Wired Magazine reports on a new generation and demographic of people deciding to reduce their reliance on traditional power. Solar panels and wind turbines are popping up all over the suburbs.
Wired calls it moving from the hardcore to the hybrid (or “hygrid”). The assumption is that the class of individual has changed. However, I would warrant that all the hippie ‘back to the landers’ in the 60s and 70s came from middle class families. What’s more interesting is the variety of reasons driving this new group of individuals:
Start with the cost of energy. Most US homes use natural gas for heat. Natural gas prices have been soaring. So has the price of electricity produced by coal-burning power plants. And that’s not even factoring in the more than $1 billion in subsidies that go to the oil and gas industry, or the environmental damage – increased greenhouse emissions and mercury pollution – caused by burning fossil fuels.
At the same time, the conventional power grid is showing signs of age. Energy use has increased far more quickly than capacity has been added. So blackouts and brownouts occur more often. According to Jay Apt, director of the Electricity Industry Center at Carnegie Mellon University, every four months the US endures a blackout large enough to cut power to half a million homes. Add the threat of terrorism, and homeowners understandably want greater security and control over their power. “I’d rather do it myself than trust the experts,” Bell says. When the grid goes down, his lights stay on.
The article adds that the cost of alternate energy has decreased for the average consumer. After all, “Only a handful of hardcore greens were willing to multiply their energy bills by eight to save the planet. ” To help with the cost, some US states have stepped in to subsidize purchases. So it seems that we’re finally moving past the paradox of the cost decreasing once more people start using the technology but people will only start using the technology once the cost decreases.