photo: Oregon DOT via flickr
Here at TreeHugger and over on Planet Green we've covered just about every way to get green energy into your home that you can imagine: Solar panel installation, green energy programs, solar power system leases, small scale wind turbines, micro-hydro power. While all of that info may be spread out over both sites, and I encourage you to delve into the renewable energy archives, for those with less time on their hands, here it is in one spot:Why Green Power?
Before we delve into some of the ways to get green power into your home, perhaps this question need be answered: Why should you make this sort of investment at all?
It really comes down to carbon emissions, first and foremost.
Though the exact percentage of your personal carbon emissions taken up by your electricity usage depends on where you live, and what energy sources are used in your state or region, suffice it to say that for most of us if we eliminated the carbon emissions from our use of electricity we'd be going a long way towards living more ecologically sustainable lives. This is even more true in urban areas where your emissions from transportation are generally lower than people living in less dense locales.
You could also argue the benefits of green power along lines of national security, setting a good example for other people or nations to follow, or on any number of other grounds, but the greatest reason at the moment is reducing carbon emissions.
Maybe most visitors to TreeHugger are familiar with that reasoning, but it really can't be said too many times.
1. Utility-Based Green Power Programs
If you're like me and live in an apartment, or live anywhere for that matter where you don't own your property, this is probably your only option for reducing or eliminating your carbon emissions from electricity. Fortunately its one of the easiest, and even if you own your home you may want to consider it.
One Bill, Serious Carbon Emission Savings
In a nutshell, utility-based green power programs work like this: Rather than have your utility itself generate the electricity you use (most likely from mostly fossil fuel sources), you sign up with a third party electricity producer who uses renewable energy. This electricity is fed into the electric grid like anything else, but you pay the electricity provider for the power you use. Since your local utility is still distributing the power to your home, all of this is included on the same bill you're used to getting. This will cost slightly more than your normal electricity but not much: Maybe anywhere from 1-4 cents more per kilowatt-hour.
To find out your options for utility-based green power in your area (in the US at least), the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy site has a page listing green power programs by state. This should get you started. You'll have to peruse your local power providers for exact details (and I'll admit that some third party green power providers don't make it easy to find out rates), but once that's done the sign-up procedure is generally easy.
Most of the time with these programs the energy source is wind power or run-of-river hydro, with some biomass power being used. Some providers allow you to choose the source of power, while others only have one program.
photo: Maine Coast Semester via flickr
2. Solar Power As Service Programs
If you own your own home, but don't want to quite take the plunge of owning your own solar panels, then a solar-as-service program is perfect for you. Though they're not available in every location, this is how this sort of program works:
You contract with a third party solar power company which assesses your home's solar power potential, installs the panels, services them and sells you the power they produce for a given contract period. At the end of that period, most offer the option to purchase the panels or to renew the contract and have the latest panels installed in place of the old ones.
Low Upfront Costs, Worry-Free Maintenance
The upfront costs are minimal, the maintenance is hassle free (on your part), and you can feel good knowing that at least a part of your electricity usage is coming from an eminently renewable source.
How much power will you be able to generate? That's the big variable, and one which can't be answered without looking at your home's particular location. But if you want solar panels on your home, don't have the money or inclination to install solar panels on your own dime, and have a solar-as-service program in your area, this is an easy and effective way to do so.
Solar Power As Service
Building Integrated Solar Power Tiles Now Available With SunRun Solar-as-Service Program
Residential Solar Power Without Buying the Panels: Helio Green Energy Plan
All The Benefits of Solar PV Without the Financial Risk: The Solar Power as Service Model
More on Solar Power, Home Wind Turbines & Micro-Hydroelectric Power on Page 2