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11 ways to green school

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Distributed Generation

coal power plant
Photo courtesy of Greening Forward
Currently, most of our electric power is generated in large centralized facilities and fed into a widely dispersed grid of transmission lines. These large plants have some economies due to their size, but impact the environment greatly. Also, a good deal of the power is lost in transmitting it over great distances. Distributed generation makes electricity from many small energy sources that are spread much closer to the point of need. It reduces the amount of energy lost in distributing electricity because it is generated very near where it is used, perhaps even in the same building. This also reduces the size and number of power lines that must be constructed.

For green building, distributed generation usually means on-site power production, regardless of the energy source used. In practice, most on-site power systems use renewable energy sources – solar panels, wind turbines or geothermal energy.

Solar Panels
© BMU/Brigitte Hiss
Another advantage of distributed generation is that by placing the generating equipment very close to the user, the energy source may be used more completely and efficiently. Large thermal power plants reject enormous amounts of waste heat to the atmosphere or watercourses; with on-site plants, waste heat can be used to heat buildings or to make steam for other uses in the process called cogeneration.

Regardless of the scale or methods employed, distributed generation, like so many sustainable practices, means “thinking globally and acting locally”. Much like community farming, our needs can be met locally, reducing the environmental impact of huge centralized facilities while avoiding the waste and impacts of unnecessary transportation.