Alternative or Green Energy - Utilizing the Forces of Nature
Mention alternative energy and what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Usually those futuristic-looking sleek, white turbines turning in the wind or banks of solar panels powering a house or building, right? But here’s the thing: alternative energy is so much more than that and better still, thanks to improvements in technology, it’s now more accessible to American homeowners than ever before.
What is alternative energy?
Alternative energy, also called renewable energy, is energy that’s produced from natural resources such as sunlight (solar energy), wind, water and geothermal heat.
Currently, there are multiple ways the sun’s heat is converted to energy, including:
Pros to using solar energy:
Challenges to using solar energy:
Wind energy is collected by using wind power to rotate the blades of wind turbines, which convert the kinetic energy in wind into clean electricity through the use of a generator. Countries all over the world have invested in ‘wind farms’ that consist of large banks of turbines to provide electricity to residential communities. In the United States, homeowners can invest in Small Wind Electric Systems that can help lower electricity bills by as much as 50%-90%, as well as continuing to provide electricity during power outages.
Pros to using wind power:
Challenges to using wind power:
Hydroelectric power is generated in 2 ways:
Whereas ocean energy generation is more geared towards powering large communities or industry, homeowners and small business owners can take advantage of Microhydropower
Systems to generate their own energy. While microhydropower systems generate upwards of 100 kW of power, a 10kW system can create enough electricity for a large home, small resort or a hobby farm by using the energy in flowing water to produce electrical or mechanical energy.
Utilizing a process known as run-of-the-river, some of a river’s water is diverted to a channel or pipeline that delivers it to a turbine or waterwheel. Once there, the moving water rotates the wheel or turbine, which in turn spins a shaft, creating energy to be used for a generator (for electricity) or mechanical processes (pumping water).
Pros to using hydroelectric energy:
Challenges to using hydroelectric energy:
Geothermal heat is heat that is generated from the Earth’s core and is a tremendous source of natural energy. Geothermal heat can be used to heat homes in 2 ways:
Direct Use Geothermal reservoirs of low to moderate temperature heat can be used to provide heat to residential, commercial and industrial communities. There are many such reservoirs located throughout the Western United States, providing a tremendous potential for direct use applications.
Direct use systems normally consist of 3 components:
Geothermal Heat Pumps Regardless of the temperature above, a few feet below the ground’s surface, it remains relatively constant, ranging from 45°F to 75°F, depending upon where you are. A Geothermal Heat Pump (GHP) uses this as the heat exchange medium instead of the outside air temperature. As a result, a GHP is extremely efficient, reaching up to 300%-600% efficiency levels on the coldest winter nights, as opposed to 175%-250% for air source heat pumps on cool days. GHPs are quieter, last longer and only require minor maintenance as compared to their air source counterparts.
Pros to using geothermal energy:
Cons to using geothermal energy:
If you’re interested in alternative energy solutions for your home, contact a Certified Green Professional, CGP to learn about what options are available to you.
CGP - Certified Green Professional
CGB - Certified Graduate Builder
CAPS - Certified Aging in Place Specialist
RRP - Certified Lead Paint Renovator
Scott Homes, Ltd., Designers & Builders
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