I read with interest the story about John Berton disconnecting from the grid (“Circuit Breaker,” 11/19/99, Vol. 29, No. 8). Congratulations to him, and congratulations to Chicago for not having zoning restrictions against this type of small-scale solar and wind-energy installation. I’d like to point out that while there is a certain poetry in disconnecting from the grid, the true power of these types of installations is in reducing, not removing, our need for traditional electricity generators. Most of us would not go to the lengths that John Berton did, partly because of some of the issues brought up in the article. On the other hand, we should live in a world where every new or rehabbed home includes installations that allow them to get some of their electricity (and/or heating and cooling) from solar or wind energy without disconnecting from the grid. ComEd and other utilities would still be there, but with fewer plants per user, therefore less pollution, and for that matter less load on distribution systems (like the ones that failed this summer). Not some sort of electricity utopia perhaps, but a better situation than we have now. Baby steps.

Mike Frerker