Solar and wind energy devices are slowly coming down in price. Fossil fuel costs are on the rise. When will these cost changes intersect? Taking your home, office or factory off the grid and making it a green energy consuming facility maybe closer than you think.
I’m not talking ethanol, or Hydrogen but wind, sun, water. In my case wind and sun.
After decades of R&D and commercialization at all levels from big power utilities to home systems the costs of solar and wind have been pushed down and efficiencies have been dramatically improved. The price is still a little too high but for how long?
Renewed consumer and small business interest in alternative power is rising and rising as fast as fuel prices (don’t be fooled by the latest dip in gas prices the US still has not build a new refinery in the last 25 years [ethanol yes petro no]). The idea of going independent of the grid is not as far away as you might think. What makes it even better is that utility companies in many localities (like Chicago) are required to buy back your electricity surpluses.
In pricing out various systems I saw a drop in pricing from 3 years ago when I last priced out solar. At today’s pricing, going with only a solar unit it would take me 25 years to recoup my outlay for installing a system. It will take a technical breakthrough or a series of significant effiency improvements to make the price affordable to the masses. Photovoltaic (PV) cell optimization research and manufacturing efficiency efforts have been and will be continuous. These companies know a retail price point breakthrough could be worth billions.
Even know the PV market is a growing one. DuPont foresees a 30% PV growth annually in the next several years. The company supplies several key materials used in PV panels. Market researchers are keeping a sharp eye on the market and price points to put it all together. Research firm SBI said its solar power revenues in the United States exceeded $3.8 billion in 2007 and sees that tripling by 2012.
There were several obstacles that were keeping solar (and wind) from going mainstream and most of those have to do only with costs as well as necessary government backing. With the latest energy price rates the government is putting into place insensitive to provide uses of solar and wind energy tax credits and rebates on systems.
To date there is a system out there NOW produced my a group out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology lead by Professor Marc A Baldo that has produced a solar concentrator which can serve as a window. The solar cells are placed around the edges of a flat glass panel. The light hitting the window if focused into the cells and increases the electrical power obtained form each solar dell by a factor of over 40. The system is simple to manufacture, and the development team believes the technology could be implemented in as little as 3 years
Looking at wind, according to the U.S. Census, more than 17 million homes and businesses in America are located on land that is appropriate for a small wind system.
Do you or I have a good site? Siting a wind generator is extremely important to the performance of the machine. It is the difference between a machine that give you lots of energy and a garden sculpture. The ideal location for a wind turbine is 20 feet above any surrounding object within a 250 foot radius. This generally means your property should be at least one acre in size.
2. D you or I have the right wind source? Wind is the “fuel” for your wind generator. You should have at least a 9 MPH average wind speed at your location. Wind maps are available for many countries (Canada http://www.windatlas.ca/en/maps.php?field=E1&height=30 ) (Europe http://www.windatlas.dk/Europe/landmap.html ) and US states (http://www.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/windpoweringamerica/wind_maps.asp ) which will give you an idea of the wind resource at your house. Check out these maps and see if you have the right wind resource. You should live in a “Class One” or better site.
3. The next step is to determine if you have any local laws from a Home Owner’s Association or City or County that prohibits the use of towers. You should research: If you have a Home Owner’s Association read the guidelines relating to towers or tall structures. Contact your local County Planning and Zoning authority and ask about the use of towers and tall structures. Remember, the tower must be 20 feet above any surrounding object, if it is not, then performance will be lower.
4. By law, the local utility (company you pay your electrical bill to) must purchase any excess electricity from you. There are both utilities that encourage the use of wind systems and discourage it. Locate your electrical bill and then find the number for customer service. Ask them for a copy of the policy relating to “connecting a renewable energy system to the electrical grid”.
5. Finally – the best news of all. Many States ( http://www.dsireusa.org/ )offer various types of tax incentives and even rebates for your wind system.
If we combine this (solar) with wind generated generators it is possible a complete system could be build and installed for somewhere between about $15, 0000 to 25,000.
Larson note: One of my goals is to get each of our locations off the grid in 2.5 years. All things depending it is our desire to have at least one facility off by mid to the end of 2009 and as savings occur we fully expect to accelerate that pace though 2010 with each location allowing us the savings necessary to push this even faster. With this we will not have to worry about energy shortages and will be an even greener company that we are now.
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