Can we do it? Yes we can!

With most of the USA chanting “Yes we can!” last week, I was fascinated to be lent by Tom Lankester over the weekend the latest edition of the New Scientist.

This special issue (number 2677) is focused on renewable energies. And the basic message is, “We already have the technologies to generate all the renewable, zero-carbon, electricity we need. In fact several towns around the world are already doing it!

According to the article, the world only gets 2% of its electricity  from renewable sources today. But the potential from renewables is to provide sixteen times more electricity than the whole world uses.

That means that the long term future is bright – providing we act fast enough.

We know that politicians will spend public money to save the bankers, so surely they will also spend it to save the planet we live on. The only question is how quickly.

Given that the people who can most influence this decision are those who are most insulated from the effects of high fuel prices, high food prices, and changing climate… And given that even once the decision has been taken it will take many years to build the generators that will take the world from 2% renewables to 100%… And given that climate change and peak oil are an incoming tide that cannot be stopped… my vote is for making the switchover in my town as soon as possible.

Click below to read about the fantastic, wonderful ways in which other towns around the world have already made the Transition!

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The following extracts and links are based on the content of the New Scientist articles.

Wind turbines have grown 10 times bigger and 100 times more powerful in the last 20 years.

A single wind turbine, with twice the wingspan of a jumbo jet, and standing taller than the Statue of Liberty, can now power a small town. The paid article describing this is here. A related (free) article is here.

We can also reduce demand by using ‘intelligent devices’ that switch themselves off when demand is too high. So-called “Dynamic Demand” technologies could save us the equivalent of one or two whole power stations!

Concentrated solar power mirror arrays covering just 1% of the Earth’s deserts could supply a fifth of all current global energy consumption.

Of course the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, so new technologies are needed to capture and store energy for when it gets dark or the wind stops. Vanadium flow batteries can store huge amounts of energy.  Compressed Air Energy Storage also offers huge possibilities, with reduced CO2 emissions. In Europe we are developing ‘Advanced CAES’ which will emit no CO2.

Tidal power is generating energy in France (tidal barrage) , Norway (‘underwater windmill’) and also the UK (which led to this article: ‘Rise of British Sea Power‘).

Enhanced Geothermal Energy can now be used to generate unlimited, carbon neutral geothermal energy just about anywhere in the world. It is seen by some as the “killer application of the energy world“, and Google.org is investing heavily.

Waste plant materials (sugar cane, wood chips, grain from breweries) can also be used to generate ‘biomass’ power.

With all these different ways of generating renewable energy, several communities around the world have already switched to generate all or nearly all of their electricity from renewable sources.

These communities include:

In fact several more towns in  Europe that are already 100% renewable. And many others around the world are beginning to make the switch (Frieburg, Masdur, New Zealand, …)

It is possible. Life is better with renewables. It is just a question of choosing to make the Transition.

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