Distributed generation is the term that is becoming more popular in the rest of the world. It is the use of small power plants in many locations as opposed to huge power plants in few locations far apart. We have the technology, we just need the will.
The recent natural catastrophes (Fukushima and the Tornadoes in the Southern USA), which seem to be happening with much more frequency. Show yet another reason why we need to let these large power plants go the way of the dinosaur and move into the future.
With centralized power plants, we are constantly one disaster away from shutting down a portion of our economy. With a decentralized system, much like the internet, it is difficult to completely shut down the electric grid. Solar and wind systems can be a vital part of that decentralized energy. The remainder of our power, our base power, can easily be handled by natural gas powered turbines that can startup and slow down easily to adapt to power needs and the variability of power generated from the wind and the sun.
Recent natural gas findings in the US have the natural gas industry considering exporting. It would make more sense to use that cheap energy here at home to supplement what the alternative energy technologies do not make.
Our current financial crisis is yet another reason. Funding for these behemoth power plants, is risky and difficult. Funding for smaller projects such as solar or wind are much less risky and come with a fixed power cost.
Switching over to a distributed generation for our power grid will keep the US ahead of the energy curve and is the most solid path we could choose into the future. The cards are all laid out, all we need to do is play our hand and move into the future.