Sam Burnham, Curator
One of my dreams that help drive ABG is reviving struggling or abandoned small rural towns. Reversing the many pressures that have pushed people to larger cities can be reversed. But there are things that must happen to make this a reality.
I recently had a conversation that has me even more hopeful that a farm town renaissance can become reality. Michelle Moore is the CEO of Groundswell, a 501c3 non-profit organization that actively supports community solar, a revolutionary way to provide locally-sourced electricity to neighborhoods and even small towns. We just had the first of what I hope will be many conversations on helping small towns become energy independent.
In the community solar concept, an electrical co-op installs solar panels either on the rooftop of a community building or on the ground in an open area in the community. So the roof of a school, church, hospital, fire station, or community center becomes a small power plant. The solar panels work in conjunction with energy storage units (big batteries) that provide power during times the sun isn’t shining and recharge when it is.
This set up means the co op buys less power from large and distant generating plants. That creates several benefits.
- The co-op, and therefore the residents and businesses have reduced electricity costs.
- Storage units can be placed near essential services like hospitals, public safety facilities, etc. During widespread outages from tornadoes, hurricanes, or snowstorms, these locations have immediate access to power. With a local power source, there is less infrastructure to get back online to restore power to the community. The lights come back on quicker.
- In Georgia the potential for solar power is substantial. We have a lot of sun and utilization of that energy source cuts out transportation costs and potential delays or disruptions. Spikes in the price of coal, oil, or natural gas don’t matter nearly as much.
- Clean energy cuts pollution and makes the community cleaner and healthier.
All of these advantages can be used to draw businesses and residents. As Georgia electrical co-ops have been recently authorized to offer broadband internet service, energy and connectivity mean people can live in South Georgia and telecommute for work - a big city income with a small town life.
That's just scratching the surface. It’s just an introduction. Sometimes saving something old and traditional requires harnessing something new and revolutionary. The rural renaissance will require us to employ cutting edge methods and technology to provide and old fashioned way of life. To go back we have to go forward.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire