In 2016, the city bought its way out of a contract providing energy derived from fossil fuels and arranged to get its power from a 97-unit windfarm in Adrian, Texas, about 500 miles away in the Texas Panhandle. Georgetown doesn’t own the farm, but its agreement allowed the owners to get the financing to build it. This spring, Georgetown is adding power from a 154-megawatt solar farm being built by NRG Energy in Fort Stockton, 340 miles to the west of the city.
As the section above shows, anything under 5 m/s annual average wind speed is not going to be worth-while if you want any economic benefit out of a wind turbine. Even with government incentives, you would be better off with solar for most places. Let us take this a bit further, and assume your backyard is pretty windy, a full 6 m/s (13.4 mph) annual average wind speed at 100′ height. You get a 6 kW wind turbine installed, and shell out $50,000 for that privilege. If the installer did her job properly, the turbine is spinning in nice, clean, laminar air, and it will produce around 13,000 kWh per year. You are the kind of person that wins the lottery on a regular basis, marries a beauty queen (or king), and has kids that all go to ivy-league universities; your wind turbine never breaks and you do not have to shell out a single buck for maintenance over 20 years. Now your turbine has produced around 260,000 kWh of electricity, which works out to 19.2 cents per kWh in cost. Maybe you pay more than for electricity and it is worth it, but your are likely not getting rich, and any repairs and maintenance will drive that price up in a hurry.
What? You are still reading? If we did not talk you out of a wind turbine by now there may still be hope! There certainly are situations where a small wind turbine makes perfect sense: If you are off-grid you should definitely consider adding a wind turbine. Wind and solar tend to complement each other beautifully; the sunny days tend to be not very windy, while the windy days tend to have little sun. Wind turbines generally produce most energy in the winter, when solar panels fall short.
Renewable energy resources and significant opportunities for energy efficiency exist over wide geographical areas, in contrast to other energy sources, which are concentrated in a limited number of countries. Rapid deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and technological diversification of energy sources, would result in significant energy security and economic benefits. It would also reduce environmental pollution such as air pollution caused by burning of fossil fuels and improve public health, reduce premature mortalities due to pollution and save associated health costs that amount to several hundred billion dollars annually only in the United States. Renewable energy sources, that derive their energy from the sun, either directly or indirectly, such as hydro and wind, are expected to be capable of supplying humanity energy for almost another 1 billion years, at which point the predicted increase in heat from the sun is expected to make the surface of the earth too hot for liquid water to exist.
Last year, the tech giant matched 100 percent of its annual electricity consumption with renewable energy purchases, and has committed to continue doing so as the company grows. Last week, Google built on the 100 percent concept with the release of Carbon Heat Maps, which show that there are times and places where Google’s electricity profile is not yet fully carbon-free — which is what Google wants to be.
Then I pick up a Home Power Magazine, or a Backwoods Home, or a Mother Earth News. I read the letters to the editor and I think, These are my people! This is my tribe—the tribe of folks striving for independence of thought and lifestyle, who are creative in their choice of building materials, who try to make responsible choices about how their choices affect the environment they live in.
Photovoltaics (PV) uses solar cells assembled into solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity. It's a fast-growing technology doubling its worldwide installed capacity every couple of years. PV systems range from small, residential and commercial rooftop or building integrated installations, to large utility-scale photovoltaic power station. The predominant PV technology is crystalline silicon, while thin-film solar cell technology accounts for about 10 percent of global photovoltaic deployment. In recent years, PV technology has improved its electricity generating efficiency, reduced the installation cost per watt as well as its energy payback time, and has reached grid parity in at least 30 different markets by 2014. Financial institutions are predicting a second solar "gold rush" in the near future.
Renewable energy power plants do provide a steady flow of energy. For example, hydropower plants, ocean thermal plants, osmotic power plants all provide power at a regulated pace, and are thus available power sources at any given moment (even at night, windstill moments etc.). At present however, the number of steady-flow renewable energy plants alone is still too small to meet energy demands at the times of the day when the irregular producing renewable energy plants cannot produce power.
If you want to purchase a rooftop solar system for your home, federal tax credits and other state, local, or utility incentives can offset some of the upfront cost. There are also several financing options available for homeowners, including energy-saving mortgages, home equity, Property Assessed Clean Energy Loans, and more traditional bank loans.
Wind energy research dates back several decades to the 1970s when NASA developed an analytical model to predict wind turbine power generation during high winds. Today, both Sandia National Laboratories and National Renewable Energy Laboratory have programs dedicated to wind research. Sandia’s laboratory focuses on the advancement of materials, aerodynamics, and sensors. The NREL wind projects are centered on improving wind plant power production, reducing their capital costs, and making wind energy more cost effective overall. The Field Laboratory for Optimized Wind Energy (FLOWE) at Caltech was established to research renewable approaches to wind energy farming technology practices that have the potential to reduce the cost, size, and environmental impact of wind energy production. The president of Sky WindPower Corporation thinks that wind turbines will be able to produce electricity at a cent/kWh at an average which in comparison to coal-generated electricity is a fractional of the cost.
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.