assume that the sun still shines during the day hours, so they do have some renewable electricity, but their main power is now from backup diesel generators, and it is being rationed. Carbon power to the rescue again.

Perhaps there is a lesson here for those of us who dream of a fully renewable energy future. Eigg was the ideal location for renewable energy. It cost a fortune to get it up and running. The upkeep costs will continue in the form of a higher utility bills than most of the world is presently paying. Still, it did not work. It is not dependable. Money is still being spent for a reliable diesel generator; a backup system is always needed for all renewables except for nuclear.

If the United States could build a similar countrywide renewable energy system for $20,000 a person (Eigg only had to run six miles of wire) it would cost something north of $6 trillion just to create it, it would work only part of the time, and require a backup system as large as our present electrical system, and the ongoing costs would be much more than we presently pay. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.

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Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 5:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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