“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.” – E F Schumacher, “Small is Beautiful”, from The Radical Humanist, Vol 37 No 5 (1973-74), pp 18-22
From the Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience, by Rob Hopkins & others, Part 1, intro: “We live in momentous times: times when change is accelerating, and when the horror of what could happen if we do nothing and the brilliance of what we could achieve if we act can both, at times, be overwhelming. This book is underpinned by one simple premise: that the end of what we might call The Age of Cheap Oil (which lasted from 1859 until the present) is near at hand, and that for a society utterly dependent on it, this means enormous change; but that the future with less oil could be preferable to the present, if we plan sufficiently in advance with imagination and creativity.”
We come from communities in and around Chelsea, Michigan. Here is a summary of many of our past programs, film-screenings, book readings, trips, etc.
Jul 17, 2017: “Solar Revolution — Cheaper and Spreading Fast” was presented on Monday July 17th by John Richter, Co-founder, Institute of Sustainable Energy Education (ISEE), member of Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA) Speakers Bureau, and a Solar Energy Instructor at Macomb Community College.
His summary of what is to be learned: “Just recently, PVs (photovoltaic cells) have become so cheap that they’re successfully competing with nuclear and fossil fuel generated electricity, in both retail and wholesale markets, around the world. As PVs have gotten cheaper, they’ve been installed at an ever faster pace, which has created economies of scale and lower prices, and so on in a ‘virtuous cycle.’ PVs are no longer a niche player. They’re cleaning up the grid on a global scale.”
Richter shows the calculations for determining the Dollars a standard 5 kW system (nobattery storage) will produce in a year for any particular location in the US (software link to http://pvwatts.nrel.gov/pvwatts.php performs calculations specific to location), and uses this figure to do a cash flow analysis to help you determine your payback period for a fixed system cost of $2.93 per Watt ($14,650), a 30% tax credit (valid til the end of 2019), no increase in property taxes, and for various loan rates and periods. Slides in the presentation show the Annual Value of a 5 KW PV system in 7 different locations in the US calculated by the pvwatts program, which is able to assign tilt, azimuth, cost of electricity and monthly solar radiation values based on location. So one slide shows that a Lansing, Michigan installation can produce 6360 kWh/yr at $815 annual value given an electric rate of 13 cents / kWh. That $815 more than pays the $661 annual payment of a $10,255 30-year @ 5% loan (being the amount borrowed after the 30% tax credit on the $14,650 cost of a 5 KW PV system). Annual value of $2,788 for Honolulu, HI and 1,253 for Bakersfield, CA make the solar option very attractive for those locations at those electric rates (which, of course, are subject to change).
Other side-effects of the solar boom and the new economics are coal plant closures, and reductions of mid-day peak rates, creating a new peak just after dark before people go to bed. He covers how the private solar build-out impacts the Utilities’ bottom line, and how they react, both in their efforts to change their net-metering policies in each state, and in the increase of build-outs of vast solar arrays by the Utilities because it’s becoming cheaper to build solar arrays instead of natural gas plants…
Download a pdf of “Solar Revolution — Cheaper and Spreading Fast”.
Richter also gave our group a set of web links, many of which serve as sources for his report. See the list in the July 23 2017 blog.
Aug 15, 2016: Cary Church, one of the founders of our local group, shared with us his experiences from the recent CommonBound Conference in Buffalo. Within a very wide-ranging event — in terms of both demographics and topics — Cary primarily attended workshops on land trusts, renewable energy, sustainable economic infrastructure, and alternative financing. To get a better picture of what this was all about, view CommonBound’s Conference Report blog from their web site, and, also, their video…
Jul 18, 2016: Dave Konkle, the vice president of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA) came to speak about the GLREA’s 2016 goal to spread the positive word about Microgrids, the fast-developing new energy answer for creating more resiliency in the nation’s electric grid. Microgrids modularize energy systems, which makes for better emergency preparedness. We were encouraged to google: community green energy Minnesota OR Colorado. A couple of results are: Fritz Kreiss’s bio, his slideshare on Locally Owned Solar Gardens and Community Energy’s website. Basically, this technology is already growing very fast in Minnesota and Colorado, and is soon to do so out East. This is because of the coordination between those state governments and the renewable energy industry which creates very positive incentives for people to invest in ‘Microgrid-type’ projects. Laws will have to be changed in Michigan for this to happen here — people out east have ‘virtual net metering’ laws which allow investors that are not ‘on location’.
Jun 20, 2016: Diana Hunt, PhD, from our local group, presented Christine Penner Polle’s work on climate trauma and the use of energy psychology to ameliorate the paralyzing emotions. The “emotional freedom technique” she presented was strongly influenced by acupressure techniques. Climate trauma has been termed “preTSD” (vs “PostTraumaStressDisorder”…), where one is paralyzed by the fear of a potential extinction-level event. Repetitive pressing of a specific series of accupressure points apparently is what the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology is discussing as a potent way to destress oneself. Diana led us through this series of exercises, and it was seen by the people in attendance to be quite effective. We hope she will volunteer to present these techniques in a blog post on this site.
May 16, 2016: We learned about Chelsea resident Lynn Fox’s proposal to adopt a beekeeping ordinance to allow beekeeping in Chelsea. Chelsea has had a ban on the keeping of bees within the its limits since 1919. She gave her presentation to the City Council on April 18th, with a follow-up on May 2nd. In short, all pollinators, including bees, have been under attack by diseases, pesticides and parasites. So much so that growers believe they are one bad winter away from pollination disaster to their crops. Whole Foods estimated that 50% of their shelves would be bare if pollinators disappeared for a season. Now, cities around the US and the world are becoming “bee safe cities” by opening their landscapes to include beekeeping to help strengthen bee colonies and increase healthy, viable stock.
For further in-depth documentation on this issue:
(The Intergovernmantal Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is the body which assesses the state of biodiversity and … ecosystem services …)
pollinator.org’s federal health strategy
Apr 18 2016: Peter Shaw, member of the Chelsea city Planning Commission, gave us an update on the sustainability component for the master plan. He chaired the sustainability table at the recent Open House night. Peter broke down the public feedback on sustainability issues into the following major categories: Adaptive Re-Use of Existing Resources (how to incentivize re-use, how do you want to market the downtown), Recycling (citizen’s making connections at the state level may help), Efficient Energy Use (does it make sense for Chelsea to have a centralized source of power?–express opinions now), and Green Spaces (more public natural spaces? water management?, multi-use? bike trails? community garden visibility? character of parks, green infrastructure such as permeable concrete …). Other related issues were Traffic flow considerations, Downtown walkability and services, Conservation as public image, Education and recreation opportunities and Supply issues, i.e. how assured is our food and water supplies if the economy tanks… He emphasized that now is the time to provide feedback and/or ideas re topics of major concern.
Mar 21 2016: From the Detroit Metro area, Janet Moore and two other members, led a presentation and discussion on The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM), which was founded at approximately the same time as the Transition Movement. Like Transition, TZM aims for a sustainable future. However, they take a heavily scientific, large-scale view that contrasts somewhat with Transition’s localized, more nature-rooted approach. In Janet’s words: “With all biosystems of the planet showing signs of decline, with the wars, corruption and inequality built into our current systems, The Zeitgeist Movement offers an alternative plan. I will be presenting a general introduction towards a new socio-economic system called a Natural Law Resource Based Economy. Following the introduction to the N.L.R.B.E., I will discuss possible transitional plans that could help us achieve a new paradigm beyond profits, politics and power.”
Feb 15 2016: We saw Gar Alperovitz’s film, “The Next American Revolution”. It is about building a new local-centered economy from the ground up using organizational structures such as worker cooperatives. Alperovitz’s film showcases examples of how it works in real life, even in difficult circumstances, including a poverty-stricken area in Cleveland. As advertised, it is not big corporate capitalism, nor is it state socialism… [whisper: Worker-owned Coops–so that benefits plow back to the community!] View the reviews on Amazon.com.
Jan 18 2016: Eric Harrington from our local group explained the concepts behind The Natural Step, which was founded in 1989 in Sweden by oncologist Dr. Karl Henrik-Robert, and has since spread around the world into many countries and many companies. Eric will describe the four system conditions for sustainability that comprise the heart of The Natural Step – criteria which must be met in order for our society and economy to be sustainable. We saw how these system conditions logically follow from simple thermodynamic laws, how they can be and are being applied, and heard about related concepts such as the sustainability funnel and backcasting.
Dec 21 2015: We heard a presentation by John Richter who studies trends in renewable and non-renewable energy. John had an update for us that answered the following questions: What are the implications of the so-called shale miracle? Why has the price of oil plunged? How does this play against the concurrent surge in residential solar PV systems, the falling cost of renewables in general, and the backlash by utility companies trying to maintain their old business model in the face of these changes? What about the rise of the electric vehicle industry? See his answers here: Energy Scenarios Update: Peak Oil and Fracking, Electric Vehicles, PhotoVoltaics and the Utility Backlash
Nov 16 2015: In 2014 retired science teacher Carol Strahler participated in a sustainable forest project in Patillas, Puerto Rico. While there she helped build a greenhouse nursery which is being used for an endangered endemic tree planting program. Puerto Rico is an island economy and imports almost all of its timber. The project was initiated to research the feasibility of establishing secondary growth forest that could be sustainably harvested and to investigate the impact on diversity and the local economy. Carol shared her experiences with us (including using a humanure composting toilet!)
Oct 19 2015: Dave Friedrichs from Homeland Solar led a discussion about the Community Solar project in Chelsea. He explained how the project is tentatively organized, how it is envisioned that it will work, and how one can get involved. Community Solar allows everyone in a community to own a share of a large solar array and receive a share of the energy produced, most often in the form of a credit on your utility bill. It is a way to own solar power without having to install panels on your own roof. Dave will also gave us an update on current legislative issues that may impact the solar industry in Michigan.
Chelsea Community Solar brochure
Chelsea Community Solar Facebook page
Information on The Solutions Project (Professor Mark Jacobson’s energy plans for all 50 states using 100% clean, renewable energy)
Sep 21 2015: Bill Brinkerhoff started Argus Farm Stop, which could be called an all-year consignment store for local farmers, that serves the Ann Arbor area. We heard Bill explain how his idea evolved. Argus recently celebrated their 1-year anniversary, and in that time the store has surpassed his expectations. The model is: Farmers bring their products to the store; shoppers buy what they like; the farmer gets 80% and the store gets 20%.
Aug 17 2015: Author Martin Adams joined us to discuss his new book Land. Land has been sought after throughout history. Even today, people struggle to get onto the property ladder; most view real estate as an important way to build wealth. Yet — in Adams’ view — our ability to own and profit from land as individuals causes economic booms and busts, social and cultural decline, and environmental devastation. We heard Adams present an economic model that aims at a sustainable and abundant world for all.
Jul 20, 2015: Our potluck was held at Robin Hills Farm, supplemented by some Robin Hills food, plus a tour of the site and a presentation about their current activities and future plans.
Mar 16, 2015: Geologist Larry Bean returned to talk about hydrofracturing, commonly known as fracking. Larry shared his perspective based on his scientific knowledge, current fracking activity for gas and oil in Michigan, and also information about the regulatory environment here. Larry lives in Chelsea and is presently Supervisor of the Office of Waste Management and Radiological Protection for both the Jackson and Lansing Districts of the Michigan DEQ.