Harvey Gold

It seems to me…most of the folks in the area as they turn on their coffee pots in the morning have no idea where that energy comes from that is used for heating and cooling their homes, cooking their meals and running the many electronic devices on which they depend. And, equally important is what is going on that will affect where our energy will or won’t come from in the future.

It may come as a surprise that most of the energy supplied to the region is generated at the Dominion Power Lake Anna Nuclear Power Plant, which also supplies electricity to other parts of Virginia and North Carolina. And, it is extremely important to note that this nuclear energy process is different from that generated for military purposes. The nuclear energy source used by this plant is contained in many individual about 2-inch rod-like units. There are no barrels of oozy ugly liquid uranium involved. The process is extraordinarily safe.

You can learn more about nuclear power and other forms of renewable energy at the Lake Anna Nuclear Power Visitor Center. The tours and displays provide good basic information on the different sources of energy, from solar to nuclear. You will also learn that Dominion Power produces energy through natural gas, coal and a small amount from oil and renewable energy, especially solar and wind.

But, no matter which source of energy provided by our energy company, it all depends on the “grid.” It is my guess that most folks have no idea what the “grid” is. It is a system that begins with the production of energy, be it from water, coal, gas or nuclear. That energy flows through powerlines and transformers that eventually bring it to our businesses and homes.

If these powerlines that make up the “grid” become overloaded as has happened on a very hot day, the grid can cease to function because the demand exceeds the supply. Then everything that runs on electricity stops working. We are dependent on the “grid” to bring electricity to us.

So, wouldn’t it be nice if we, in our homes and businesses, could generate our own power and store it. The problem is that homes generally are not built to provide their own electric power. They are built to have the energy supplied to us by, you guessed it, “the grid.”

It would seem that when houses are built today, the cost of installing solar panels would be enormously cheaper than retro-fitting existing homes. At all the new homes, apartments and business being built in this area, we don’t see any evidence of renewable energy sources.

So I was amazed by the homes I saw being built when I was in Connecticut recently to attend the commissioning of the latest U.S. Navy nuclear attack submarine, the Colorado, on which one of my grandsons serves. In the area around Groton, Connecticut, I passed several new housing developments where every one of the roofs was covered with solar panels. Seeing this immediately answered the question of whether builders can do this?

The answer being, they can. And this raises even more questions. This was not Florida or Arizona, which have lots of days of sunlight. Yet, they are building homes with solar power.

On a larger scale there are examples where a city or town builds its own solar or wind power plant to produce energy for their residents, and maybe have a surplus they can store or sell. One such installation is in Georgetown, Texas, and will be the state’s first city-owned utility to run on 100 percent renewable energy. Not only will they generate power for their residents but the city announced that they signed a 25-year contract with SunEdison to sell 150 megawatts of solar energy.

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To be sure there are other examples. St. Petersburg, Florida, is implementing plans to go green. The City Council voted in 2016 to dedicate $250,000 from the BP oil spill settlement to develop a plan to transition to 100-percent renewable energy. The city also directed settlement funds to expand the Solar United Neighbors of Florida and create a solar financing loan program to help low-income residents invest in energy efficiency measures and rooftop solar, according to the report. Rock Port, Missouri, is the first U.S. city to get 100 percent of its electricity from wind power. The city has a turbine wind farm that generates more than enough energy for this town of 1,300.

Breaking away from the “grid” may be the way of the future for many locations. Energy providers like Dominion Power will remain necessary, but it appears that change is, as they say, in the wind…and also in solar.

Harvey Gold is a contributing writer at InsideNoVa. Reach him at

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