Thursday, June 11, 2009

What if Sustainable Energy was a virus?

World Wind Energy - Total Installed Capacity a...Image via Wikipedia

I've been thinking about how to make adoption of sustainable energy viral... in other words, "A Viral Propogation Model for Sustainable Energy," to get a more rapid adoption rate. There's no doubt that we have to get away from fossil fuels to power our lifestyles... but it seems that, for now at least, pain is the primary motivator. It wasn't until gasoline prices went up last year that many people started looking at conservation and alternative energy sources.

But, what if we could somehow package sustainability in a viral way?

So, what do viruses do, anyway? I was watching Wayne Dyer talk about the ideas in his new book Excuses Begone on PBS (time delay recording) (and well worth watching), and he says that viruses have three characteristics: (paraphrased)
  1. They infect the host [not caring about who the host is]
  2. They copy [clone] themselves
  3. They spread [by infecting other hosts]
Now lets talk about how we might apply this to sustainable energy.

First, we need a host to infect. Lets start small. I will volunteer my local public high-school, for several reasons:
  • Cost savings here = tax savings for me and my neighbors. This could be used as a carrot for participation.
  • We can also use an appeal community service to recruit participants.
  • I'm thinking that the administration and school board would support this since it means savings in their budget.
  • We can recruit the PTA to help with funding and fund-raising.
  • There is always a senior class, and many of this class will be college-bound. Involving them will help with dispersal and propagation of the virus.
  • There are grants available to schools. May be a way to exploit.
The virus, of course is us (participants), and the at core of the virus are several memes:
  • Community service is good
  • Renewable energy is good
  • I can make a difference
So, here is the plan in a nutshell:
  • Install a solar and/or wind-power grid-tie system at our local high-school using volunteers from the student population and community in partnership with business sponsors.
  • Benefits: we're all winners because there's something in this for all participants.
  1. Recruit a business partner, volunteers, or raise funds to provide initial education on basic electricity, solar systems, wind-power systems, and installation, and sustainable energy.
  2. Conduct an energy audit of the school first, to see where we can conserve. Propose a conservation plan and implement it (could be a project for a science class??)
  3. Collaboratively design a modular system for the school so we can start small and expand by adding modules as funds become available.
  4. Raise funds, get donations, write grants, to get the money to buy the components needed.
  5. Acquire the components.
  6. Use participants to install the system under the supervision of a volunteer electrician to pull any needed permits, perform QC, and ensure everything is to code.
  7. Monitor before and after.
  8. Send participants out to other schools, community centers, places of worship, etc. and use them as bootstraps to repeat the process. (This is the viral propagation!) Don't forget the students (seniors) who participated and who are going out into the world!
  9. By this time, we will also have the knowledge required to start working on our own homes and businesses, and will have the contacts to help us (The Barn-raising model for sustainable energy).

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]