RENEWABLE ENERGY FAQs
Q: What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy is
energy which comes from renewable resources and that are naturally
replenished. We don’t need to find reservoirs, they are unlimited, so we
can get energy from these sources indefinitely. The five renewable
sources used most often are:
• Solar• Wind• Geothermal• Water• Biomass, ethanol and biodiesel. The United States currently depends on coal, oil, and natural gas for its energy. As they are not renewable energies they will eventually run out, increasing its price inversely proportional to the amount of it left. In contrast, renewable energy resources – such as wind and solar energy – are constantly replenished and will never run out.
Q: What are the environmental benefits of renewable energy?
A: The main benefits are obvious: they are less polluting and those energies will not run out. Clean renewable energy production cuts off the production of gases such as CO2, SO2, NOx and reduces smog. It is widely proven that those gases contribute to the greenhouse effect, to global warming and climate change. The result is an increment in the frequency and severity of storms, floods, hurricanes and droughts which, in their turn, will cause a variety of worldwide economic, social and health problems. Every kWh of electricity produced replaces the same amount of electricity produced by the use of fossil fuels, without any environmental pollution effects.
Q: How does renewable energy help local economies?
A: Many communities have to import fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas, to provide electricity, heating, and fuel. The cost of these fossil fuels can add up to billions of dollars. And every dollar spent on energy imports is a dollar that the local economy loses. Renewable energy resources, however, are developed locally. The dollars spent on energy remain at home, creating more jobs and fostering economic growth. This means every country producing renewable energy is less dependent from others and pushes up the local economy.
Q: Why is energy efficiency important?
Energy efficiency means using less energy to accomplish the same task. By improving your energy efficiency, you reduce the size (and cost) of the renewable energy system needed to power your home. Improving your energy efficiency is the first and most important step toward adopting renewable energy. The more efficient use of energy throughout our country results in less money spent on energy by homeowners, schools, government agencies, businesses, and industries. The money that would have been spent on energy can instead be spent on consumer goods, education, services, and products. For more information, see the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Alliance to Save Energy Web sites. An energy-efficient economy can grow without using more energy. In 1998, for instance, the U.S. gross domestic product increased 3.9%, while U.S. energy use decreased by 0.3%.
Q: Is Solar Right For Me?
Ans: Solar is right for most homes, depending on the motivation. Are you interested in solar purely for economic benefits? Are you concerned for our environment or the social responsibility of your business? Are you concerned for our environment or the future health of your family? Are you bothered by the fossil fuel situation and wish to declare your energy independence? All of these are great reasons to go solar!
Q: I want to
go Green but can I afford Solar?
Ans: If you concerned for our environment or the future health of your family, you can afford solar. You can go green with different types of solar installations and energy efficiency solutions. Solar Domestic Hot Water (SDHW) is the most affordable solar system today and offers up to 20% savings on the average home. In most cases a SDHW system can be installed for a very affordable price tag, often starting at under $4000.00. With the Federal and State Incentive programs, the overall system cost to the homeowner is reduced by over 30%. Available Federal , State and Local incentives can be viewed at online (listed comprehensively at http://www.dsireusa.org ) and can make solar a great investment for home or business owners. If you concerned for our environment or the future health of your family, you can afford solar.
Q: Solar is too expensive for widespread usage.?
Ans: Solar PV technologies have
declined in price every year since they were introduced onto the
market, driven by improved research and development, and most of all by
steady increases in sales volume. (In 1954, approximately one watt of
PV generating devices was manufactured. In 2004, approximately one
billion watts will be manufactured worldwide.)
Every solar panel purchased makes the next one cheaper, in stark contrast to nonrenewable sources, which become scarcer and more expensive with every ton that is burned. PV has recently exploded into a number of industrial markets, where it is quite simply the lowest -cost source of power available. These include highway warning signs, rural irrigation applications and remote electrical and communications devices. Similarly, for any application more than about half a mile away from the electrical grid, a solar system will likely prove less expensive than will power line construction.
The most rapidly-growing segment of the solar industry is for "grid connected" systems - rooftop solar panels on homes or businesses that remain connected to the conventional electrical grid. In some cases, as where electricity is more expensive during the middle of the day, or when solar is used to support power-critical applications (e.g. banking, microchip manufacturing), the economics are very compelling without further incentives. In other places, comparatively modest state or federal incentives (listed comprehensively at http://www.dsireusa.org can make solar a great investment for home or business owners that betters with every year. Utilities and large consumers are becoming more conscious of the value of solar and other generation sources with the publication of works like "Small is Profitable" - available at http://www.smallisprofitable.org.
Q: Do I need to have a
south-facing area of roof to accommodate a solar system?
Ans: A south facing roof is going to provide the optimum potential for your system. Depending on your building orientation, other directions can also provide sufficient production.
Q: Do I need to
unobstructed space available for your system?
Q: Do you have any daytime shading issues on your south-facing space?
Ans: Trees, neighbors with larger buildings, vents, or other factor that cause shading throughout the day will cause some decrease to your power production, however there is now technology available to negate the effects of shading. A site survey by one of our professional installers will determine if your building is suitable for a solar installation.
Q: My roof will needs repair in the next five years or so. Can I still install solar?
Ans: You should wait to add your solar system until you have repaired the roof, or consider re-roofing now to add your system which would be the most cost effective approach.
Q: Do solar devices require more energy to manufacture than they produce in their lifetime.?
Ans: A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conclusively demonstrates that energy payback for photovoltaic (PV) power is, in the worst case, less than 4 years. Given that PV module lifetimes are generally in excess of 20 years, a PV system will produce far more energy than it consumes over its lifetime.
Technological progress in the four years since the issuance of this report has tended to bring down the energy consumption of PV manufacturing yet further, as silicon growth processes in particular become more efficient.
Energy output and input ratios for concentrating solar power (CSP) and solar thermal devices are even more favorable, given their simple manufacture. As best we can determine, this myth has its origins in the early history of PV power, when devices were essentially custom-fabricated for military, space and research markets.
Q: Solar manufacturing results in more pollution than is saved by solar usage?
Ans: As shown in the NREL ( http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html )study, a PV system meeting half of the electrical needs of a typical household would eliminate approximately half a ton of sulfur dioxide pollution from the air, and about 600 lbs. of nitrogen oxides. In contrast, the pollutants produced in the manufacturing process are minimal and largely recycled.
CSP plant equipment and solar thermal devices are essentially specialized formations of glass, steel, aluminum and plastics; their manufacture is comparable to that involved in making household windows, water heaters or mirrors.
PV devices are essentially "electric glass." Their typical silicon substrate is a close relative of window glass. The processes used to render it electrically reactive are the same as are used in the microchip manufacturing industry, acknowledged by states and municipalities as a clean manufacturing process.
Q: Will Solar work where I live.?
Ans: Solar thermal and PV devices are dependent on light, not heat - and this light does not need to be direct. Put another way, if you can find your way around outside, a solar panel could be working. The map on NREL Website (
)depicts solar resources throughout the U.S. While the Southwest enjoys particularly good resources, the entire U.S. has adequate solar resources.
More important than place-to-place variations in solar intensity is the price of daytime electricity where you live and the existence of state incentives for clean energy. A solar contractor in your area can give you a good idea of whether solar is right for you.
Q: How Can I calculate Internal rate of Return (IRR)?
Ans: Internal Rate of Return - You must know the length of time during which the homeowner is paid back for the cost of installing a solar PV system. The Internal Rate of Return (IRR) compares the investment in solar energy to other investments and includes factors such as after-tax dollars versus pre-tax dollars. Pre-tax dollars are worth less than the same number of after-tax dollars because they are depleted when the taxes are paid. Money a homeowner saves through operating more efficiently is not taxed.
Q: I live in Florida. Can my HOA stop me from installing solar?
Ans: The simple answer is no. The legislation below expands on the facts.
H.O.A. & FL Statutes -The 2006 Florida Statutes Title XI
County Organization and Intergovernmental Relations
163.04 Energy devices based on renewable resources.-
(1) Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter or other provision of general or special law, the adoption of an ordinance by a governing body, as those terms are defined in this chapter, which prohibits or has the effect of prohibiting the installation of solar collectors, clotheslines, or other energy devices based on renewable resources is expressly prohibited.
(2) No deed restrictions, covenants, or similar binding agreements running with the land shall prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting solar collectors, clotheslines, or other energy devices based on renewable resources from being installed on buildings erected on the lots or parcels covered by the deed restrictions, covenants, or binding agreements. A property owner may not be denied permission to install solar collectors or other energy devices based on renewable resources by any entity granted the power or right in any deed restriction, covenant, or similar binding agreement to approve, forbid, control, or direct alteration of property with respect to residential dwellings not exceeding three stories in height. For purposes of this subsection, such entity may determine the specific location where solar collectors may be installed on the roof within an orientation to the south or within 45 degrees east or west of due south provided that such determination does not impair the effective operation of the solar collectors.
(3) In any litigation arising under the provisions of this section, the prevailing party shall be entitled to costs and reasonable attorney?s fees.
(4) The legislative intent in enacting these provisions is to protect the public health, safety, and welfare by encouraging the development and use of renewable resources in order to conserve and protect the value of land, buildings, and resources by preventing the adoption of measures which will have the ultimate effect, however unintended, of driving the costs of owning and operating commercial or residential property beyond the capacity of private owners to maintain. This section shall not apply to patio railings in condominiums, cooperatives, or apartments.
History.-s. 8, ch. 80-163; s. 1, ch. 92-89; s. 14, ch. 93-249
Copyright 1995-2006 The Florida Legislature
Q: How Do I Size a PV System?
Ans: System Design:
Accurately Sizing PV Systems -- PV systems are sized according to kWh usage. When installing a PV system on an existing house, an easy way to determine kWh usage is to examine electric bills for the past year. Add up all the kWh required to power the house and divide by 365 to determine daily usage. Remember, that usage may vary because of changes in the weather.
Some solar PV systems only cover a portion of the home?s electrical load. In new construction, the solar consultant works with the homeowner to determine the load the homeowner will place upon the electricity generating system. For an entire household, all appliances should be included. Each appliance should have a label that states the amps or volts used. To obtain Watts, multiply volts by amps. Then multiply by the number of hours per day the item is expected to be in use. Most consultants recommend applying an adjustment of 1.3 to 1.5 times the original estimate to allow for system deficiencies like interconnection losses or battery discharge cycles. Solar consultants should determine how many hours of direct sun the solar panels receive per day. Direct sun means one square meter of sunlight delivered at noon; at sea level; and unobstructed by clouds, shading, or impurities in the air. One square meter of sunlight delivers one thousands Watts of electricity. Today, the average solar cell converts approximately 12% of the solar energy it receives into electrical energy. The average house, even with solar tracking systems, achieves not much more than 5.5 to 6 hours per day of full sun. Therefore, a house that faces south, west, or southwest will need approximately 400 square feet of solar arrays on the roof to generate about 4 kW of electricity. This will supply the needs of an average house in the United States, which consumes approximately 600 kWh of electricity per month. Remember that a 4 kW system means it generates 4 kWh of electricity for every hour of sunlight it receives throughout the day.
4 kWh x 5 hours = 20 kWh per day
20 kWh per day x 30 days = 600 kWh per month
Some solar electrical systems generate only part of the needs of the house. In such cases, the owner relies on the utility company for the balance.
Q: WHAT IS WIND POWER?
Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into useful form, such as electricity, using wind turbines.
A wind turbine, collects kinetic (motion) energy from the wind and converts it to electricity that is compatible with a home's electrical system.
In a normal residential application, a home is served simultaneously by the wind turbine and a local utility. If the wind speed is below the minimum speed to spin the blades - there will be no output from the turbine and all of the needed power is purchased from the utility. As wind speeds increase, turbine output increases and the amount of power purchased from the utility is proportionately decreased. When the turbine produces more power than the house needs, many utilities institute a policy called "net metering" whereby the surplus electricity is sold back to the utility. All of this is done automatically.
All of this takes place automatically once your wind turbine is fully installed by your dealer and connected to your electric utility.
Q: WHAT IS FEED-IN-TARIFF?
Renewable Energy Dividendss (REDs), also known as Feed inTariffs (FITs), are a policy mechanism that have proven to promote the fastest, cheapest, and most widespread growth of Renewable Energy anywhere in the world, with implementation in over 45 countries. Currently at least 8 states in the U.S. are considering a Renewable Energy Dividends (also known as Feed in Tariff) policy mechanism.
Today the State of Florida is positioning itself ahead of the curve and providing a beacon for the rest of the country to follow by considering this policy mechanism. A Renewable Energy Dividend (RED) provides a fixed contract to the producers of Renewable Energy.
The key components to a proven successful RED model are:
- Anyone can access the grid, democratizing the new market and allowing anyone to produce renewable energy.
- All producers will receive a fixed payment, at reasonable rate of return, for a fixed period of time, typically 20 years, for the renewable energy that they produce.
- There is no limit to the amount of renewable energy that can be produced.
- The contracts are transparent and simple to understand.
- The contracts, which are fixed for twenty years
- Afford the producer the ability to borrow against a guaranteed payment from their utility company.
Q: WHAT IS NET METERING?
"Net-metering" is a simplified method of metering the energy consumed and produced at a home or business that has its own renewable energy generator, such as a Photovoltaic Electric System. Under net metering, excess electricity produced by the PV system will spin the existing home or business electricity meter backwards, effectively banking the electricity until it is needed by the customer.
This provides the customer with full retail value for all the electricity produced. Under existing federal law (PURPA, Section 210) utility customers can use the electricity they generate to supply their own lights and appliances, offsetting electricity they would otherwise have to purchase from the utility at the retail price. But if the customer produces any excess electricity (beyond what is needed to meet
the customer’s own needs) and net metering is not allowed, the utility purchases that excess electricity at the wholesale or ‘avoided cost’ price, which is much lower than the retail price.
The excess energy is metered using an additional meter that must be installed at the customer’s expense. Net metering simplifies this arrangement by allowing the customer to use any excess electricity to offset electricity used at other times during the billing period.
In other words, the customer is billed only for the net energy consumed during the billing period.