SOLAR POWER ALTERNATIVES
SOLAR POWER ALTERNATIVES
Applications:Solar power is being used in many different applications. Some high tech uses include power for satellites, the space shuttle, the Mars rover, and telecommunications. Some more down to earth uses include calculators, power for homes, power for cabins, RV's, sign lighting, water pumping, attic ventilation, and many other practical uses.
Cabins are probably the most common use of solar power at the present time. A weekend cabin system for lights, TV, radio, and other small appliances will typically range from about $500 to $2000.
A larger cabin system for lights, TV, radio, refrigerator, water pump,... and other appliances can cost anywhere in the range of about $2000 to $10,000.
For present homes that have electricity already, there is an option of having a grid intertie system. This system allows the owner to use solar electricity when available, sell excess power back to the utility, and use utility power when no solar power is available. These systems are generally cost effective where utility rates are high and there is a large sun resource available. These systems can cost in the range of about $5000 to $20,000.
An off grid home (no utility electricity) can also use solar to power it. These systems would typically use some kind of hybrid system in most parts of the country. A hybrid system would typically consist of solar PV modules and a gas generator for backup. It could also include a wind and/or hydro generator. The cost of these systems will vary widely depending on the types of appliances being powered, but it would generally cost in the range of about $5000 to about $30,000. See the section below on "How to Make it Work" for ways to keep the cost of this kind of system down.
Reasons for Using Renewable Energy:We all benefit by using renewable energies such as solar, wind, or hydro. Our children and all of us will breath easier, the lakes and land will benefit from less strip mining and less acid rain, plus we can feel better about ourselves for helping preserve our environment.
Each Kilowatt hour of electricity we purchase from the utility gives off an average of about 1.5 pounds of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. The average home uses about 8500 Kilowatt hours per year in electricity. This means that we are putting about 12,750 pounds of Carbon Dioxide into the air, per household in the United States alone. This doesn't include emissions from cars, factories, or other fuel burning equipment. (See Note 2).
The general trend of utility prices is up. I don't think anyone believes that electric prices will go down. Renewables can shield us from rising electricity costs, and give us more independence.
One way that solar or other renewables can be immediately cost effective is if the new or existing home or cabin is about 1/2 mile or more from a utility line. The cost alone of bringing power lines to the dwelling could more than offset the cost of a renewable energy system. A 1/2 mile (2640 feet) run of power lines at $4.50 per foot would cost almost $12,000 - you could get a pretty nice renewable energy system for that price, plus you wouldn't have a monthly bill for electricity.
How to Make it Work:In order to make solar or other renewables a feasible source of energy, we must lower our electric energy consumption by purchasing energy efficient appliances, using present appliances more efficiently, or just finding a way to avoid using the energy hungry appliances.
Fluorescent lights are about 4 times as efficient as conventional incandescent bulbs.
New refrigerators can be as much as 2 to 3 times as efficient as refrigerators of 10 to 20 years ago.
Using gas or wood burning stoves can lower the electric demand on a home.
For new housing, an energy efficient design can greatly help lower the energy needs of a home.
Raising the temperature on the air conditioner thermostat, or using fans to cool the housecan also lower the electric use in a home.
Conclusion:In determining the cost effectiveness of using renewable energy, we must consider all the issues at hand. There are many hidden costs associated with using fossil fuels. Most noticeable is the pollution emitted from burning of fossil fuels. Our children will have enough to worry about without us depleting our energy supplies through wasteful practices and polluting the environment by burning these fossil fuels. People need to think about the way they use energy - for example, using a gas generator at a cabin to power lights and a TV is a very inefficient (and noisy) way to burn fuel. A small solar or wind power system could do this very efficiently for about the same (or a little more) cost and would require relatively no maintenance or fuel. People should not be satisfied with conventional ways to produce electricity just because they know how to do it.
Writtten by:Randy Henk
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