On this blog I usually pick a technology of the year, and a person, or people, of the year. This year what has inspired me most is small groups of people taking action to change things in all sorts of positive ways. The old quote from social anthropologist Margret Mead comes to mind: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” Many such small groups have inspired me this year, and whose actions I will be following with interest in 2022. I want to highlight three.
First while the UK government is still paying tax payers money to companies to develop more oil and gas fields this needs to be challenged. Paid to Pollute is a tiny organization which has taken the UK government to court. There is a video of the three key people, Mikaela, Kairin and Jeremy explaining their actions. It is worth watching all 56 minutes.
Awel Aman Tawe is an amazing Welsh charitable organization that does great educational work around climate change and has initiated some excellent projects. It set up the Awel as an energy coop to build and run two Enercon 2.35MW wind turbines at Mynedd y Gwrhyd, near their headquarters at Cwmllynfell, twenty miles north of Swansea in South Wales. They have also set up Egni, the UK’s largest rooftop solar coop, with 88 photovoltaic systems on schools, village halls and other community buildings across South Wales, with a combined capacity of 4.4MW. It is an excellent and ambitious renewable energy coop. Well done Dan, Rosie, Mary Ann, Carl, David and the rest of the team.
The term agrivoltaics combines the words agriculture and photovoltaics. If done well many benefits can be achieved, from biodiversity gains to more productive farming systems and solar electricity, all from the same land. Byron Kominek set up the Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Centre on five acres of land on the outskirts of the city of Boulder, Colorado, USA. He works with a small team experimenting with various crops under the solar panels and running educational workshops. In the hot dry climate of the American southwest saving water appears to be one of the key advantages, but in other climates other factors will be more important, such as protecting crops from frosts or extreme weather events.
The changes we need in society are many and complex, but challenging the government’s irrational subsidies for fossil fuels is certainly a necessary first step. Developing more renewable energy is also of course necessary and doing this by utilizing agrivoltaic systems and cooperative structures seems the best way to go. Well done to these three teams of pioneering people at Paid to Pollute, Awel Aman Tawe and the Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Centre.