Renewable energy is experiencing a scale-up of unprecedented proportions. In the past five years, U.S. wind and biofuel production has nearly tripled; numerous states have enacted renewable energy standards to guarantee further increases; and, as production capacity has increased, costs have dropped. But bigger isn't always better.

Rapid growth of the renewable energy industry requires economies of scale. The status quo rewards ever-larger production facilities for rather modest reductions in costs and indirectly reduces local ownership. A policy of locally-owned renewable energy production, however, could pour nearly $1 billion into rural economies via thousands of rural owners. That's an economy of scale.