Letter: Natalie Pien, Leesburg

Editor:  The May 7 ransomeware attack on Colonial Pipeline reveals challenges not only to the U.S. cyber defenses, but also to the vulnerability of our energy system. A centralized system for delivering fossil fuels, generating electricity, and for distributing electricity is not secure. This ransomeware attack reveals just one of many potential weaknesses.

A distributed energy system, on the other hand, is much more secure. Rooftop solar panels on homes and business plus battery storage is a more reliable and secure way to power our homes and businesses. Electric vehicles will eliminate long lines at gas stations. The technology exists. Prices are coming down. Electrification must be supported. The Clean Cars Act adopted in the last session of the Virginia General Assembly goes a long way towards electrifying transportation and qualifying Virginia for federal funding programs. Already, as part of the Volkswagon Settlement, there are funding opportunities in Virginia to electrify school buses and government fleets and install public charging stations.  

On May 10, Gov. Ralph Northam announced more than $9.4 million in Clean Air Communities Program awards to fund five government fleet electrification projects. While Loudoun was not in the first round of awards, the second-round webinar for potential applicants is starting on May 17, 2021. Details are on the Department of Environmental Quality website: deq.virginia.gov/get-involved/topics-of-interest/volkswagen-settlement-agreement. The second round includes school bus electrification grants.

Loudoun must take advantage of these opportunities to build a cleaner and more resilient community prepared for a changing climate.

Natalie Pien, Leesburg

8 thoughts on “Letter: Natalie Pien, Leesburg

  • 2021-05-16 at 8:50 pm

    There have been nine days of sunshine over the last thirty.
    The current long-term forecast predicts zero days of sunshine in the next fifteen.

    I certainly am glad that I don’t rely on solar for my energy needs.

    • 2021-05-17 at 5:23 pm

      Turns out you do rely on solar for your energy needs since nearly all energy comes directly (PV solar) or indirectly (coal, oil, gas, wind) from the sun, with nuclear fission being the only obvious exception.

      Fun fact, every hour more solar energy shines on our planet than humans use in a whole year. So solving the problem of how to best capture, store and use that energy is a worthwhile endeavor.

      Yes there are cloudy, snowy days (and also sunless nights) but simply grossing up your generation and storage to cover these gaps is all that is needed.

      My rooftop solar panels generated 849 kWh so far this month despite the supposed gloominess you speak of, that’s pretty average for this time of year and is enough to cover all my home’s electricity consumption.

      • 2021-05-18 at 9:45 am

        “Supposed gloominess?”

        The data is reported, catalogued and searchable. It’s been dark and rainy. This morning being an obvious exception. We are far, FAR below “normal” this year in terms of sunshine hours. It’s an anomaly. Just like a terrorist attack on a petro pipeline. The big difference is that there isn’t media-driven hysteria about the weather this Spring. At least not yet.

        If you like your solar, you can keep your solar. Makes no difference to me. Of course It doesn’t make any financial sense to anyone who cares about that sort of thing.

        • 2021-05-18 at 1:15 pm

          Here’s my actual solar data for 2020 -v- 2021:
          April 2020 was extremely close to 2021 (only 0.4% higher in 2020)
          May 2020 was actually 9.85% lower than May in 2021 thus far.

          And my solar system makes plenty of financial sense and I do care about that sort of thing. In addition to solar being a good financial choice, the choices we make on energy generation and consumption matter for many reasons.

  • 2021-05-17 at 1:55 pm

    This argument is fantasy and wishful thinking. All these “decentralized systems” are ultimately “centralized” on some cloud service. And it is a fact that solar panels are a nightmare to build and recycle. Batteries are no better. Everything that is mined and fabricated has an ecological cost. Every system is vulnerable to hacking. Electric cars and solar simply move the ecological costs around in different directions, it does not eliminate the costs.

    • 2021-05-17 at 5:25 pm

      What’s your point? Because all things have a “cost” we should just keep with the status quo? Why not work to find technological solutions to some of the problems with energy generation and transportation which are some of societies greatest challenges.

    • 2021-05-17 at 9:22 pm

      Absolutely correct. The hoards of data center all over Loudoun County tell us that almost every business is beholden to the internet and therefore vulnerable to a cyber attack. When you have humans on the keyboards, there is always a risk that someone will fall for a ransomware scheme.

  • 2021-05-18 at 2:38 pm

    The transmission and distribution of electrical energy will need to be further developed before solar and wind produced energy can become completely viable and “green”. Unless solar and wind energy is utilized at the point of sale or until the “wireless” transmission and distribution of electrical energy is perfected, aerial and underground systems will remain the norm for moving the energy. Both aerial and underground transportation systems require construction techniques and materials that consume energy and are not “green”. Given energy supply and capacity requirements, an enormous amount of space is needed for solar and wind generation sites, which typically are not near the point of sale or existing transmission and distribution infrastructure; solar and wind power generation has along way to go before it is cost effective, efficient, green, and able to serve large portions of the population which resides in heavily built out urban areas.

    The materials required for the manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines and especially batteries are not easily obtained without considerable energy consumption and environmental concerns as well as material supply concerns. Additionally, the storage of energy utilizing batteries that have a defined life span will require a robust recycling program in order to prevent a downstream environmental problem.

    We should continue to pursue wind and solar, but we should also accept that a blended energy supply (nuclear, natural gas, hydro, wind, and solar) will serve our energy needs best.

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