Editorial: Self-sufficient energy efforts applauded

Smart institutions are going green and weaning themselves from dependence on the electrical grid. They want to stop paying for power, and start getting paid for it.

The Vatican led the way, initiating a massive energy independence program in 2005 that most recently culminated in placement of 2,000 solar panels on the roof of the Paul VI building, which should generate about 315.5 megawatts of electricity each year.

The Dalai Lama has installed solar panels at his private living quarters at the Garden Jangtse monastery.

The Church of England has encouraged parishioners to take steps toward energy independence as a Lenten sacrifice.

Now, the Air Force Academy has announced plans to go entirely independent of the grid as early as 2015. Academy officials have announced plans that include converting garbage to electricity with a biomass facility. A hydroelectric plant would generate electricity from water that flows downhill through the academy to Colorado Springs. The Air Force plans to pay Colorado Springs Utilities to build a solar plant near Interstate 25 for $18.3 million. More long-range plans may include wind turbines to generate additional electricity. Economically, it’s irrefutably sound.

In all, when the academy accomplishes its goals, Air Force officials envision a campus that generates enough power for roughly 10,000 homes.

The first half of this century will likely be known as the energy age. The 1980s, ’90s and the early part of the 21st century have been an era of massive information decentralization. The recording and distribution industry has been replaced by file sharing and the iPod, which doubles as a personal broadcast station that can transmit sound to any nearby radio and video to a TV.

Recent decades have seen a few media conglomerates challenged by small media Internet-based operations run from basements of homes. Mainframe computers have been replaced by PCs and Macs. The country’s biggest book retailer has devised a way for consumers to buy books electronically, without leaving their homes, offices or cars. Decentralization of information marches forward every day.

And in the early decades of this 21st century we will see massive decentralization of energy. Protected energy monopolies will gradually give way to homes, offices, and campuses of universities and religious institutions becoming individual power plants that harness solar, wind, water and heat from the earth.

What happened to transistors will happen to batteries: they will become small, more powerful and easier to charge. As alternative energy technologies improve, each individual power plant will harness and generate enough power for its own needs and additional energy to sell.

Bondage to energy spikes and monopolized pricing will soon become a remnant of our past, something overcome by innovation.

With federal spending out of control and big business behaving badly, our country has moved culturally toward central planning and collectivism, and some say socialism. But each day, innovation in technology takes us in the direction of decentralization and self-sufficiency.

We’ve all been freed from the bondage of information controlled by a few large sources, and we’re on our way to freedom from centralized control of energy. It all bodes well for self-sufficient Americans who want to be left alone to live free.