Going Green: Power to the People

The quickest way for a U.S. consumers to “go green” on their energy consumption is to call their local utility company – often a regional company – and ask them what their options are. After that, it generally takes a check mark on a bill or giving verbal permission to your supplier to the effect that you are choosing the green option for your electricity supply.

Is it that simple? Not quite. Remember, there’s a difference between “going green,” and using renewable energy sources for your home, because nuclear power is considered green in that it is a non-polluter when it comes to harmful, climate-changing C02 emissions. But many environmentalists get a splitting headache when considering the possibility that nuclear power is green, given the toxicity of the radioactive fuel, which remains dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years.

If your electricity or natural gas provider does not offer a green energy option, it could be possible for you to switch to a different supplier with no disruption of your services. That is because in deregulated states, you can choose a different supplier, even if the services and supply are actually delivered by the same company.

Going Green

In this situation, you might choose Ambit or Reliant or a similar company as your supplier. They offer different rates and customers should always read their contracts thoroughly. A supplier website can give you more options and more specifics on how these companies operate.

The confusing part is that the new supplier will be a supplier by proxy. They represent your supply choice because they buy and sell electricity on your behalf, even if it isn’t precisely the energy that is flowing into your own home. So, when you choose green energy, you are able to shape the energy market, even if your home is powered by a traditional generating station.

The Department of Energy notes that about half of U.S. consumers live in deregulated states, where you have options on your energy source.

What about installing your own energy generating station at home, either through solar, wind, hydro or another renewable sources of power?

First note that the most critical step that everyone should take is available this very day and that is the option of cutting back on consumption. Conservation is still the No. 1 step to take and one that you should especially consider if you put in your own solar or wind power system. After all, you will realize the true value of electricity when you start generating it yourself.

Here are the options listed on TreeHugger.com.

Solar, including active and passive solar

For this, you need access to the sun and, further, you might consider buying a solar easement, which would prevent future builders or tree planters from blocking your access to sunlight in the future.

Active solar power means use of photovoltaic cells or solar panels, which capture the sun’s rays and convert it into electricity. This is stored in a bank of rechargeable batteries and released when you run electrical appliances or lights in your home.

Passive solar is a serious energy-saver as well. This simply means allowing the sun to heat your home, but the right southern-facing windows in the right place can save tons of money over the years. In addition, skylights have improved so much that the right placement of these can take the place of burning light bulbs even in dull weather.

Wind

Wind power is certainly feasible in many locations in terms of available wind, but not always available in terms of local building codes.

The problem for most people is finding a clearing large enough to house a windmill or small turbine.

Hydro-power

Especially in rural New York, Pennsylvania and New England, where there is plenty of water and the terrain is pitched, it is possible to construct a private hydro-power plant. The downside of this is simply the expense and the difficulty of construction. Often the water for hydro-power is diverted to channel the flow for maximum effect and getting permission to divert water in a creek or river can be difficult, as well.

Geothermal heat

More and more people are using “ground source heat pumps,” that pump water underground and back to the home. Why? Because the temperature of the earth is stable under the permafrost layer, so if you have a cold source of water coming into the home, it can be brought up to a higher temperature simply by diverting it underground and back again. Also, if you are lucky enough to have a hot spring situation nearby, you can pump hot water into your home.

Biomass

Biomass refers to burning wood or wood pellets in your home in a stove for heat. It also refers to using oil from vegetable or animal fat as part of the fuel mixture for your oil-burning furnace.