By harnessing the power of the sun, wind or water, people all over the planet produce their own pollution-free renewable energy. Technological advances, government assistance, the need for reliable power, and the desire to reduce the use of fossil fuels have made green energy systems attractive to people in the United States and worldwide.
“As the world renewable energy use increases so will the supply of even more affordable green energy systems. Manufacturers will also be encouraged to compete with better quality renewable energy products.”
Solar technology makes it possible for home and business owners to obtain dependable power from green energy sources. Mass production has already significantly reduced the price of renewable energy systems and their components. Solar and battery-based backup power systems can ensure reliable power even when the utility grid is down. When the electrical systems are working, they feed solar-generated electrons back into the utility grid providing us with clean renewable energy.
What is Green Energy?
Green Energy incorporates the use of renewable sources of power such as the wind, water and sun. As more families, individuals and businesses generate their own renewable energy electricity we can reduce pollution and provide more “green” energy for everyone to use.
This increases our energy self-sufficiency and helps foster economic growth.
Deregulation has created an atmosphere of change in the United States. We are experiencing higher electric rates and electricity shortages. Laws, referred to as “Net Metering”, allow solar-green-energy-system owners to feed their renewable energy electricity back to the utility. The system owner receives a credit or payment for solar electrons fed into the grid. In other words, you pay only for the net electricity you consume, (the amount of electricity you take from the utility), minus the amount you generate and feed back from your solar energy system. With solar energy technology, you can provide yourself with some protection from the fluctuating prices of fuel, because your system’s fuel is the sun.
Additionally, state, local and federal tax incentives and rebates have made obtaining solar technologies more economical. Many states offer rebates and tax incentives to home owners to lower the installed cost of utility connected green energy systems. Visit www.dsireusa.org for more information on available rebates and incentives.
Renewable Energy Definitions:
Utility-Intertie Solar Systems-Sometimes called “gridtie”, these systems can be used anywhere that the electric utility allows “net metering,” where a solar or wind powered system turns your electric meter backwards when it is producing more power than you are using. This type of renewable energy system provides no back-up power when utility power fails.
Utility-Intertie Solar Systems with Backup-feeds excess solar electricity to the grid and provides backup power when the utility grid is down. With this type of green energy system you sacrifice some power generation efficiency in exchange for back-up power whenever there is a power failure. The amount of backup power available in an emergency depends on the size and number of batteries in your system as well as your electrical demand.
Off-Grid Power Systems-This type of power system is independent of the electrical utility grid. It can use solar electric modules, a wind generator or a micro-hydroelectric generator or a combination of any or all of these. Combination green energy systems are often referred to as “Hybrid” systems. Owners of renewable energy systems often use a gas or diesel generator for backup when their green energy system doesn’t meet all of their demand.
Starting with a Solar System
The first thing you want to do is check your electric bills for a twelve month period and figure out your average monthly KWH (kilowatt hours) used. The average home uses about 850 KWH of electricity each month.
Once you’ve determined where you’re at you can work on ways to increase your overall energy efficiency. For every dollar you spend doing this you decrease the amount of a system by about $3-$5.
Going green, what changes can you start with?
Start by switching to compact fluorescent lighting and changing your energy consumption habits. (turn off lights and other items that are not being used) Is your home well insulated? Are your major heating appliances electric? Electric heat, hot water heater, an electric cook stove and clothes dryer account for about 80% of typical utility bills. It isn’t practical to operate these with electricity. They use 20-100 times the power your TV uses. Also, fuels are available that produce heat at a much lower cost. Consider wood or propane fueled furnaces, propane cook stoves and water heaters (or an on-demand hot water heater which is even more energy efficient) and gas fired clothes dryers instead. (a solar water heating system is another option)
The added cost of more efficient appliances is less than the added cost of a larger renewable energy system designed to accommodate the use of inefficient appliances.
For example, just replacing an older model refrigerator with a modern, more efficient one could reduce your electrical usage by 50 KWH per month. There are also refrigerators and freezers designed for solar powered homes that use even less power. These highly insulated units can save at least 50% of the energy used by ordinary appliances.
Choose a location for your solar green energy
The entire array of solar modules should have un-shaded exposure to the sun from the hours of 9am-3pm, year-round. The location should provide enough space for the number of photo voltaic (PV) panels needed with possible room for expansion.
Living in the Midwest means our locale will call for a larger system to generate the same amount of electricity that a smaller system in Arizona would provide since the number of “peak sun hours” per day in the Midwest is less. However, PV panels operate more efficiently in cooler climates. Panels need to be kept free of dirt and other debris as this will reduce the output of the system. In the Midwest this means keeping them free of snow too. (One reason not to mount them on the roof)
Many people start with a solar energy system that’s designed to meet just a portion of their home’s daily electric needs, with the rest purchased from the electric utility. When finances allow for expansion of more solar modules to the array it’s easy to add them on at a later time. Solar modules last well over 25 years with little maintenance and many have warranties of 20-25 years as well. Even a small solar energy system can reduce your electric bills while producing clean renewable energy.
Green energy system costs
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that a 2 KW (2,000 watt) renewable energy system costs about $8-$10 per watt to install. Though the actual cost of an installed system may vary depending on location, size of system, component availability, installation complexity and what financial incentives are available.
In some states, rebate programs refund as much as 75% of the system’s installed cost to the homeowner. (this also depends on who your utility provider is). To get up-to-date information visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy Web site: www.dsireusa.org. Note: Some rebate programs require professional (certified) installation of your renewable energy system.
To get a better idea of what wind or solar technologies might work for you, call a local professional who can help you design a green energy system for your particular needs and budget. Before you call, gather a few of your recent electric and utility bills for easy reference.
If you are a bit of a “do-it-yourselfer” and would love to save a lot of money on a solar or wind system this green diy energy guide can help you do just that. It is designed for a person with average skills to follow with easy step-by-step instructions and can help you save money on a green diy energy system.
Do you have a good site for wind power?
Wind powered battery charging systems can be cost-effective if the average wind speed is nine miles per hour (mph) or more at the location of the wind generator. If you are using wind in combination with photovoltaic power, it may be cost effective if good wind is available only during part of the year. The power available from the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind speed. When the wind speed doubles, the power delivered is eight times as great. Most wind generators are designed to deliver maximum power at a wind speed of 30 mph. At 15 mph, they will deliver about 1/8 their rated power.
A wind generator should be mounted at least 20 feet higher than any obstruction within 30 feet to avoid turbulence. Wind turbines can be mounted in a variety of ways. A tilt-up pole tower is the most economical and the easiest to install since wiring and mounting of the wind generator is done before the tower is erected. Towers designed for antennas can also be used in smaller spaces with a concrete base for support.
For more information visit our wind turbines page.
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