Last week we unveiled our new Cogenera solar installation, a combined system that produces both hot water and electricity. Our new system is producing a bunch of power for our wineries, and is quickly becoming an important part of our overall energy conservation strategy.
Have you considered your home energy conservation strategy? Most people don’t have the space or money to install their own photovoltaic panels or wind turbines. And if you rent you probably don’t control where your power comes from. But no matter what your current situation, there are ways to make sure that you are using and supporting renewable energy at home; we’ve outlined some of the options below.
Purchase Green Power From Your Utility Company
Many utilities offer a “Green Power Purchase Program” where you can sign up to pay a slightly higher premium in order to use renewable energy sources. This allows your utility to buy more renewable energy then they would have otherwise done. It is impossible to know exactly where any particular electron goes once it enters the transmission system, so there’s no guarantee that the electricity illuminating your lightbulbs comes from renewable sources, but you are directly funding the installation of new PV or wind installations.
What you do in a program like this is to pay the utility to purchase more green power than they would otherwise. You can find out if your utility has a Green Power program by checking out their Website, or see if it is listed on the EPA’s Website.
Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs)
If your utility doesn’t offer a Green Power Purchase Program, or if you rent and your landlord controls the electric bill, it’s still possible to support renewable energy by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). Pay for electricity as you normally do through the utility. Next, go online and purchase RECs for the amount of power you normally use in a year. The money for the REC goes directly to support the construction of new renewable energy sources, and you can often see exactly which wind turbines or solar project you are funding. Check out this US Department of Energy list of REC providers.
RECs, along with federal and state incentives, have helped increase renewable energy infrastructure and adoption, which in turn has helped to bring down the cost through economies of scale. In fact, the cost of renewable energy has fallen so far that in certain parts of the country it now costs the same as coal or natural gas fired electricity during peak production hours.
In just a few years, the cost should be low enough that more and more utilities will choose to purchase it, not because it is the sustainable thing to do, but because it is the best business decision. That’s something we can all support.