Commentary

Editorial: Outer Banks blackout reaffirms need for renewable energy

Anyone paying attention already knew that the era of giant fossil fuel consuming power plants is on the way out. Preservation of life on the planet in some form akin to what we know depends on it. But as an editorial in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer reminds us, the transition to a new electric grid that prominently features renewable and widely distributed sources of energy is also makes good sense when it comes to things like reliability too. This is from “Message in Outer Banks power outage — there’s power in renewable energy”:

“The outage at the height of the tourist season is a vivid illustration of why electric grids need to become two-way systems in which power flows out from power plants and flows in from sources of renewable energy. If the Hatteras and Ocracoke islands generated enough of their own electricity through wind and solar power, the impact of losing a connection to the main transmission lines would have been greatly reduced.

Having Outer Banks towns derive their electric power from the very natural forces that make them appealing as resorts may sound like science fiction, but the technology is here. Indeed, Ocracoke is part of a pilot project of the N.C. Electric Membership Corp. and the Tideland Electric Membership Corp. testing a freestanding, battery-powered microgrid that can operate independently of the main grid.

Building up and expanding such technology is only a matter of political will and investment. Consider how many millions of dollars were lost by the shutdown of the lower Outer Banks economy because of the severed transmission lines. An investment on that scale in renewable energy could keep such an extended power interruption from happening again. Harnessing enough renewable energy to power all the Outer Banks may be many years away, but it makes sense to start moving aggressively toward that goal.”

In other words, the current crisis is yet another powerful reminder of the urgent need to battle the fossil fuel industry-funded science deniers and pollution apologists who continue to do all in their power to forestall the essential transition to a sustainable energy future. Let’s hope that several thousand more people have seen the light in recent days.

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