Power from the People, by Greg Pahl - Reviews
Post Carbon Institute, Daniel Lerch
Peak oil and climate change dictate that we get society off fossil fuels, fast. But wind, solar, biofuels, hydropower each have major drawbacks compared to the versatility, ubiquity, and energy content of fossil fuels. It's hard to see how we can honestly power the global economy renewable energy without blanketing the deserts with solar panels, carving up the ridgetops with wind turbines, and devoting a good portion of the world's arable land to biofuels.
But instead of relying on national governments and multinational corporations to rebuild a (renewable!) centralized power infrastructure, what if each community produced the power it needed using local and regional resources? Is it even possible to "relocalize" energy?
Our latest book, Power From the People by energy expert Greg Pahl, decisively argues YES.
The second book in our Community Resilience Guides series with Chelsea Green Publishing, Power From the People illustrates how communities across the country are already generating their own energy at the local level. From citizen-owned wind turbines to co-op biofuel producers to community-wide initiatives combining multiple resources and technologies, Pahl outlines the steps necessary and plan, organize, finance and launch community energy projects.
The book showcases over 25 real-life examples, including:
Ellensburg Community Solar Project in Washington, which helped the local utility expand its solar PV capacity four times by allowing households and businesses to invest directly in the system (and receive utility credit in return).Fox Islands Wind Project in Maine, which built three community-owned wind turbines that now save residents an average of $300 a year on their electric bills.Dane County in Wisconsin, which developed a system to process landfill-generated methane into compressed natural gas for fueling CNG vehicles.Gainesville, Florida, which avoided building a new coal-fired power plant by incentivizing local solar investments through an innovative "feed-in tariffs" and developing a wood-fired power plant running on waste wood from the regional paper and timber industries.
It's been said that we must leave fossil fuels before they leave us. Power From the People shows how that might be done.
"The movement to source energy at the local level has boomed in recent years. Power from the People is a good guide for entrepreneurs looking to get in on the trend in an environmentally conscious way.
Community energy has multiple facets, and this book covers them in a logical way. Part One discusses the various aspects of energy localization, including sections on "Energy and Our Communities" and "Rethinking Energy."
Part Two brings the discussion down to a hyper-local level with "Your Household's Energy Resilience." This section expounds on the point that there are several steps to energy efficiency, and the first is energy conservation. The book provides concrete advice for the homeowner seeking to reduce their energy consumption and then offers ways that a homeowner can reduce their dependence on outside power generation. It covers relatively unknown topics such as geoexchange and micro-hydro and also includes tips specifically for urban dwellers. From there, the discussion expands to include the entire community.
Part Three addresses the parallels and differences between consumer energy and consumer agriculture. The book details important steps to setting up cooperatives, partnerships, and community investment in the project and expands to discussion of specific types of energy. Part Three also offers specific examples of communities around the country that have successfully relocalized many forms of energy.
From the Burlington Cohousing Solor Project in Vermont to liquid biogas initiatives at Quad County Corn Processors in Iowa to geothermal power plants at the Oregon Institute of Technology, Power from the People gives real-life examples of the ways that a community can energize itself. Containing appendices with extensive endnotes, a virtual library of additional resources, and a glossary of common industry terms, this book provides a great starter guide for anyone pursuing a local energy project."