Yasuyuki Fujimura, an engineer and inventor in Japan, was convinced that the increasing domination of electrical technology was accelerating both stress and environmental destruction. In order to counter this problem, he started The Atelier Non-Electric in 2003, with a later branch in South Korea. Fujimura’s philosophy is based on the idea that “it should be possible to live happily and richly while enjoying a moderate level of comfort and convenience without depending on electricity”.
At this center in Tabanan, Bali, founder Rus Alit demonstrates microhydroelectric and biogas generators, ram pumps, systems to filter, store and heat water, aquaponics, and wastewater treatment systems. He runs multi-day experiential workshops at the site and travels to villages around the world to teach about simple, low-cost, place-based water and energy technologies. Read more about BATI’s work in this Medium article on water sovereignty.
Residents in two neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York are developing an electricity microgrid where residents can buy and sell locally produced renewable energy via a networked grid of rooftop solar arrays. The system will first function as a backup during power outages, and members hope to eventually develop a completely self-sufficient energy system for their neighborhood – and see virtual peer-to-peer energy trading implemented throughout the country. Learn more on the Brooklyn Microgrid website and in this Medium article.
BALE engages in a number of grassroots community localization initiatives from their home base in the White River watershed of Vermont. The overarching goal of these efforts is “to build appropriately scaled solutions from the ground up, taking back, as much as possible, our economy, our culture, and our democratic instruments by re-injecting humanity and authentic relationships into all that we do.” Projects include The Commons @ BALE (a community space open to all and used most evenings of the year), a community solar initiative, a local investment club, a documentary film series, and a Locally Grown Guide to local businesses. Learn about these projects and more at https://balevt.org.
Cooperative Energy Futures (CEF), based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has created a cooperative “community solar garden” model, in which a large building or open field houses a solar array that produces energy on behalf of community subscribers. CEF’s first cooperatively-owned installation, the Shiloh Temple Solar Garden, supports the church, a nearby mosque, and 29 nearby residents who opted in to share in credits from the energy produced on their utility bill. The company has several more community solar gardens in the works; most focus on empowering renters and low-income households to participate in the benefits of cooperatively owning clean energy. To learn more, tune into this video and podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and read about the system on the CEF website. Photo: Oleg Savitsky (CC BY-SA 4.0)
As of June 2018, East Bay Community Energy (EBCE), a locally-managed public agency, is providing the electric power used by Alameda County, California. Previous supplier Pacific Gas & Electric continues to maintain the electricity infrastructure while EBCE purchases energy from greener sources, offers options for 100% carbon-free electricity, and reinvests its earnings back into the community. Using the Community Choice Aggregation model, EBCE uses bulk purchasing power to buy a greater percentage of renewables at lower rates, reducing the cost of electricity for residents. Read an overview of the program and learn more about how it works on the EBCE website.
Once reliant on noisy, expensive diesel generators that provided just a few hours of power per day, the small island of Eigg in Scotland now has a fully off-grid electrical system integrating wind, small-scale hydropower, and solar energy. Each element excels in different seasons and weather conditions, and renewable power provides 90-95% of electricity even as the population continues to grow. Surpluses of electricity, usually occurring in winter, are used to heat community spaces and churches. Eigg Electric is wholly owned and operated by the island’s 100 residents, through the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust…
The Evergreen Cooperative Initiative, in Cleveland, Ohio, is an inspiring example of community-based economic revitalization in action. Their overarching purpose is to reduce poverty and inequality by building community wealth, democratizing ownership, and creating local green jobs for residents of one of the city’s high-unemployment, low-income neighborhoods. To learn more, visit theEvergreen Cooperatives’ website.
It started with four wind turbines on land owned by the town of Feldheim’s local farming cooperative. Little by little, the project grew to encompass 55 turbines, with 99% of the energy produced being sold to nearby grids. The farming cooperative then built a biogas plant that transforms crop residue and manure into biogas to heat residents’ homes. At the same time, the town transformed a disused military base into a solar farm. When the municipal electricity company refused to sell or lease its electrical grid to the town, residents decided to fund and build their own parallel energy grid. Learn more about Feldheim’s journey to carbon-neutral energy through this article and the town’s New Energies Forum website.