Solar and wind power are readily available power sources and the one reason why everybody is not using it (or at least not yet) is that up until now it has been too cost prohibitive. It is all a supply and demand thing and until more people choose to use renewable energy, the cost of producing those types of energy will remain high. However, at the moment governments worldwide are realizing the benefits of these technologies and thus offer incentives and paybacks for people who decide to use solar energy and wind power.
The Energy Policy Act makes installing solar and wind power affordable options through the use of tax credits which range from $50 to $2000. Aside from tax credits there are rebates available as well. There are a range of renewable energy incentive programs available for consumers. The North Carolina Solar Center and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council were key developers of the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE). This database describes what resources and incentives are available for people who wish to consider renewable energy options.
A great thing about renewable energy is that if you generate enough you can sell it back to the utility company. The 1978 Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act states that if individuals or businesses generate excess amounts of power through renewable energy, the utility company must buy it at wholesale cost.
There is an abundance of sunlight available for people to harness and use to power their homes, but because of the heavy cost involved, very few people are taking advantage of solar energy – despite it being the cleanest source of energy that has ever existed.
Electricity can be generated from sunlight through the use of the PV Cell. The PV Cell converts light energy into electrical energy using the simple process called the photovoltaic effect. Sun light hits the PV cell and the cell then transforms light energy into an electrical signal. The electrical signal is then converted into electrical power. The same principles apply to a small solar power system as to a large scale solar power system.
If you have a large area (more than an acre) of land at your disposal then you may be able to turn that wind into power. For people who live in a rural location or on a lifestyle block, wind power is a cost effective and renewable source of power. Even if you only have minimal natural air movement, your home can at least produce some electricity and for many people it is often a cost effective option. Depending how much wind you have on your property you could possibly save 50 to 90 per cent on your electricity bill. Combining wind power with solar power could potentially mean that you never have to pay a power bill ever again.
It is almost a better idea to take advantage of both solar power and wind power. If you require the energy of the wind to power your home completely you may find that you don’t have enough wind to power your home for the entire year. To measure how much wind power you have available at your home you need to have the correct measuring equipment. Wind socks are available which indicate the speed of the wind as well. Equipment is available at a science or weather equipment store.
There are wind resource maps available which detail the estimated yearly electricity production available from a wind turbine. These maps are based on an average wind speed, but if you are going to rely fully on wind power you will want to make sure that you get consistent wind speeds at your wind power location. The Wind Energy Resource Atlas of the United States is available on the Wind Technology Center website at www.nrel.gov/wind. More than likely you will want to have on hand a battery system where you can store generated power.
If you are concerned about the damage that fossil fuels are doing to the environment and are looking for other options, then solar and wind energy are your best options. You do not have to fully commit to a wind power or solar powered system, instead think about the small changes you can make. For starters, you may want to install solar panels on your roof. There are a range of styles and cost ranges available which fit into any budget.
By combining both green-building techniques as well as active solar systems, you can actually create a home which produces as many kilowatts of energy a year as it uses. These active solar systems that you could use to create a `zero energy` home include such technologies as solar water collectors and photovoltaic panels. Passive solar design of a home is important when you wish to create a `zero energy` home.
Talk to an engineer who will be able to give you the best advice about how you should build your home to take advantage of both the sun and the wind. You need to make sure that your house is orientated in the right position, that your windows are in the right spot and that you have an overhang in the right position. A home which uses passive solar design can cut heating bills by up to 80 per cent and the extra energy cost can be minimized by utilizing wind power and solar power.