Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Here Comes the Sun

Last week I wrote about investing in sustainable energy through utility providers. This week I start focusing on alternative sources for the home.

Not all of us can go hog wild buying up solar panels, wind turbines or geo-thermo what-have-yous. These truly are big-ticket purchases – certainly for now. Keep in mind that depending on where you live there are incentives to offset costs and in time, the costs will drop (we can only hope).

TO Do This Week
This week’s focus is on solar energy. The cheapest way to take advantage of the sun of course is to hang your clothes on the line or open your blinds. One of the most expensive ways is to install photovoltaic panels on your roof. Today, people pay anywhere between $3,500 to $40,000 + to harness the sun, depending on what they want the sun to do - heat their water or house, provide electricity, or all of it.

Components and Costs

Passive Solar
Why have windows that allow energy to escape? You can buy windows that make the sun work for you thanks to special glazing. To learn more visit Normally energy efficient windows are 10 to 15% more expensive than inefficient ones. The investment is worth it considering the money you save in the long run.

Solar Thermal Heating System ($3,500 - $20,000)
You can meet half your home heating needs by installing solar collectors on your roof. Click on the link and scroll down to see the illustration. Costs depend on whether you want a year-round or seasonal system.

Photovoltaics - Grid Connected ($15,000 +)
PV for short. These are your rooftop solar panels. They convert the sun’s rays to electricity through silicon cells. A Utility Interactive Inverter sends excess energy from the PV panels to the utility grid – so your PVs become an electricity supplier. Conversely, when the sun’s down, the house draws from the grid.

What’s the Big Deal? – There are several attractive pluses for going solar:

• You would not be so reliant on outside energy source use, lowering your GHG emissions by up to 20 GHG tonnes a year.

• Low impact on environment – the panels are on your roof and do not take up land.

• Solar can cover up to 60% of domestic water heating needs and half electricity.

• The energy from the sun is unlimited and virtually free after the initial cost has been recovered – anywhere from a couple of years to ten or 15. You can rely on the sun even in the winter time.

• Imagine if every house was equipped with solar panels. Blackouts would no longer be an issue. Neither would nuclear power. Power to the people!

• Reliable technology with warranties from 10 to 25 years.

• Adds value to your home.

There are a few drawbacks:

• Not so great when you live in a cloudy climate.

• Costs present significant barriers. Use of silicone crystals and the purification process are expensive, as well installing the system. To top it off, the market has been slow to build. Find out if your province/state or local government offers incentives to buy – or low-interest loans.

• Make sure whoever you choose to install your system has years of experience behind them.

• Majority of solar panels still use the lead-acid battery. Not very nice to the environment. Strides are made to use AGM batteries and the true deep-cycle batteries.

Where to Buy

CanSIA Directory

NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installers

Solar Energy Industries Association Members

Energy Saving Trust

Financial Incentive Programs

The Canadian Solar Industries Association

The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE)

Energy Star

BP Solar

Stop Global Warming
Over 460,814 to date have signed up to stop global warming. Join us!

In the News

Green Bloggers

Grist Magazine

Tree Hugger

Alternative Energy Blog

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