Alternative Energy Booms in Rural Areas

The changing face of America's energy menu includes a variety of alternative sources, many of which are being developed in the country's rural areas.

The Daily Yonder points to a tidal energy company in rural Maine that's making major strides.

"The Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC), based in Portland, Maine, is developing hydrokinetic energy by using ocean tides and currents to twirl electricity-producing turbines.

They are testing a Beta version of their Turbine Generator Unit (TGU) in Cobscook Bay at Eastport, Maine. The Beta TGU is the largest ocean energy device deployed in U.S. waters thus far."

Full Story: Drawing Power From The Tides



Please, stop calling it "alternative" energy.

I know this is an uphill fight, but as a Planner who's area of expertise is the economic impact of renewable energy developments, seeing the term "alternative" used in place of "renewable" by interests who are seemingly vested in the industry's growth really chafes.

Before the automobile, hydrocarbon-based fuels were "alternative" energy sources. Hydropower was the dominant energy source for a millennium, prior to the advent of the steam engine. Buffalo feces, peat, and other biogenic sources were (or still are, in some places) wildly popular in their time.

Alternative implies that these resources are somehow second-class citizens to hydrocarbon-based fuels, or that the technologies employed to exploit these renewable resources aren't ready or capable of scaling to meet demand. Neither of these statements is true.

Clean Energy

The term "clean energy" has replaced "alternative energy" in the national debate. That change has had an important effect, and we should keep it up.

Charles Siegel

Irvin Dawid's picture

Alternative, Renewable, Clean: What to call green energy?

Thanks for sharing your perspective as a planner dealing with this issue. As an environmental advocate, I too have run into this issue - but dealing with a different aspect, I believe, as there many nuances of these forms of renewable or clean energy sources. The obvious one is large hydro, or dams, that are of course renewable and clean, but frowned upon for obvious reasons as there is a well-established movement to 'de-dam' (or is it un-dam?) many of these structures and restore rivers.

The next one is solar, as the shift is toward 'distributed generation', or locally produced solar energy generally from rooftop PV as opposed to infringing on natural lands, often with serious impacts to fauna and flora, and the need then to transport the AC to city centers that creates more impacts.

But the one I mostly run into is natural gas - which is regarded as the cleanest, least carbon-emitting fossil fuel. While I happen to be EXTREMELY supportive of CNG and LNG fuels and even transitioning coal to NG plants, many of my colleagues fail to distinguish NG from any other fossil fuel.

Then there is bio-mass - which is actually the most popular renewable fuel used now, but very contentious - burning wood waste may have serious air pollution - I say may because I don't know how clean the newest plants are.

In Europe, they burn garbage - and from what I've read, these NEW facilities really are clean, but my colleagues would think that the only thing worse would be.....

....Nuclear, which while being carbon free, is almost universally despised by mainstream enviros...what's a good environmentalist to support?

Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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