Department of the Planet Earth
by Carol Van Strum
If, like many of us, you feel guilty for every hot shower but haven't a prayer of affording non-polluting energy for your home, shop, or office, here is the answer to that unsaid prayer. What one person can not afford, a group may find not only feasible, but economic as well; this handbook is an indispensable manual for practical, community owned and operated energy systems.
Greg Pahl has compiled a clear, concise guide to current, proven energy strategies to enable both individual homes and communities to survive the end of Big Oil without adding to the problem of global warming. (Current and proven strategies do not include nuclear or hydrogen sources, as neither has been proven to be economically or ecologically feasible.) In detailed, readily comprehensible chapters, he describes the nuts and bolts -- as well as the pros and cons -- of solar energy; wind power; water power (especially small-scale hydropower, and also recent ocean energy projects); biomass; liquid biofuels such as biodiesel and bioethanol; and geothermal energy.
For each energy source, he provides case histories of successful installations adapted to local conditions, with details of costs, funding/investment sources, politics, planning, organization, maintenance, and employment needs. Best of all, The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook lives up admirably to its title, emphasizing both the need for and the extraordinary benefits of collectively funded and operated local energy installations.
"This local ownership model," Pahl writes, "is increasingly being referred to as community supported energy (CSE), which is similar to community supported agriculture (CSA), except that instead of investing in carrots, tomatoes, or onions, local residents invest in renewable energy projects and a cleaner environment." As Pahl's examples repeatedly demonstrate, the benefits are more than just economic or environmental: local control of energy not only provides jobs and energy security, but also keeps money in the community instead of flowing out to huge, distant corporations.
The time to initiate such projects is now, before the inevitable crunch hits. Towns and cities from California and Minnesota to Vermont, Sweden, and Germany, with their working models of community supported energy projects, are far better poised than the rest of the world to survive energy crises and even the impacts of climate change. Pahl's handbook should be required reading for planners, architects, and elected officials in every town and city, small or large.
"The complex challenges of reinventing our agricultural practices, revitalizing the local business sector, revamping the monetary system, reorganizing transport, and transforming our cities, towns - and ourselves - extend well beyond the scope of this book," Pahl writes. "Nevertheless, these vital tasks will require the same type of courageous, collaborative strategies that I suggest for renewable energy initiatives."
Short of building an ark or two, this sensible, readable handbook offers the best prospects for collective investment in an uncertain future.
For the original post please visit www.deptplanetearth.com.
Piedmont Biofuels Energy Blog
May 6, 2007
I’ve just set down The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook; Community Solutions to a Global Crisis by Greg Pahl.
He’s the guy who wrote Biodiesel; Growing a New Energy Economy, which we sell at the Coop. We also sell his Natural Home Heating book. Neither one hold a candle to his latest. This book is fantastic.
When a copy arrived in a cardboard box in the control room, I set it next to my phone for about a month. It’s a long title, with a boring cover, and I was afraid it was going to be an exercise in “listing.”
I remember doing an interview with Greg a long time ago. Back when he was working on this book. And he ran some of the biofuels section past me-as sort of a fact checking thing. And when that was done, I forgot all about it.
Having recently reviewed Small is Possible -- which is an object lesson in how to turn a list into a book-and having a vague memory of Pahl’s Biodiesel book, which lists some B20 trials, I was worried that I had another “list” book on my desk.
I should note that my review of Greg’s Biodiesel book was the first book review on Energy Blog, and that it was seventeen reviews ago…
But I figured that if I was to dig into a list, I’d like to revisit Homer’s catalogue of ships in the Iliad. On first blush, that seemed more appealing than delving into this book.
But I was wrong about that. The foreword by Richard Heinberg is “Heinberg as Usual,” only with a more positive spin.
And Pahl’s introduction, followed by a chapter on “Energy Choices” should be required reading for everyone in the country. In thirty some odd pages he lays down a primer on energy that is clear, concise, and accurate.
And he then embarks on a crawl through of solar, and wind, and water, and biofuels, etc.
What I especially like about this book is that Pahl is part of the story. Gone is the cold objectivity of his biodiesel book. He puts in photos of the solar hot water system on his own house in Vermont. And of the pellet stove in his basement. He talks about taking the train to a Peak Oil Conference, and how when he arrives he and one other attendee has taken public transportation. Everyone else showed up in cars.
His move into first person journalism makes the book much more compelling. Dr. Hunter S. Thompson would be proud. This is a book about successful renewable energy projects written by a guy who has clearly thought deeply about his own energy consumption, and invested heavily in the game.
His own experiences give him credibility on the subject and make his reporting of other people’s projects seem much more powerful.
The other day the Abundance Foundation did some tabling out in Research Triangle Park. They were beset upon by a chiropractor from Cary who was pro nuclear, and anti biofuels, and when they returned from the experience they came to me for some guidance.
I lent them this book.
They are so jazzed by what they have read, they are buying a dozen copies, to give to every County Commissioner and Town Councilor they can find. Which is genius.
When Rebecca encountered the book, she yawned. But she has read all of Heinberg, and most of the energy canon, and she’s a solar installer. Same was true of Matt’s response. Matt also panned Biodiesel America, which I found to be a great book. It’s a good thing Pahl isn’t writing for energy snobs.
People who have read every book they can find about biodiesel, and peak oil, and climate change, are not going to find The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook full of radical new ideas that set them on fire.
Which means the renewable energy hardcore fringe is not the target for this book. This book is a survey. It surveys energy paradigms, and it surveys successful projects. It also stays positive. It is masterfully written. The fact that Johnny Weis, the founder of SEI wants Carbondale Colorado to adopt micro-hydro, makes micro-hydro a real possibility. The fact that Carbondale is powered by coal is not the point.
This book is about what is possible. It should be embraced by the folks at Yes! magazine.
And every politician in the land should be reading it tonight.
I learned a lot from reading this book. And I tried to read it from the perspective of a newcomer to the energy scene. It inspired me. And I am glad to have it on the shelf.
Which is not quite true. The copy in our library is checked out right now. My advice would be to buy a copy for your own collection. It’s the kind of book you will want to have on hand…
To view the original blog please visit Piedmont Biofuels Energy Blog.
Review by Paul Gipe
December 18, 2006
What Pahl explores in his Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook is important. It should be in the hands of every community activist across North America. He calls on us to bring out the best in North America by working together to face the immense energy challenges before us by building community-owned renewables. His book could be the catalyst long needed to move community ownership into the forefront of renewable energy development in North America.
To read the full review please go to http://www.wind-works.org/articles/GregPahlsbookReview.html
The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook: Community Solutions to a Global Crisis
Greg Pahl. Chelsea Green, $21.95 (376p) ISBN 978-1-933392-12-7 Solar roof panels, backyard wind turbines and biofuel stills: in this how-to vision of a future without hydrocarbon fuels, small really is beautiful. Faced with the paired (and frightfully imminent) dangers of global warming and the point at which half the total recoverable oil on Earth has been extracted and production begins to decline, Pahl champions a spectrum of alternative energy sources. Separate chapters on water, geothermal and biomass (firewood and plant matter) energies in addition to solar, wind and biofuel (the distillate of corn, soy and other crops) sources are both practical and inspirational. First comes technical information; then Pahl reports on community and cooperative alternative-energy successes. In Asheville, N.C., 24 clustered townhouses use solar panels for heat and hot water. Toronto powers 250 homes with a cooperative-owned lakeshore wind turbine. Micro-hydro projects (100 kilowatts or less) power small businesses and homes in Nepal, Pakistan and off-the-grid American communities. A short-run train in Sweden—a nation committed to achieving an oil-free economy by 2020—runs on biogas generated by fermenting cow guts; it gets about two-and-a-half miles per cow—proof, as this readable book illustrates, that ingenuity and small-bore efforts are one way to deal with an energy crisis. (Mar.)