#27 Around the Campfire; Urban Solar NOW!

It’s the Gobi Desert.  There’s not much other use for it.

–Wang Yu

All over the world is a widely held belief that we have an energy shortage.  Garret Hardin long ago warned that what we think is a shortage is often a longage.  Instead of a shortage of stock, it is a longage of want.  For energy—electricity, space heating, transportation, and running industry—our longage of want comes from overpopulation throughout the world and overconsumption and waste here and there in the world.  Moreover, we’ve been using fossil fuels—long-buried biomass that geology has worked into coal, petroleum, natural gas, and so forth—for most of our power since 1800 C.E.  Without fossil fuels there would have been no Industrial Revolution.  Though a crunch of petroleum and natural gas may be not far off, there is yet coal galore.  We have, however, already run out of the wherewithal of forests, oceans, and the atmosphere to soak up and hold harmless fossil-fuel-burning pollution of so-called greenhouse gases.  If we don’t cut back quickly and deeply on fossil fuel burning, we are up against a crazy-house wall of unknown outcomes of global weirding.  This is the true need to find alternatives to fossil fuels—not because we’re going to run out tomorrow, but because if we go on burning them we will reap all kinds of gruesome and ghastly outcomes, some of which are already upon us.

To get away from fossil fuels, making our energy from sunlight is likely our best choice however we look at it.

Conservationists need to call for an all-out blitz to build urban solar power plants on at least three grounds: (1) We need to draw more and more of our energy needs from the sun; (2) Energy should be made where folks live and work so there is no need for energy-losing and land-scarring transmission; and 3) We must save wild deserts from ill-thought-out solar factories. Make no mistake; scalping thousands of acres of desert is the path solar energy is following today.  We who find wonder, loveliness, wild things galore, and inborn worth in drylands have a narrow window of time in which to shift the solar energy industry to already paved and built-upon lands.

All over the world, however, industrialists are casting newly opened eyes on Earth’s deserts, or drylands.  China, with a Brobdignagian hunger for energy, looks west to the Gobi Desert.  European countries peer south over the Mediterranean Sea to the Sahara, desert of deserts, and think of solar power plants and cables under the Mediterranean to keep Europe abuzz with electricity.  In the United States, the federal government, electric utilities, and sparked-up solar energy industry look to the Southwest where the Mohave and Sonoran Deserts sit seemingly not doing much of anything.  These empty lands, once shrugged at as wastelands, now seem to be sprouting dollars, renimbis, and Euros from the sand.  Boosters for putting solar energy factories in the world’s deserts see themselves as good guys helping to free Mankind from an energy crunch or from greenhouse gases or both.  These would-be good guys have lots of environmentalists and environmental outfits in their ranks, too.

Click on the attachments below to read parts 1 and 2 of the Urban Solar “Campfire.”

Click on 3 and 4 for links to reports about successful distributed power projects serving urban communities.

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