Clean energy technologies are no longer a novelty.
Unfortunately, although large scale is booming there’s still lots of room for small scale renewable energy users to become involved.
We know that climate change is taking place. Scientists tell us that we must make very significant changes in our use of energy if we are not to destroy our planet.
But what can you as an individual do? It might seem hopeless, just one person.
But there are things you can do – and they need to be done urgently.
The most significant changes we can all make is to cut our use of fossil fuels, to cut our carbon footprint, by changing the way we get energy from fossil fuels to small scale renewable energy.
And almost every single person in America can do this.
The American Scene
In fact, the solar capacity of America is over 50 gigawatts – this equals the output of 50 nuclear reactors. Looking at the combined solar and wind power, the electric energy produced employs around three times as many jobs as in the use of fossil fuels.
But, only a small number of very large projects use solar power to generate electricity. There is so much room for smaller scale projects to become involved – and there are so many things you, yourself, can do. And they will have an effect,
So – what do you want for your children and your children’s’ children- what sort of world shall we bequeath to them?
The latest report July 2018
“Renewables on the Rise” is a report detailing the last 10 years of progress in America. Prepared by “Environment America” and the “Frontier Group”, it comes up with a set of statistics which are, in some ways encouraging, Some major companies are embracing renewable technologies. Yet it is discouraging in that the private sector is not getting the support it needs to make a significant – and very necessary – contribution.
In part, this is because the information easily available, can be incomplete or even just plain wrong.
However here is the encouraging news:
Solar energy has grown 39-fold since 2008 – enough solar capacity to power more than 10 million homes.
- Wind energy has grown almost 5-fold since 2008 – enough to power 24 million homes.
- Electric Vehicles have increased sales to 104,000 in 2017 and rising. Affordable new and efficient vehicles, together with lower prices, have encouraged this increase in sales.
- Battery powered energy storage has grown 17-fold since 2008
In addition to this, there has been a drop in US energy consumption. This is partly because of the availability of energy efficient lighting, cars and appliances. But also the fact that many Americans are concerned enough to take some action themselves as individuals. In fact, it is calculated that there has been a drop of 7.7 % energy use for the average American in the last 10 years
Two Encouraging Examples
1.) Greensburg – “The Greenest Town in America”
On May 4, 2007, a tornado destroyed 95% of the town and left a trail of destruction two miles wide, killing eleven people. But the people of Greensburg were not destroyed – they sought out a meaning to this catastrophe and decided to rebuild the town, making it the greenest town in America.
They built a wind farm which generates energy for 4,000 homes – that is enough for all the homes and businesses in the town. The energy provided by the wind farm replaces fossil-based energy and cuts hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon pollution which would be polluting the atmosphere but for the wind farm.
In addition, Greensburg is also the first city in the US to have LED lighting for all its streets and is building new eco-homes, which will use small-scale renewable energy sources.
Arizona has agreed to purchase a hybrid solar-storage plant from First Solar. This will use solar power to charge a 50-megawatt battery, the power thus stored can then be used during peak usage hours. It should provide nearly 3 hours’ worth of power to augment the national system. This project qualifies for the Federal Investment Tax Credit.
It is hoped this system will be rolled out in many other places. And it cost less than the equivalent new-build fossil fuel plant. This system is ideal for those sunny places, where there is surplus solar energy at midday but extra demand at other times in the 24 hours.
There is a conflict between the old fossil fuel plants and the new renewable energy options. In some states support for green environmentally friendly energy has been cut back and the rate of growth for solar energy in America was less in 2017 than in 2016.
At the present time, most of America’s solar panels are made abroad – especially in China. The president’s tariff on solar panels is considered to raise the cost of major installations by around 10%. The US solar industry employs over 250,000 people and 40% of them are employed in installation. While this tariff is likely to slow down growth initially and increase unemployment, long-term, perhaps, more panels will be produced in America and eventually, prices may fall again.
In October 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a special report about the impact of global warming of 1.5 C. It states that “the world is completely off track” and that we have just 12 years to get our act together. That is frighteningly short a time.
What can be done?
Let us look at the situation for small-scale investment in renewable energy in Utah.
Utah is a sunny state and they have increased their reliance on solar power from zero in 2008 to 2,364 GWh in 2017 – making them the ninth most solar efficient state in the US. This is a remarkable achievement.
They offer three different ways to access clean energy and have endeavoured to make it possible for even the less well-off family to benefit. You can find the details here or, if you don’t live in Utah, here.
And wind power has not been neglected in Utah, although there are conditions to be met to check whether your property is suitable for a small electric wind turbine. You would need to be sure that you live where there is enough wind where you live and that tall towers are allowed in your neighbourhood. You need enough space (about an acre) and you need to know that it is economically viable in your own particular circumstances.
By choosing the right system for your small scale renewable energy you might reduce your electricity bill by 50-90%. You can find a useful guide here.
A Hybrid System?
You might even choose a hybrid system, such as a home which has been off-grid since it was built in 1972. Setting it all up cost about 1/3rd of what it would have cost to connect with the utility lines. They chose a mixture of solar panels, a small wind turbine and a generator fuelled by propane, which runs for about 20% of the time.
Making a sound decision about your future energy choices will save you money as well as benefit the planet, and you can learn more about it here.
What Will You Leave for Your Children?
If you make changes – changes that might feel, at times uncomfortable, changes that need you to actually think, changes that might involve labour, then you can possibly leave your children with a planet which will support them.
If you fail to make any changes, then indeed, the future looks bleak.
But, fortunately, most people are forward-looking and bright. By changing to renewable sources of energy, even in quite small ways, you CAN make a difference.
It will be so good to see your grandchildren happy and secure. And to know that YOU made it happen.