Middelgrunden, Capitol Hill Housing, and our Energy Future

While reading the Carbon Efficient City I realized the nimbleness of regional and city governments. I work for the city of Seattle, and often I think that progress moves way to slow. But city governments are small enough to effect policy change that specifically targets the built environment. In Chapter 2 the Invisible Hand, while making a case for the carbon tax, it is pointed out that Solar energy is included in the “other” category of power sources for the united states.

This got me thinking of the new solar array project-taking place right in Seattle’s Capitol Hill Neighborhood. The housing advocacy group, Capitol Hill Housing (CHH), has partnered with Seattle City Light (SCL) to create a program allowing affordable housing residents to buy a share of a solar roofing project. Shareholders get reimbursed through credits to their electric bill.

This is a great example of how local government can provide environments to test new frameworks. This new way to collectively buy a reusable resource will teach SCL and CHH how to adapt this model throughout the city. It works similarly to the Danish system redistributing power from “producers” into the grid.

While it might be because of strong, progressive regulation and policy, the culture and societal views of wind and solar power are incredibly different in Denmark than they are here. Just off the coast of Copenhagen is an offshore wind farm called Middelgrunden. This project employed a similar framework to the Seattle solar array. Over 10,000 citizens bought a share of the farm and receive payment when the grid takes in the extra energy. Since the project is so large as well, it serves as a constant reminder to the Danes of their use of renewable resources. It seems to me like the Puget Sound could be an interesting place to develop a similar minded project?

wind-turbines-øresund-copenhagen

While the Danish model is more advanced and occurring on a national level, Washington State has a population larger than Denmark! Change implemented on even a state level can have immense promise in changing our future energy frame works; it should be our next step.

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