A local from-the-bottom-up renewable energy strategy


Do we need to depend on Washington, D.C., to make real progress in renewable energy, gradually phasing out fossil fuels for the good of our planet? Wouldn't it be great if we had a local all-inclusive initiative, closer to you and me, where our ideas would have a better chance of getting heard and acted on?

Here in our Taos area, we have considerable renewable energy efforts, especially in solar, but we can do better. So here's a proposal. Let's consider a from-the-bottom-up comprehensive strategy to complement the efforts of our central and state governments. It's the "Renewable Energy Enhancement District" (REED) idea - a geographic area dedicated to developing and implementing a local energy policy based on a range of real and potential renewable energy sources.

It would be similar to a soil conservation district, where towns and communities are associated in a planning unit, but different in that it starts with local human resources - individuals along with institutions and organizations.

The idea proposed here is that the size of each REED would be peculiar to a given area's real and potential energy sources. It would depend on the magnitude of energy sources, practical administrative considerations and distances that affect costs.

An example of a local renewable energy district could be most of Taos County, starting with the Taos municipal incorporated area and surrounding communities up to the Colorado state line. The complete REED could extend beyond Taos County out to Mora and Truchas. To the west, it could pass above Tres Piedras toward Chama, including much of the Carson National Forest. Forest areas could play an important role in that they are, in fact, huge solar panels by way of photosynthesis.

Defining such districts would serve as a strategy to focus human and financial resources on the most promising areas in an optimization process. The all-included approach allows considering even the most remotely possible renewable energy sources, which may sound like science fiction today, but due to technological progress can be a reality tomorrow.

The basis for planning could be the "energy matrix" idea proposed here in our Taos News "Natural Resources Notebook" in 2008 ("An energy source analysis model"), where all conceivable energy sources are represented in rows and where the columns are specific points in time starting from the present and progressing at intervals of, for example, five years, which represent planning goals. The matrix cells contain percentages of total energy consumption for each row category at a specific time.

The advantage of defining and setting up REEDs is that they would serve as a basis for focusing and concentrating efforts and resources in the most likely areas to optimize the use of human and financial resources. Selected REEDs could serve as pilot projects that would help in getting funding and making the best use of resources.

This is the 160th article in the Taos News "Natural Resources Notebook"; the first 99 are in "Forest Power: Adventures in Ecology and Forest Management." A complete list can be found at forestbiopower.com/id86.html. Many are available online at taosnews.nm.newsmemory.com. Email vinlarry@taosnet.com. More in-depth and technical material is available at forestbiopower.com/id89.html.