Solar Village is a bottom up approach to community transformation that aims to achieve 100% renewable energy and 100% renewable resource recycling. Climate crisis requires that we make the switch to at least 80% renewable energy by 2020. Limited reserves of life sustaining resources like air, water, soil, forests, minerals, aggregates, and others require that we develop reuse and recycling capabilities in order to sustain life indefinitely. Our objective is the development of open source oriented approaches that empower individuals and local communities to achieve equitable, equal, and autonomous access to energy and resources required to sustain a high quality of life now and for future generations.
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Solar represents the simple notion that our earth is, by nature, a solar powered environment. In nature this reality has determined the evolution of life on this planet, and is in reality the underlying basis of the real "economy" both in nature and in our human created world of ideas. Thus, we must mimic nature, and transform our use of energy, so that it is forever sustainable as it is in nature. The benefits are extraordinary as in this model economics in the world we've created also works to serve the needs of real life. Solar economics changes everything as it moves the source of the energy resource to your local environment (your house, your office, your park, your local farm), without the need for long supply lines from around the world (as is the case for fossil and nuclear resources). Solar also has the powerful attribute of providing energy for decades at a fixed cost which creates a stable economy far less susceptable to speculators. Once solar generating systems (like solar hot water, solar photovoltaic electricity, solar thermal, wind, hydro and geothermal) in combination with long lasting energy storage systems that are 100% recyclable become the norm, our entire economy will stabilize and become sustainable.
Village represents the simple notion that we all share this earth equally, through the local communities we live in. Gandhi envisioned a peaceful world of independent villages, automous, and at the same time dependent upon each other as we shared the worlds resources of air, water, soil and other materials. Beyond energy and economy it is our social relations that determine to some extent our well being. As a community we share a responsibility to find ways to express our true human nature in a free and open society that we continue to evolve and improve to server the interests of our community and that of the communities we share the world with, and perhaps most important with future generations.
Once the costs to the consumer for solar energy reach the levels of the current residential and commercial rates, then it is game over for fossil and nuclear resource based energy as they will continue to increase in cost. Of course the other benefit of distributed renewable energy from solar is that it is distributed equitably. Distributed means, like the internet, it is not controlled centrally, making it far more resilient and flexibile in the future. Autonomy for each home owner, farmer, factory and office building also breeds levels of freedom never before realized on such a wide scale.
One transformative thing about solar energy is that once it is installed it has basically a fixed rate for the next twenty to forty years. Take a look at the cost of energy as supplied by fossil and nuclear resources and you'll see a never ending increase in the rates as the resource costs increase (through depletion of limited reserves and/or increasingly more difficult and costly to extract), not to mention the terrible risks for interruption of supply along their very long supply routes. Once we count the externalities currently missing from the price of fossil and nuclear, remove subsidies to the polluting forms of energy, then we can cearly see that solar based energy, as nature shows us every day, is the only answer. Also, people, energy and resources are the real sources of value in our economy. We may be deceived into thinking it is money and derivatives of money in the form of legal contracts and agreements, but reality is that people, energy and resources are the real economy.
Use feed-in tariff policy to create the economic incentives for people with homes and businesses to invest in solar rooftop systems, with 20 year contracts at roughly 80 cents/kWh, providing guaranteed access to the grid for these proponents. Use feed-in tariff and time-of-use pricing, as well as demand response programs to enable people to invest in energy storage systems for their homes and businesses. Combined, local renewable energy and energy storage (based on batteries that are 100% recyclable), together make 100% renewable energy achievable while also providing a high degree of autonomy. Capital is provided by the equity home owners and business already have, while the rate guaranteed by energy rate payers (not tax payers) for 20 years, ensures the home/business owner that their contract will be honored. The economic incentive then exists in both cases through programs in the form of feed-in tariff type contracts, to bring in the capital to build these systems from the home/business owners, while providing enough income to offset the monthly costs of operating these systems so that equity lines of credit may be used at low risk to fund the development of these systems (see Getting off the grid with solar on this web site for a concrete example of how this works). This creates a win-win-win economic environment that makes possible a future we want and need, while also creating the local jobs and industry needed to deliver this future.
As state after state, country after country, and province after province rolls out smart meters in an effort to create a smart grid, some of the tools required to create the financial incentives are emerging. Right off the bat, those of us on time-of-use pricing (where peak demand times cost quite a bit more than low demand) are being encouraged to conserve energy during peak demand. Much like the challenge for renewables of providing energy when we need it all the time, it is sometimes a real challenge for people to reduce demand at all times, during peak demand for instance. With time-of-use (TOU) pricing, however, there is now a financial incentive to do just that. Conservation is the first step of course, and the one being suggested by the utilities. However, given this financial incentive, which can provide a price differential of around six cents per kilowatt hour between peak and low demand rates, there is now also the option of storing energy from low demand, so that it may be injected into the grid during peak periods, in order to, in effect, get paid for this price differential. You can do this using batteries and smart inverter/chargers that are now commonly available.
"The way the system works right now, you have these centralized power plants, and the grid flows one way, and thereâ€™s no flow of information. I think what weâ€™re moving towards is a smart grid where real-time information is feeding back and forth, as well as decentralized production. What happens today is you have to build capacity for peak demand. So on a hundred-degree day, power plants have to turn on these things like jet engines, which are really expensive and really dirty. When you look at the cost of peak power, itâ€™s much more expensive today than solar. You have to look at the entire system and what it truly costs. The northeast blackout in 2003 cost the economy 3 billion dollars. All we needed were 80,000 homes with solar for that to be avoided." Lynn Jurich, Co-founder SunRun solar company, from Fast Company interview - Solar Entrepreneur Lynn Jurich: Sunny Days Ahead .
Smart-grid is just a stepping stone to the autonomous off-the-grid renewable energy powered buildings and homes of the future. Over the coming decade, in our efforts to prevent the global emergency that is global warming, a smarter grid will help us create the financial incentives needed to get people to make the switch to renewable energy. As IBM has projected for the smart-grid deployment in Korea, there are many benefits. Right off the bat you've got large greenhouse gas reductions. Then you get into job creation which is ultimately renewable, as renewable energy system must continuously be upgraded, maintained, and replaced over time with new systems created from the recycled materials of the older systems. On large grids the ability to deal with peak demand with stored renewable energy creates massive reductions in the need for new power plants and lessening the need for imports of energy while encouraging the creation of domestic sources of renewable energy. Also, as Germany is proving, the ability to export on demand becomes a powerful facility that drives down the cost of energy for rate payers on the smart-grid.
First of all, ideally, you should be implementing solar on your rooftop for electricity generation on-site, which can earn you a tidy profit from day one assuming your region has implemented a feed-in tariff like the ones in Ontario Canada and Germany. Next, you can add a battery storage system to your buildings internal electrical system. The critical component for this is a new 2 to 3 thousand dollar smart inverter/charger (available from folks like Xantrex and SunnyBoy). These devices, and they can be coupled together in chains to create larger storage systems, provide several key features for storing your renewable energy. First of all they can be seamlessly added to your electrical system for the building without too much fuss because they can deal with things like power failures (they need to prevent electricity from being injected into the grid at these times so that line worker safety is not compromised). Second, they manage charging your bank of batteries to optimize their storage capabilities and lifespan, as well as doing this optimally from a timing perspective to take advantage of the lowest time-of-use electricity rates and/or your rooftop solar system production periods. Finally, these systems can be remotely controlled and programmed so that they inject stored power either during peak demand (peak TOU rates), and/or on demand, both of which add financial returns on these systems. By avoiding peak rates at all times, there are savings that can be guaranteed and factored into the financial benefits. Next, combined with special demand response contracts, especially when aggregated (so that thousands of similar systems can be dispatched on request by the managers of the grid), additional financial incentives can be realized. Last but not least, these systems also provide a uninterrupted power supply (UPS), for your entire building. For around $8,000 a system like this could power your house for a day or so. Larger systems could provide power for commercial and industrial buildings for similar time periods. Ultimately this combination of renewables with battery storage makes for the most economically sensible electricity system currently imaginable while make the to move to 100% renewable energy for both buildings and vehicles achievable in the next ten years.