PG&E Free: Revolutionary Energy at Stone Edge Farm in Sonoma, California

By Jonah Raskin, CounterPunch

Pacific Gas & Electric has never had many loyal friends, not since 1905 when the San Francisco Gas and Electric Company and the California Gas and Electric Corporation merged to form the utility giant usually referred to as PG&E.

The company has been increasingly unpopular ever since gas leaks led to a big explosion and the death of consumers— eight people in San Bruno just south of San Francisco. Nor has the company made new friends ever since its power lines were found to have caused wild fires and huge property losses in California.

Earlier this year—to protect its profits and stockholders— the company filed for bankruptcy, though it still has citizens in a chokehold otherwise known as a monopoly. If consumers want electricity and gas in their homes and businesses they have little choice but to rely on PG&E, which owns and controls the power lines.

There are alternatives, including Sonoma Clean Power that sources clean energy from renewables: geothermal, water, wind, solar, and biomass. But Sonoma Clean Power doesn’t have its own power lines. PG&E has said it will cut off all power if and when there’s wild fire and high winds. That could save lives and protect property, but it also sounds like PG&E letting Californians know that it’s still the all-powerful boss.

With big bucks, access to the latest technology and technological wizards, citizens can by-pass PG&E. That’s what Mac and Leslie McQuown have done at Stone Edge Farm, a model of organic agriculture and a center for innovation in the field of energy. The farm is on Carriger Road, outside the town of Sonoma, where olives and grapes are grown. Not long ago, the visionary McQuowns had a big dream: reduce their carbon footprint. They’ve realized that dream and gone beyond it. Now, Stone Edge generates electrical power on a micro-grid that serves all its energy needs. 

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