By MARIE TOMLINSON
Yes! Let's repower Dunkirk! Let's empower ourselves! We can do this by developing independent energy generators. Let's think in terms of the house-sized unit. Independent power one house at a time.
Right now we have an eyesore in the harbor that burns coal to heat water to make steam to turn the turbines which creates an electrical charge. This was cutting edge 50 years ago. Now we know more about how energy is harnessed. We can generate an electrical charge by shuffling our feet across a carpet. We can generate an electrical charge by spinning a top. We can generate an electrical charge by rubbing two magnets against each other.
Some say "A fat lot of good that will do us. You can't even power a light bulb by shuffling your feet, let alone a house." No, you can't power a light bulb with such a small charge, but you can power a light-emitting diode. Efficient technology is moving forward at lightning speed. We are seeing super efficient refrigerators that only use smaller amounts of wattage each day. We are seeing house sized units that use a sail on a flagpole to rub two very big magnets against each other. There are house sized windmills and house sized solar collectors.
Research and development in this field is in its early stages. We can take advantage of this shift by developing products to manufacture here. Windmills and solar collectors are well established, but there are new fields opening up. The house sized unit that uses a flag pole and two magnets is just one example.
There's three parts of the energy cycle - generating it, transporting it and using it. Creating the house-size unit gives the homeowner the profit from the generation of electricity, no more electric bill. Electricity from the house-sized unit does not have to be transported, no more electrical wires running across the landscape. The consumption of energy is regulated by the people who own the house sized unit. They are responsible for their own energy use. They can choose how much they want to expend or conserve.
The business opportunities here are staggering. First there is the manufacture of the units themselves. This can take place in any one of the empty plants that now decorate Dunkirk.
Once made, the house-size unit will have to be installed and serviced. It's just a machine in a house. Every carpenter, every electrician, every plumber can add servicing these machines to what they already do. New companies will spring up to take care of the unit. It will be like the economy surrounding cars. First the car dealers or in this case the house sized unit dealers. New car dealers, used car dealers, private sales. There is work installing and servicing the unit. Just as there are mechanics of all shapes and sizes. There are big outfits with 10 bays and 15 employees. There are small shops with two bays and one owner operator. There are shops that specialize in bodywork and shops that specialize in transmissions.
Where will we get the money to do all this? Where are we getting the money to retool the coal plant? We'll just put that same money to a different use. It will take time to dismantle the plant and those will be good paying jobs. We can use the time to get the house size unit into production.
The politicians are doing what we ask them to. They are using their power to force the company to switch to natural gas. That will only postpone the inevitable. Eventually the building will reach the end of its design life and have to be torn down.
We can use the time we have now to retool ourselves for a better future. Remember that most of the world is not connected to the grid. We can take advantage of this emerging market. We can empower ourselves. We can make a clean future for our children. We can embrace progress.
Marie Tomlinson is a Fredonia resident.