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Creating Cost-Effective Renewable Energy Sources


Right now, the majority of the world runs on fossil fuels. Your local power plants likely burn coal or natural gas, and your car wouldn’t make it very far without gasoline. Unfortunately, as climate change experts have been telling us for years, fossil fuels will not last forever. Depending on how many tons of these fuels are used in the upcoming decades, they may only last us until 2060 — maybe 2088 if we stretch things. That fact alone is enough to reinforce how important renewable energy sources like solar and wind really are.

When it comes to installing a wind farm or solar panels, you may think that you can’t afford it, or it’s beyond your budget due to the initial cost, but there are ways to make it cost-effective for everyone from individual homeowners to CEOs. How? Read on and find out!

Reliability and Ingress Tests

One of the biggest things preventing renewable energy sources from becoming mainstream solutions is their reliability. There’s no point in spending the money to invest in solar panels or wind turbines if they break down every-other day or can’t stand up to the humidity, moisture, or other climate variables.

Ingress tests specifically test a device’s ability to withstand the environmental factors of a given area—in other words, they’re a way to test whether a product is ready for use in real-world conditions. For the Midwest, for example, a solar panel would need to be able to withstand high wind and rain. In the Southeast, on the other hand, high humidity is a problem that can cause the corrosion of internal and external parts.

These tests make sure your investment is going to pay off instead of emptying your wallet shelling out for repairs.

A Stiff Breeze

There’s nothing better than walking outside on a warm day and feeling a cool breeze through your hair — except, perhaps, the knowledge that that same cool breeze is powering your home or business as well. While wind farms across the globe generate enormous amounts of electricity, it takes a lot of space to set up a wind farm, right?

Yes — if you want to power the whole neighborhood.

The average American home only needs a single turbine with a 5-kW generating capacity to keep the lights on and the refrigerator running. A business might need a bit more power, but that depends on the industry. A single turbine, with an average height of 80 feet and an average blade diameter of 18 feet, can provide all of that power. Depending on the average wind speed and amount of time the wind blows each day, you might even end up with a surplus.

Now, a large turbine like this is expensive — the average installation costs of a turbine large enough to power an entire home usually run about $30,000, or the price of a new car.

How do you make buying something that costs as much as a new Honda cost-efficient? There are three ways: rebates, tax incentives, and leasing programs.

The first two, rebates and tax incentives, fall under the same umbrella. Both state and federal governments offer tax breaks, incentives, and other discounts to encourage people to look into renewable energy resources. There are different incentives available in each state.

A new way to enjoy cost-effective wind power is by leasing, instead of buying, your wind turbine. United Wind, a company that specializes in renewable wind power, offers what they call “WindLease.” What this program does is effectively eliminate the enormous initial investment required for installing a wind turbine. Instead, United Wind installs and maintains the turbine, and you pay them a fixed monthly fee to lease the turbine. Plus, as a bonus, you can lock in your electricity rate for the day you rent the turbine, so as energy costs continue to rise, you’ll pay a fixed rate for the duration of your lease.

If you choose to invest the full amount for wind turbine installation, it can take anywhere from 6-30 years for that investment to pay for itself, depending on the average air movement in your area. Choosing to lease one or more wind turbines can show an immediate return on your investment, as well as potential future savings as the cost of energy continues to rise.

A Sunny Day

Solar power is one of the most popular types of renewable energy for multiple reasons:

  • It’s relatively easy to install and use.
  • It doesn’t take up a lot of space
  • Different installation methods suit different buildings depending on its design. These methods include roof installation, side panel installation, or standalone installation on your property.
  • Even if it doesn’t provide all the power for your home or business, investing in solar panels can still significantly reduce your electric bills each month.

The cost of solar panels installation dropped quite a bit in the past few years, but it can still be a sizeable initial investment. To use the same example from earlier, the average family that needs about 5-kW of output to meet all its power needs would spend somewhere between $26,000 and $39,000.

Keep in mind if you’re looking for a commercial application for solar power, the investment will be different, but this is a good example to work with nonetheless.

As with the wind power options mentioned earlier, there are a ton of different rebates and tax incentives to encourage people to invest in renewable energy.

Many states offer a couple of different incentive paths for solar-enabled homes and businesses. The first, net metering, requires installing a new electricity meter that can measure both electrical input and output. This system uses the solar power generated to offset the power usage of the building, and the power company pays the full price for the building or account owner.

Feed-in tariff monitoring uses a separate power meter to measure the amount of electricity produced. Part of the money earned is put toward the account holder’s electric bill, and the account holder receives the rest in the form of a check.

If you own rather than lease your building, studies found that adding solar power can increase the resale value of the building by up to $6,000 per kW.

Right now, while the initial investment is still relatively high to install these renewable energy systems, their benefits greatly outweigh the cost. Not only will a reliable, high-quality renewable energy system eventually pay for itself, but also depending on the efficiency of your system, it can even earn you some extra cash!

When it comes right down to it, though, there’s no excuse at all for continuing to rely on fossil fuels. We have 50 years, or less until they run out, and that doesn’t take into account the continuing damage we’re causing the planet with our carbon monoxide and dioxide emissions.

We have to be the change that we want to see in the world, so if we want to see more homes and businesses relying on renewable energy resources, we need to start with our own. What are you waiting for?

Photo Credit: Juan Alberto Garcia Rivera via Flickr

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