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My focus in green building has always been to look at the costs and benefits of different technologies to help make educated decisions in the building process.Sometimes, clients want to go above and beyond in their effort to minimize their energy consumption and overall environmental impact.Renewable energy provides an avenue for all clients to help achieve their sustainability goals.Some clients are driven to achieve a net-zero energy home – one that generates as much energy as it consumes, while others offset their electricity consumption by purchasing renewable energy credits.These two techniques vary significantly and offer every Winter Park resident the opportunity to invest in renewable energy a sustainable lifestyle.
The most commonly known renewable energy source in our region is solar power (photovoltaic or PV).The premise of the technology is simply – harvest the free energy of the sun to generate electricity.A solar power system at the residential level includes an array of solar panels on a roof or yard.These solar panels generate electricity and are typically connected to a special electricity meter that spins forward and in reverse.These meters measure your power consumption from the electrical grid and also the electricity that you are generating through your solar panels.This type of setup allows uninterrupted electrical service to your home or building.A well designed home and solar panel system can achieve net-zero energy consumption for its owner.A friend of mine in Maitland actually produces more power at his house than he consumes.
So, why wouldn’t everyone install a solar power system?It is obviously the environmentally conscious thing to do, but what is the catch?Small-scale residential generation will cost approximately $6-$8 per kilowatt (kw) of production capacity.For an average home and a 4000kw system, this translates into upfront costs of $24,000-$32,000, that’s before any applicable state or federal incentives.One obvious limitation that contributes to this cost is the limited generation of power on overcast/cloudy days and at night.The average production of solar power in our region, averages 4-6 hours per day ( or a 15-20% capacity factor).The size of the system has to be large to compensate for the reduced production time, as compared to traditional power generation facilities.Remember, coal power plants don’t depend on the weather to operate, so they achieve 70-90% capacity factors. Nevertheless, costs of renewable energies are continuing to decrease and will become more competitive as their use increases.
For those clients that can’t generate power on their property or afford the large upfront costs associated with such systems, there is an alternative.Purchasing renewable energy credits provides a solution that every resident can take advantage of.Renewable energy credits represent clean energy production from another part of the state or country – typically large-scale renewable energy ‘farms’.These production facilities can generate renewable energy at much lower costs than small-scale projects and some are almost cost comparable to traditional generation techniques.One of the leading renewable energy certification organizations, Green-E (www.green-e.org), gives links to production companies that you are able to purchase credits from.Purchasing credits from these facilities provide a way for clients to offset their energy consumption in an affordable manner.Residents with typical energy consumption would pay approximately $20 per month to offset all of their electricity consumption with renewable energy credits.
Solar power is an exciting technology that offers almost every resident an avenue for generating their own electricity.For those unwilling to pay the high up-front costs associated with solar panel systems or do not have appropriate site-conditions, purchasing renewable energy credits provides an affordable approach to reducing environmental impacts.I believe that support of renewable energy credits and large-scale generation of renewable energy will help bring down the costs of renewable electricity generation.Renewable energy represents a small, but important aspect of living sustainably in Winter Park.However, as the demand and price of energy continues to grow, it will become more important.