Centralized power vs decentralized power

There is a national movement away from centralized power, large power plants producing hundreds of megawatts in a single location toward decentralized power generation. Decentralized energy (DE) is defined as power produced at or near the point of consumption and has many advantages over the standard centralized model we have become accustomed to.

Benefits of DE are multifold and include efficiency by way of both thermal gains and reduced line losses. Economic modeling indicates that in the US DE will average 44% lower capital cost savings and 15% lower retail cost savings. Other benefits include climate, reliability and security and perhaps most significantly land use.

DE can reduce the environmental footprint of producing energy. Centralized energy, whether it is from renewable sources such as wind or hydro, or fossil fuel power plants use vast amounts of land and in the case of wave energy, vast amounts of cubic ocean space and sea bed. Centralized power further requires an enormous footprint for the transmission lines to transport this power at high voltage and further space for transformers to step down the voltage before delivering to the consumer.

Barriers to DE have been primarily regulatory and financing. Today however, in particular, regarding renewable distributed generators many of these obstacles are being overcome. Another barrier to renewable DE on the Oregon coast has been technology. Wind is a plentiful resource but the turbulent and gusty nature of wind on the coast is not compatible with traditional wind turbines

In October, 2006, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent on a ducted fan wind turbine which is capable of converting the strong but turbulent and gusty winds common to the region into power. In September, 2007, another patent was applied for on another design also suited to the local climate. These turbines can be mounted on rooftops and by utilizing the ‘rooftop effect’ produce significantly more power than traditional turbines with the same swept surface area. Wide scale distributed renewable energy can be implemented without any environmental footprint.

Community owned power generation vs corporate owned power generation

Community owned wind farms have been built in several states across the country. Community owned wind is defined as locally owned, utility scale wind projects interconnected on either side of the meter. Currently there are no community owned wind farms in Oregon, however, the State strongly encourages the development of these projects.

The University of Minnesota prepared a report revised September, 2006 comparing the economic advantages of community vs corporate ownership of wind farms. The study analyzed corporate and community owned wind farms in Washington State. The results showed community owned projects provided benefits over corporate owned with a 16% increase in output, 42% increase in wages and 25% higher increase in local jobs. Local business revenues were 53% higher and tax revenues 8% higher than the corporate owned farms in the comparison.

Strengthens Rural Communities:

Locally-owned wind generates new income sources for farmers, landowners, and communities. It also strengthens rural and often depressed communities in more subtle – yet important – ways by expanding local entrepreneurial ingenuity and fostering a sense of hope for the future.
Stimulates the Local and State Economy:
Community-owned wind projects provide high quality jobs, creating and retaining wealth that can then be re-invested in the community to grow new business opportunities. American manufacturing jobs fell from 2000 levels of 17,263,000 to 14,197,000 in 2006. By keeping energy dollars circulating within the community – instead of being exported to other nations or states – energy independence becomes institutionalized at the local level.

Wide scale distributed energy

While both distributed energy and community wind are common in Europe, to date, no community owned wide scale renewable distributed energy generating utilities exist in the US. Today it costs roughly $1M per mile to run transmission lines to rural America and the lines along the Oregon coast are already congested limiting future expansion or future power demands. Wide scale distributed generation provides economies of scale, potential for manufacturing, installation and maintenance jobs and energy independence.