Nuclear power. After coal, the next largest source of our electricity is nuclear power. While nuclear plants don't cause air pollution, they do create radioactive waste, which must be stored for thousands of years. As accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl proved, nuclear plants also carry the risk of catastrophic failure. And nuclear power can be very expensive.
If you can turn a wrench and operate an electric drill, you can build this simple generator in two days: one day for chasing down parts, and one day for assembling the components. The four major components include a vehicle alternator with a built-in voltage regulator, a General Motors (GM) fan and clutch assembly (I used one from a 1988 GM 350 motor), a tower or pole on which to mount the generator (15 feet of used 2-inch tubing cost me $20), and the metal to build a bracket for mounting the generator on the tower or pole. If you’re a Ford guy or a Mopar gal, that’s fine — just make sure your alternator has a built-in voltage regulator. You’ll also need some electrical cable or wires to hook the alternator up to your storage batteries. I used 8-gauge, 3-conductor cable pilfered from the oil patch. (And they said the transition from fossil fuels to renewables would take years. Pfft!)
Concentrator photovoltaics (CPV) systems employ sunlight concentrated onto photovoltaic surfaces for the purpose of electrical power production. Contrary to conventional photovoltaic systems, it uses lenses and curved mirrors to focus sunlight onto small, but highly efficient, multi-junction solar cells. Solar concentrators of all varieties may be used, and these are often mounted on a solar tracker in order to keep the focal point upon the cell as the sun moves across the sky. Luminescent solar concentrators (when combined with a PV-solar cell) can also be regarded as a CPV system. Concentrated photovoltaics are useful as they can improve efficiency of PV-solar panels drastically.
Many of the largest operational onshore wind farms are located in the USA and China. The Gansu Wind Farm in China has over 5,000 MW installed with a goal of 20,000 MW by 2020. China has several other "wind power bases" of similar size. The Alta Wind Energy Center in California is the largest onshore wind farm outside of China, with a capacity of 1020 MW of power. Europe leads in the use of wind power with almost 66 GW, about 66 percent of the total globally, with Denmark in the lead according to the countries installed per-capita capacity. As of February 2012, the Walney Wind Farm in United Kingdom is the largest offshore wind farm in the world at 367 MW, followed by Thanet Wind Farm (300 MW), also in the UK.
Which is to say that Ross and his co-workers had options. And the city was free to take advantage of them because of a rather unusual arrangement: Georgetown itself owns the utility company that serves the city. So officials there, unlike those in most cities, were free to negotiate with suppliers. When they learned that rates for wind power could be guaranteed for 20 years and solar for 25 years, but natural gas for only seven years, the choice, Ross says, was a “no-brainer.”
There are more specific questions you’ll have to ask yourself about your location and home—e.g., is my next-door neighbor’s oak tree going to block all my sunlight? You’ll also have to take local weather conditions into consideration. Luckily, there are plenty of other resources to help you find your solar potential. See our Tools section for more info.
The array of a photovoltaic power system, or PV system, produces direct current (DC) power which fluctuates with the sunlight's intensity. For practical use this usually requires conversion to certain desired voltages or alternating current (AC), through the use of inverters. Multiple solar cells are connected inside modules. Modules are wired together to form arrays, then tied to an inverter, which produces power at the desired voltage, and for AC, the desired frequency/phase.