We would like to feel that things will go right.
But sometimes things go really wrong.
You can lose your foundation – or your ground floor – in a hurricane.
Roads are destroyed, making it hard to move in repair vehicles.
Tornadoes put their own twist on things.
And winter storms, also. But storms also can come from outer space.
Solar storms can be huge.
Ejected matter from the sun reaches the Earth and can ruin infrastructure.
The aurora is one common, rather benign, manifestation of solar storms.
One solar mass that would have caused a multi-year grid outage barely missed us.
But transformers are especially vulnerable.
We could protect some things in Faraday cages, but not everything.
And then there is terrorism. FEMA said we could have the grid down for years in a worst case scenario.
And North Korea told us a single bomb could take down our grid for years.
So the question is:
Would you be willing to pay less for a more secure source of power?
Yes, that REALLY IS the question!
Would you be willing to pay LESS for a more secure source of power?
The people on the Pacific island nation of Tokelau saved money by switching to 100% solar power.
The people on the Danish island of Samsø saved by switching to wind.
The people of Güssing, in Austria, use many kinds of renewable power. They have had huge economic improvements.
The Brattleboro Retreat saves by powering its own numerous buildings on a microgrid with diesel generators.
A microgrid keeps money for power in the local economy. It can also power the community when the grid fails.
Components in a microgrid could include solar panels on a medieval building.
Or a solar farm in Tennessee.
Solar power can also be at the community scale.
There are many kinds of solar. Here is a solar dish with a Stirling engine.
Wind turbines of various sizes are also useful components of microgrids.
The hospital in Greensburg, Kansas, has its own turbine, one of fifteen in the city.
Not all wind turbines are alike. This is a Darrieus turbine.
This type of turbine is called a “twisted Savonius.”
Some are not efficient, but are very pretty. These are in Spain.
Old water wheels can be as picturesque as old wind mills.
Some hydropower does not use dams. This tiny weir could produce power. Fish can swim over it either way.
This is an intake for a small, high-head water turbine by Little Green Hydro.
And water from that intake drives this turbine to make a significant amount of electricity.
This is an Archimedes screw turbine. It has a very low head and uses a lot of water. But it kills few or no fish.
Biodigesters use household, farm, food, or municipal waste to make gas.
These two anaerobic digesters hold 3 million gallons of sludge each.
GE’s Jenbacher generator can use different types of gas, including syngas and biogas.
A microgrid has backup power. Familiar types of batteries store power. These date to 1901.
Tesla’s new Powerwall battery may change the way we make power.
Other batteries are not so familiar. This diagram shows the workings of a vanadium flow battery by Imergy.
This is what a household-scale flow battery from Imergy actually looks like.
There are other kinds of power storage. Hydrogen can be made in a fuel cell.
Hydrogen can be used as feedstock for other chemicals, such
as propanol, ammonia, and other fuels.
A flywheel can be used to store energy.
Turbines move water to the high reserviour when power prices are low, and make power when they are high.
Hopper cars loaded with stone can also be used for gravitational potential energy storage.
Cryogenic energy storage uses liquid nitrogen.
The Huntorf power plant in Germany has been powered by air for over thirty years.
Flat Holm, in Wales, has a microgrid with three solar arrays, a wind turbine, and two battery systems.
Insuring our way of life may be less expensive than taking a risk. And we can do that here.