The community house at Westwood, with lots of solar thermal collectors on top
When most people think about solar strategies they generally consider using them in their own homes. But cooperative or community systems offer a lot of potential for substantially reducing energy consumption while providing convenient, reliable domestic hot water, space heating, or electricity for larger groups of people in a neighborhood or community setting. This approach is fairly routine in some European countries, but less common in the United States, although this is beginning to change with an increasing number of community-supported energy initiatives in some locations. This approach could–and probably should–be a primary strategy in community responses to peak oil everywhere.
Here’s the neighborhood’s homepage, and here’s North Carolina Green Building analysis on the project. Let me know about any other projects seeking to make energy independence that you’ve found in the comments.