The climate-controlled high-tech cabs on today’s huge harvesting machinery are emblematic of the technological advances we have made here in the 2nd decade of the 21st century. Back then, Dad would come home from the fields to a drafty house warmed by a coal burning furnace. Now, instead of corn, his son harvests solar energy to heat his home, power his appliances and propel his vehicle. Dad would be flabbergasted!
That coal-burning furnace and the other energy sources and systems employed in the 20th century brought great prosperity and convenience to us all. But much of that technology is no longer suitable in today’s world. A case in point is the transmission-line-triggered fires in California. With the changing climate, our huge system of exposed overhead power lines that travel hundreds of miles over land is increasingly vulnerable to the rise in extreme weather (and to techno-terrorists too). That system has to periodically be shut down to avoid additional fires. It can no longer be assumed that this is the best way to provide reliable, economical energy.
At least that’s what the U.S. Navy, the State of New York and many others think. They’re building micro-grids as an alternative. A micro-grid is a small-scale power system that produces and stores its own locally generated renewable energy from home-owner and community sources. When the grid system fails, the micro-grid can function independently to keep the power on. Meanwhile, it provides economic development, jobs, and innovation to local communities while reducing the need to expand the expensive grid system.
Like it or not, the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line and the Badger Hollow Solar Farm have thrust Iowa County into the forefront of the energy conversation. We can either let outside forces determine our energy future, or we can harvest and manage our own energy sources while growing our local economy. Seems like an easy choice for our beautiful Driftless Area home where we’re forever… Earthbound.