No matter what new energy proposal someone makes, it’s bound to attract an outcry of NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard). (My recent post about the U.S. generating all the energy it needed via a 100-mile-by-100-mile solar installation in the Mojave Desert, for example, evoked some protest.)
So I thought it might help to pose the future-of-our-energy question in another way: What do I WIMBY? (As in, Want In My Backyard?)
OK, here we go: Following are photos illustrating several clean and/or renewable energy options that could help us curb greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Which ones would you be willing to view from your backyard as a tradeoff for a cleaner, brighter future? Be honest now: I’m asking literally if you would say OK if one of these was what you saw when looking out of the window of your home.
Is it Nuclear Power?
Image credit: Anna Gomez at Wikimedia Commons, released into public domain.
Concentrated Solar Power?
Image credit: Sandia National Laboratory at Wikimedia Commons, released into public domain.
Distributed Solar Power?
Image credit: Downtowngal at Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons license.
Image credit: Dirk Ingo Franke at Wikimedia Commons, under a GNU Free Documentation license.
Image credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation at Wikimedia Commons, released into public domain.
Image credit: TidalStream Partners at Wikimedia Commons, under a GNU Free Documentation license.
Or Geothermal Power?
Image credit: Gretar Ívarsson at Wikimedia Commons, released into the public domain.
I’ll be the first to answer: I’d have to say distributed solar (rooftop panels) and tidal. Honestly, I’d find all the others unsightly when viewed from my home. (Though I have to acknowledge that’s clearly selfish: if it’s a choice between saving the Earth — and civilization — from the effects of catastrophic climate change, I’d take any of the above.)
Of course, by the time any of us really has to make that choice, it’ll be too late to stave off a climate catastrophe. That’s the problem with NIMBYism.
Shirley Siluk Gregory
All great comments, Jim47 and Bill — thanks. Bill, I’m not very familiar with Georgia’s green building/energy efforts, but I’ll look into it. Seems like there should be some good potential for offshore wind power, just as in Florida, where I live.
Florida’s got a lot of catching up to do in the renewable/efficiency department, but it seems to be making good strides under Gov. Crist; I like what I’ve been seeing from him so far. Judging from Gov. Perdue’s comments on climate change and his responses to the drought situation in your state, Bill, I can see where Georgia appears to be lacking in the area of progressive energy policies. When’s the next election? : )
OK, here’s my take. Essentially, if we have to dig our energy up out of the ground, it’s a no-go for me. The exception is geothermal.
Nuclear Power: NIMBY. Why: we dig the mineral source of the radioactivity out of the ground, questionable as a boondoggle, questionable overall power output, questionable safety, really bad consequences if it goes really wrong. I’m not really happy that there are at least two nuclear facilities inside my metro area. Over-dependence on nukes could jack the price of the radioactive minerals up. There’s also probably a finite supply.
Concentrated Solar Power: WIMBY. Why: I actually quite literally want CSP in MY backyard so I can make money off of it. Not to mention that a field of house-sized dishes or even smaller troughs can be hidden from the general public by surrounding trees. Nothing really hard to obtain. Our current factories, idled as the car industry experiences a significant slow-down, could be retooled to crank these puppies out. Solar thermal towers wouldn’t be anymore of an eyesore that cellphone towers which pepper my local surrounds.
Distributed Solar Power: WIMBY. Or WOMR (Want on my roof). This is such a versatile option! Solar hot water, solar electric, passive solar cooling, and etc. Yes please, I would like lower utility bills, thanks!
Wind Power (and off-shore wind): WIMBY, with caveats. If I lived in a windy area, I’d like it. The low frequency noise reported to emanate from large windmills could pose a problem in my area. It has potential but recent reports from Europe seem to indicated that wind is a little too untrustworthy. Where it works, the windmills are almost hypnotic to look at, though I admit that I even like watching videos of windmills on YouTube. If I had a farm in a windy area, I’d be all about putting these throughout my fields. In terms of off-shore wind, if we have the wind potential off the coast of Georgia, then I say line the coast.
Hydroelectric Power: If I must. Construction of large dams and the lakes that form behind them shouldn’t be constructed for JUST electricity. The environmental cost must be balanced with a number of benefits such as reserve water supply, flood control, and other factors.
Tidal Power (and Micro-hydro, River current power, wave energy): WIMBY. Huge potential, low impact, distributed infrastructure. Yes, yes, yes. This is one of the few that could work really well for Georgia … when we don’t spray all of our water on our lawns, that is. Line the coast, line the rivers!
Geothermal: WIMBY but no energy production potential. In Georgia, we do have the potential for geothermal cooling which would greatly reduce our summertime bump in energy usage and parallel increase in coal burning. Not only do I want this in MY back yard as a retrofit to my house, I think it should be a mandatory part of new construction and major re-modeling projects as a state-wide effort to reduce energy consumption, Appalachian destruction, carbon emission, and dependence on energy from other states and countries.
Energy Efficiency Construction Codes: WIMG (Want In My Government). Oh, to be a Californian. Georgia desperately needs a mandate for efficiency in building design. New homes should be designed with super-insulation, passive air cooling, geothermal air cooling, energy efficient lighting, energy efficient appliances, water efficient plumbing, and etc. Georgia is apparently on the poor side when it comes to potential for renewable energy production but we have great potential for energy efficiency.
An excellent idea! And high time we really started asking this of ourselves. More often than not, what we are willing to put up with is more enlightening than what we don’t want under any circumstances. So, here’s my list…
I’ll go with nuclear power, wind generation and distributed solar, although that last one really gives me pause, in some ways, as I don’t think it is very practical, from a vandalism PoV. But that’s another issue entirely.
I live near the ocean; tidal just doesn’t grab me and it’s far too uncertain what the net effects on organisms that live near the shore would be. We *know* the effects from nuclear, and we know how to mitigate them. The Devil you know, etc. And I’ve gone on record here and elsewhere as an unabashed supporter of well-designed nuclear power stations. If they wanted to build one between Ventura and Santa Barbara, I’d probably support it. I’ve also discussed some of the ways to safely dispose of nuclear waste. Geothermal works where you can find the places for it, but far too many good geothermal areas are also scenic wonderlands. Sorry; this will always be a very small part of any energy solution. I’ve seen some great large-scale solar facilities; they are scattered all over SoCal, and I was not one of the protesters of the Army’s basic concept. Problem is, the desert is already getting battered; large solar stations need to be carefully crafted to fit in well with their surroundings. So do wind towers, but they aren’t as plentiful, nor will they be, compared to the potential for solar. Lastly, NO NEW DAMS!!! We’re trying to tear down a couple, not build more of them. Hydro’s time is past, at least in the U.S.
We need to do more of this sort of thing. What do we want? What will we put up with? Thanks for getting this ball rolling!