There are no by-products (emissions) associated with a photovoltaic array, solar (DHW) systems, or wind machines. These systems provide 20 to 50 years of environmentally benign energy. No pollution. The sun produces energy every day. The wind as a resource is site specific.
The pollution associated with fossil fuel burning power plants is profound.
The average Michigan household using 750 kilowatts of electricity a month contributes 33 pounds of Nitrogen Oxides (creating ground level ozone and acid rain), 72 pounds of Sulfur Dioxide (primary acid rain contributor, and aggravates asthma and cardiovascular disease), and 16,010 pounds of Carbon Dioxide, (the primary contributor to the greenhouse effect, global warming ), EVERY YEAR. For every kilowatt of energy your renewable energy system generates, you avoid the pollution associated with that same energy that would otherwise have been purchased from the grid.
2. Decreased dependence on the Utility Grid and its rising energy costs.
Renewable energy systems will allow you to use the energy of the sun and wind to power your home. These systems can provide your home or business with a portion, or even all, of its energy needs. This is a matter of your specific energy consumption, and the size of your renewable energy systems. Historically, the out-of-pocket cost for electricity, natural gas, and oil has been very low. Recently, however, we have seen the cost of these resources increase. Gasoline is the most obvious fossil fuel showing its cost growth, natural gas to heat homes and water is starting to cost more, and electricity, depending on where you live, is also creeping upward. In California, electricity has reached $.30/kilowatthour, roughly three times that of Michigan.
3. Global and long term benefits.
When evaluating the efficacy and benefits of utilizing renewable energy resources in our everyday lives, we must consider several dynamics. The big picture is a global perspective that considers the condition and direction of the Earth’s environment as it relates to the sustainability of humanity. The most apparent indication of how our current use of energy is impacting the “big picture” is Global Warming. As global warming moves from a controversial theory to a reasonable assurance, it is logical to consider the impact of human population growth and the associated pollution of the atmosphere, as credible and considerable. The overall population of the earth is growing. More people using fossil fuels to fulfill their energy needs means more harmful emissions (CO2, NO3, and SO4) deployed into the atmosphere. This growing use of fossil fuels is rapidly accelerating the depletion of these finite resources. When we evaluate the trends in population growth, and industrial development with the trends of depleting natural resources (oil, natural-gas, coal), we have created a terminal situation. No longer can we depend on fossil fuels to meet the needs of our growing world. Both environmentally and pragmatically, fossil fuels will be an energy source of the past, and not the future.
Additionally, the economic implications of traditional energy consumption from the perspective of Supply, Demand and Price have direct impacts on individuals that are dependent on the resource in question, fossil fuels. The easiest way to grasp the dynamics of the fossil fuel supply and demand curves is to evaluate gasoline prices over the last 50 years. When that relationship is correlated with the petroleum fuel supply curve, it becomes clear that the price of fossil fuels will continue to increase until the supply is functionally exhausted, due to both price and availability of the resource.
Whether we are looking at energy resources from the big picture or small picture, the conclusions are the same. The cost associated with the continued use of fossil fuels will reach a terminal point both economically and environmentally. Recognition of the terminal nature of the short-term perspective is the key to adjusting our planning and implementation strategies to create a viable and sustainable future for our families, our country, and our world. Renewable energy will play an important role as part of the solution to our current energy and future energy requirements.
4. Maintaining our Energy Infrastructure
The electrical grid is a network of power plants, substations, transmission lines, and loads. As our nation has grown and the population has dispersed throughout the country over the last 80 years, the grid has grown to accommodate. There are several major problems inherent in this energy distribution structure, however, which are now becoming acutely obvious. First, during the peak energy periods of the day, the grid is susceptible to overloading and shutting down. California actively manages its power grid stress by incorporating rolling blackouts and using multiple pricing tiers to motivate the consumer toward energy conservation and the use of renewable energy for their energy needs. Without actively managing the grid when it is under heavy load, there is an increased probability of grid failure due to a power plant, substation or transmission line shut down. This sensitivity of the grid was seen in August of 2003 with the northeast U.S. grid failure.
Second, the grid operates under a structure know as “Centralized Generation.” Power is created at a “central” location, the power plant. The energy is then pushed over the transmission lines and, ultimately, to our homes and businesses. The longer the distance the electricity must travel, the more resistance and stress the grid must tolerate. In addition to this stress, in the form of heat, there are fundamental energy losses realized in the transmission process. It is estimated that the power plants must burn 400% more natural gas or coal to account for approximately 70% energy losses due to transmission line inefficiencies. In addition to the sensitivity of the grid to excessive loads, and the magnitude of inefficiencies inherent in centralized generation, is the problem of increasing demand for energy and how that need is currently being addressed. Power plants are the quick, “short-term” answer to this problem. Unfortunately, this only exacerbates the problem of a degrading infrastructure and a depleting conventional energy source, fossil fuels.
“Distributed Generation” is an energy distribution structure that incorporates multiple points of energy generation throughout the grid. As home-owners and businesses integrate renewable energy systems into their facilities, their loads are directly reduced as related to their utility demand. When this structure includes multiple “micro power” generators throughout the grid, it reduces the overall stress on the grid. It also means the traditional power plant does not need to burn as much fossil fuel as otherwise required. Renewable energy will play a vital role in the preservation of our energy distribution infrastructure that is pushing its maximum capacity.
5. Federal Tax Incentives
Under the current energy legislation there is a Solar Domestic Hot Water and Solar Electric (PV), FEDERAL TAX CREDIT. For Residential customers this is a 30% tax credit on the installed cost of a Solar DHW, and/or, a Solar Electric (PV) with a cap of $2,000 per system. Commercial applications have the 30% tax credit on the equivalent commercial sized solar systems, however there is no cap! This incentive provides the long term benefits of large solar energy systems, with the benefit of large tax liability offsets. A profitable business with high energy needs, both for potable hot water, and electricity can hedge against the growing operating costs supporting the infrastructure of the business, ie., overhead.
All tax related items need the attention of a qualified Tax Professional and/or a CPA!
A commitment to clean energy would reduce pollution, create millions of high tech jobs, diversify our energy sources, add to global energy security and save billions of dollars. A much-needed transition to solar power, wind power and other renewable energy in every region of the world holds the promise of a better future for us, our children and future generations.