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June 23, 2010


The real story here is not advances in energy production, but the transformation of the entire energy landscape from large-scale centralized production to small-scale distributed networks of production. This is part of a general shift towards what Yochai Benkler called "commons-based peer-production."

It is interesting to note that Scientific American repeatedly investigates the important change: "How home solar arrays can help to stabilize the grid" and "Joining the Energy Underground: Residential Geothermal Power Systems."

Just as a solar panel on a street light can provide energy at the point of need, so too can backyard windmills, distributed solar, and other complex systems.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that Thomas Hughes articulated in "Networks of Power" the partiular historical reasons why big centralized power systems arose in the 20th Century, we can expect to keep seeing 20th Century thinking rear it's head in articles like "The rise of Big Solar" from The Economist.

The alternative structure, The Energy Commons, is one of "The Five Commons" and emerges as energy networks shift from massive technological production infrastructures to smaller scale distributed energy networks.

The Energy Commons:

Reading this blog is like following Alice down the rabbit hole. It is totally detached from reality or practicality. All of the alternative energy sources mentioned except nuclear are entirely experimental, exorbitantly expensive or have limited possibilities (geothermal).

Solar in particular is completely impractical as large scale energy. It is useful for places that are off the grid and similar specialized uses. It costs about 5x more than anything else and doesn't work at night.

Wind is marginally useful in very narrow circumstances - for example Newfoundland where it is compared to burning oil which very few places do to generate electricity.

Spain and Germany are scaling back the wasteful and huge subsidies that they were giving to solar and wind.

Alternative energy is a foolish distraction. Even if you believe the global warming hypothesis the alternative energy is useless because it will be swamped by CO2 emissions from coal plants in China.

Alternative energy as practiced by the believers amounts to an illogical religion. But is it is religion that is wasting billions if not trillions at everyone else's expense.

@Norman: each option has some pros and cons. But we have to seek out some supplementary ways.

We can try out water power which derived from force. It’s more useful in mountain areas.

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