I had a discussion with someone on why there is no town in the world that runs entirely on solar and wind power. He insisted that there were such towns. I still disagreed and then went to do a search.
This is some of what I found. In Germany, there is a town called Feldheim that claims to run totally off wind, solar and wood chips.
On checking out Feldheim, I discovered that the ‘town’ has the grand total population of 145 people. Feldheim began its ‘transition to renewable energy’ in 1995. After 15 years – in 2010 – its 145 residents claimed to be “independent of the main grid”. Around the town, they have 47 wind turbines which, the town authorities claim, the residents clubbed together to buy. That works out to one turbine for each family.
The wind turbines were not enough, so they also built a solar park. That was not enough either, so they generate biogen from wood chips. They say that the biogas has replaced oil heating in homes and also covers electricity supply when the wind does not blow.
Interesting. I wonder if there is an automatic system to switch to biogas electricity generation when the wind stops.
But then the town says that, when the wind blows well and the sun shines, it gets far more electricity than it needs. So, the excess electricity is sold into the main grid.
Hold on! I started by saying that they said that they disconnected from the main grid in 2010. So, what is the truth? Is it or is it not connected to the main grid?
Then there is the story of Dharni village, in India’s Bihar state. The village really was not connected to any grid. So, Greenpeace teamed up with financial services organisation Basix and the Indian Centre for Environment and Energy Development to install a ‘microgrid’ in the village. Some time later, former Chief Minister Nitish Kumar visited the village to see the marvel of renewable energy running the village. He was greeted by angry villagers, who demanded that they be supplied with “real electricity”. The financial guys from Basix (whoever they are) then said the initiative needed to monitor how much electricity the grid generated before residents would be allowed to use ‘luxury items’ such as TV sets. Heaven forbid that a villager ever wants to take a bath – that should blow the whole ‘grid’ to bits.
Greenpeace then said that, if villagers actually wanted to live the lifestyle of Australians, for example, they would have to have more electricity. Apparently, Greenpeace did not get a standing ovation.
But let us go back to a country where people want to live ‘more like Australians’ or, perhaps, Germans. We are back in Germany, at the Village of Juhnde, in Lower Saxony. This ‘small village’, as the residents call it, was developed as a model ‘bioenergy village’. It has a biogas plant that supplies electricity generated from methane from cow manure. They also throw in maize, wheat and barley because the cows cannot keep up. They do not say how the maize, wheat and barley get to the energy-independent village.
They claim that this plant produces 500 MWh of electricity a year, which is twice as much electricity as the town needs. Note the trick of quoting the electricity in MWh, and not MW. Further, they say that a woodchip boiler also generates 6 500 MWh of heat “to help meet the increased demand for energy in winter” and that the excess electricity is sold back into the grid. The Germans proudly say that Juhnde is being used as a model for other villages throughout Germany.
Then there is the Isle of Eigg, in Scotland, which has the grand population of 87. They say that it used to be powered by diesel generators but was able to swop to renewable energy 24/7 in 2008. Eigg now has, for 87 people, three hydroelectric generators, four wind turbines and a photovoltaic array. But just in case none of this works at some point, Eigg has backup diesel generators.
So, there you have it, folks, your cheap renewable-energy solutions. But keep your grid connection going, at State expense, and keep the diesel generators in shape, while you sing folk songs about the joys of living off-grid on renewable energy.