All About Green Power & Energy
By definition, renewable energy comes from resources that are fueled by sources that can restore themselves after brief periods of time and aren't in danger of running out. Green energy, renewable energy, and green power are all terms used by the market to define energy resources and technologies that benefit the environment the most. Green energy is the electricity we use that is derived from solar, wind, biogas, biomass, hydroelectric, and geothermal sources.
As an individual, how can you take advantage of green energy? There are ways you can integrate green power into your home and lessen your carbon footprint on the environment—an action that we all so desperately need to take in today's climate-changing world.
Grid-Connected vs. Standalone Systems
Suppose you're looking into utilizing green energy into your home or business. In that case, you'll be faced with the decision to connect your renewable energy to a grid or use it as a standalone system.
A grid-connected system means you can sell the excess power that you produce back to your power provider. Grid-connected systems might require you to buy additional equipment so you can safely transmit the electricity and meet the requirements of your power provider. Any items you have to buy additionally are called balance-of-system components. It may include parts like safety equipment, meters, and power conditioning equipment.
Standalone systems are also called off-grid systems. Many people use standalone systems if they live in rural or remote areas. Others prefer to completely replace the systems provided by their utility or power companies. There are still balance-of-system components with standalone systems, and the requirements vary depending on what you're setting up. It can include items like batteries, controllers, along with power conditioning and safety equipment.
Geothermal Heat Pumps
Geothermal energy is energy sourced from below the earth's surface. It's clean energy that emits very little greenhouse gases, and developing it into renewable green energy we can use leaves behind just a small environmental footprint.
Most homes have traditional HVAC systems. A geothermal heat pump uses 25%-50% less electricity than these HVAC systems, and they can even be installed over these existing systems. Aside from being able to retrofit atop an existing HVAC system, the geothermal heat pump is not as bulky, and their components often come with 20-year warranties, sometimes longer.
Geothermal heat pumps can be installed in most homes throughout the United States, but you'll have to have your installer see if one is the right fit for your home based on your property's soil and landscape. Still, with these pumps being more efficient than the standard HVAC system and even quieter when they run, they're worth looking into.
Residential Wind Power
Believe it or not, you can install residential wind power systems for your home, and it's green, renewable, and cost-effective. Those huge windmills that stand as tall as skyscrapers can actually be shrunk down for residential use. The best part is that, along with other forms of renewable energy, small wind turbines are eligible for a federal tax credit of 30%. Your state and the utility company you use may offer additional benefits for making the switch.
For many homeowners, the best way to integrate a small wind system into their home is with a grid-connected system. They're cheaper, and they don't have to meet all of your power requirements (which for an average American, would take a lot of wind systems to power a house completely), but any extra power your house needs is then drawn from the grid.
Using this type of green energy, you can begin to see a return on your investment in about 6 to 30 years. After that, the wind turbines essentially pay for themselves, producing energy at little to no cost.
Small Solar Electric Systems & Solar Shingles
When you think of green energy, solar is at the top of the list. The sun is an excellent source of green power, even on cloudy days. Solar technology has come a long way, and now, there are scaled-down solar electric systems that produce renewable energy for your home.
Going the solar electric system route can earn you federal tax credits, state and local incentives, and other incentives from your utility company. Even if the initial purchase and installation seems pricey, these incentives can hugely offset the costs. Using a solar system on your home can also be beneficial if you live in an area where power is expensive or conventional power lines won't do the trick.
If you don't like the look of those large solar panels on your roof, modern solar technology has brought another option to life: solar shingles. They're photovoltaic roof tiles and blend with traditional shingles, so you don't have to sacrifice your home's aesthetics. Solar shingles protect your roof from the elements, and according to Tesla, their solar shingles are three times stronger than regular shingles. If you get your solar shingles from their company, they're guaranteed throughout your home's lifetime.
Generate up to 100 kilowatts of electricity through a 10-kilowatt microhydropower system, and you can impressively power a large home or even a small resort. This renewable energy is perfect for anyone who has the water on their property to make it work. You can connect your microhydropower system to a grid or use it as a standalone system.
A microhydropower system requires a waterwheel, a turbine, or a pump to transform the water into electricity. It works by taking the water through a pipeline, channeling it to the waterwheel or turbine component, where the moving water then forces the component into motion. This energy creates power for the generator, which, in turn, generates electricity.
Hybrid Solar and Wind Electric Systems
You don't have to settle for just one type of green energy. With a hybrid system, you can produce more power and have more coverage for your power needs. It's an ideal choice for many because peak operating times for solar and wind systems are so different during the day and especially throughout the seasons, but combining the two means fewer gaps in power production.
Wind speeds are typically lower in the summertime, whereas the sunlight dwindles in the winter. By having a hybrid system, both elements can work in your favor. It's why this system is among the most efficient and reliable.
Before you go all-out on a green energy system, check with your local codes, homeowners association, and any applicable easements first. Although most cities and towns are verging towards renewable energy, you don't want to make a purchase without reviewing the fine print on your city's codes beforehand.
Once you're in the clear, begin calculating your electricity loads. It's the first step of figuring out what you need in a renewable energy system for your home. Find the size of the green energy system you'll need, learn how your energy needs change on a daily and yearly basis and work on ways you can reduce energy usage in your habits.
Always strive to learn about green energy. You may be surprised to find the different ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. Composting, recycling, riding your bike instead of driving, and purchasing Energy Star appliances—these are all certifiably green ways to make the environment, well, a greener place.