Americans as a whole have been under the thumb of massive corporate behemoths for decades, in nearly all facets of our everyday lives.
Some of the most egregious offenders are companies like Monsanto who have found a way to legally patent entire species of plants in a manner that passes the buck, and puts the financial squeeze on America’s smaller farmers. Google and Facebook have both been accused of gerrymandering their trending topics and search results to better suit their own interests. And that doesn’t even touch the bizarre world of the sunglasses industry in which one corporation produces nearly every pair of shades in the world, using their brand names to regulate the pricing on a global level.
In many locales, a regional power company has similar power, regulating the price that you’ll pay for electricity, gas, and other necessary resources. Block after block of city street will be serviced by one company, and one company only, leading to minuscule monopolies that can be powerful enough to extort the American consumer. Now, an idea is taking shape in Brooklyn that could change all of that.
The process is somewhat simple: Someone in the neighborhood installs solar panels or wind turbines on their personal property, and then sells a portion of the energy produced by those panels to neighbors. It’s a quite succinct synopsis of the American Dream in some ways, taking the land that you own and harvesting the resources abound to provide for your community while making a buck. In Brooklyn, the idea is taking off.
“The pilot program was successful enough that the microgrid will go live later this year. The next phase of the project will involve 300 households or small businesses that have signed letters of interest, along with 50 generation sites—all solar except for one small wind turbine. In total, those producers generate about 1.5 megawatts of electricity, still just a small portion of the needs of Brooklyn’s nearly 3 million residents. But the point is not to replace the whole grid, but to show that small grids can serve local communities.
“It’s hard to get any more local than Roger and Barbara Ditman. Roger, 75, and Barbara, 73, bought their four-story brownstone on 10th Street in 1973 for $63,000. (Today it’s worth $3.5 million.) About five years ago, the retired couple paid $40,000 to install 16 solar panels on their roof—panels that now supply about 95 percent of the home’s electricity. With the solar production and various state credits for the solar panels, the investment is almost paid off, Roger Ditman says.
“Signing up for the Brooklyn Microgrid means that their excess electricity could be bought in the community. ‘To me, it’s the next step,’ says Roger Ditman. ‘It’s taking advantage of something that is totally free. It helps the atmosphere, it helps the country, and it helps the community. What we’re not using gets made available to our neighbors and to the larger community, as opposed to using energy that comes from Arizona.’”
One so far unanticipated bonus from the experiment will be a loosening of the stranglehold that liberals have on environmental rhetoric.
By all measures, the microgrid is a vastly conservative idea. It’s a harnessing of the innate American resources that we all encounter on a daily basis. It’s about small business and entrepreneurship just as much as it is about the tree-hugging benefits that the left will harp on about. Furthermore, it takes a bit of wind out of the sails of the bloated and unwieldy power companies that have, for years, worked to secure their monopoly on Americans’ necessities.