There will come a time in the not-so-distant future where we abandon fossil fuels and rely on more sustainable energy sources.
Nov 2, 2019
Powering homes with electricity is a fairly new phenomenon—it has been the norm in America for less than 100 years—but changes in how we produce that electricity are already long overdue.
Between dwindling supply, growing political tensions and climate change, fossil fuels have fallen out of favor. Our needs are never-ending but coal, oil and natural gas are limited. Here is what homeowners need to know.
For much of the world, home solar panels could someday be the primary source of power. Rooftop arrays or ground collections can be wired directly into home power panels with excess energy stored an onsite battery bank. Initial costs for installing a solar system are lower than ever; by some estimates, prices have come down by 70% in the last 10 years.
Tax incentives and affordable financing rates have made solar power even more attractive. The initial outlay can typically be recovered in 7-8 years. Even if you sell your house during that time you may recoup the solar investment. Houses with solar arrays may sell faster and for a higher price than comparable properties without.
Best of all, most residential solar plans allow the home to remain connected to the municipal power grid, so in times of low sunlight like stormy seasons or long winter nights there is no worry of being left without power.
Small wind electric systems are becoming more popular every year. If you live in an area amenable to wind power systems you may find small turbines an effective source of free (after the initial investment) green power. They are versatile enough to be connected to public utilities or used as a stand-alone solution.
Remote areas are especially well suited to wind systems because they don’t require power lines to be extended to your property from the existing supply stations. The small wind power system includes turbines set on a tower in a convenient location, an inverter, storage batteries, and basic electrical components like wiring and switches.
They can be small enough to power just a few water pumps for farm irrigation, or robust enough to provide energy for the whole house.
Wind power has its drawbacks —there are many locations not suited for it, and moving parts present the possibility of mechanical issues—but it promises to be a good solution for many homes as owners move away from traditional fossil fuels.
When you mention harnessing water for energy, most people think of huge hydroelectric plants along dams. But, smaller systems are gaining acceptance among farmers, ranchers and landowners.
Microhydropower systems are an ideal solution for homes located around moving water such as streams and rivers; as long as there is water running across your land you can capture its power. Typical Microhydropower systems include a pipeline that transports water to a pump or turbine.
The turbine’s movement creates energy which is converted into electricity by an alternator, controlled by a regulator, and delivered to the home with standard electrical wiring. A microhydropower setup can generate up to ten times the energy necessary to power a home, a small resort or a farm.
Unfortunately, many rivers are subject to seasonal variation, flowing rapidly during spring and tapering off or drying up completely as summer turns to autumn. Additionally, power generated during periods of strong flow is difficult to store for long periods of time. This seasonality makes water power less reliable than sun or wind power.
Still the most controversial power source, nuclear power cannot be ignored. It must be generated by a nuclear power plant rather than by an individual homeowner as solar, wind and water can—there are no home DIY kits—but in 2018, approximately 20% of American homes got their electricity from nuclear plants.
Some consider nuclear power a green energy source because it does not use carbon-based raw materials. However, nuclear power has significant drawbacks. It is not renewable, it presents a huge public safety risk, and the radioactive waste remains harmful for hundreds of years.