It seems you can’t open a paper without hearing something about either the price of energy or the harmful effects fossil fuels are having on our environment.
For that reason, many people are turning to alternative energy sources to save money and the planet.
Available Alternative Energy Sources
There are many clean, renewable energy sources available today. Two of the most common, and viable for individual homeowner use, are solar power and wind power.
Solar Power Advantages and Disadvantages
In order to convert the power of the sun into energy you will need solar panels. These will convert that energy into electricity and send it to the electrical grid or store it for later use.
Solar panels, as you can imagine, tend to work better in some areas of the country than others. Obviously you will need a lot of sunny days in order for this to be a viable source of electricity for your home.
- Use batteries to store extra power for use at night
- Virtually no maintenance as solar panels last over 30 years
- Reduced dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels
- Excess power can be sold back to the power company if grid intertied
- Safer than traditional electric current
- Federal grants, tax incentives, and rebate programs are available to help with initial costs
- Solar can be used to heat water, power homes and building, even power cars
- Renewable clean power that is available every day of the year, even cloudy days produce some power
- Efficiency is always improving so the same size solar that is available today will become more efficient tomorrow
- Solar power is pollution free and causes no greenhouse gases to be emitted after installation
- Aesthetics are improving making the solar more versatile compared to older models; i.e. printing, flexible, solar shingles, etc.
- Creates jobs by employing solar panel manufacturers, solar installers, etc. and in turn helps the economy
- Ability to live grid free if all power generated provides enough for the home / building
- Can be installed virtually anywhere; in a field to on a building
- Return on investment unlike paying for utility bills
- Devices that run on DC power directly are more expensive
- Some people think they are ugly (I am definitely not one of those!)
- Depending on geographical location the size of the solar panels vary for the same power generation
- Cloudy days do not produce much energy
- Needs lots of space as efficiency is not 100% yet
- Lower production in the winter months
- Solar panels are not being massed produced due to lack of material and technology to lower the cost enough to be more affordable
- High initial costs for material and installation and long ROI
- No solar power at night so there is a need for a large battery bank
- Solar powered cars do not have the same speeds and power as typical gas powered cars
There is more solar power that hits the earth every day then the current population can use in a year. Let’s keep working to harness this great power and put it to good use.
Wind Power Advantages and Disadvantages
Wind power requires a wind turbine to harness wind energy and convert it into electricity. Turbines can now be small enough for home use and can generate around 60% of the electricity your home needs.
You will need to have your turbine mounted in an open area. If you have trees or other obstructions that block the wind from your turbine the effectiveness will be greatly reduced.
- It’s sustainable. Wind is actually a form of solar energy. Winds are caused by the heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the rotation of the Earth, and the Earth’s surface irregularities. For as long as the sun shines and the wind blows, the energy produced can be harnessed to send power across the grid.
- Wind creates jobs. The U.S. wind sector employed more than 100,000 workers in 2016, and wind turbine technician is one of the fastest-growing American jobs of the decade. According to the Wind Vision Report, wind has the potential to support more than 600,000 jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and supporting services by 2050.
- Wind turbines can be built on existing farms or ranches. This greatly benefits the economy in rural areas, where most of the best wind sites are found. Farmers and ranchers can continue to work the land because the wind turbines use only a fraction of the land. Wind power plant owners make rent payments to the farmer or rancher for the use of the land, providing landowners with additional income.
- Wind is a domestic source of energy. The nation’s wind supply is abundant and inexhaustible. Over the past 10 years, cumulative wind power capacity in the United States increased an average of 30% per year, and wind now has the largest renewable generation capacity of all renewable in the United States.
- Wind power is cost-effective. Land-based utility-scale wind is one of the lowest-priced energy sources available today, costing between two and six cents per kilowatt-hour, depending on the wind resource and the particular project’s financing. Because the electricity from wind farms is sold at a fixed price over a long period of time (e.g. 20+ years) and its fuel is free, wind energy mitigates the price uncertainty that fuel costs add to traditional sources of energy.
- It’s a clean fuel source. Wind energy doesn’t pollute the air like power plants that rely on combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, which emit particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide—causing human health problems and economic damages. Wind turbines don’t produce atmospheric emissions that cause acid rain, smog, or greenhouse gases.
- Wind enables U.S. industry growth and U.S. competitiveness. Wind has an annual economic impact of about $20 billion on the U.S. economy, The United States has a vast domestic resources and a highly-skilled workforce, and can compete globally in the clean energy economy.
- Turbines might cause noise and aesthetic pollution. Although wind power plants have relatively little impact on the environment compared to conventional power plants, concern exists over the noise produced by the turbine blades and visual impacts to the landscape.
- Good wind sites are often located in remote locations, far from cities where the electricity is needed. Transmission lines must be built to bring the electricity from the wind farm to the city. However, building just a few already-proposed transmission lines could significantly reduce the costs of expanding wind energy.
- Wind resource development might not be the most profitable use of the land. Land suitable for wind-turbine installation must compete with alternative uses for the land, which might be more highly valued than electricity generation.
- Turbine blades could damage local wildlife. Birds have been killed by flying into spinning turbine blades. Most of these problems have been resolved or greatly reduced through technological development or by properly siting wind plants.
- Wind power must still compete with conventional generation sources on a cost basis. Depending on how energetic a wind site is, the wind farm might not be cost competitive. Even though the cost of wind power has decreased dramatically in the past 10 years, the technology requires a higher initial investment than fossil-fueled generators.
Building your own turbine is something that thousands of people have been doing since it’s easy to do and very inexpensive. You won’t miss out on any of the energy savings with a home built turbine… it’ll work just as well as the ones you can buy.
Between the combination of high energy bills and advances in technology it is now viable, and advisable, to use alternative energy sources. You can save a lot of money as well as help keep the environment clean.