Celebrate Earth Day
with your own Energy Project
By Michelle LaBrosse
2010, is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. What better
way to honor Earth Day than to develop your own Renewable Energy
Project? As a project manager, you have the skills to reduce your
energy costs and even become energy self-sufficient. All it takes
is planning, and that’s something you’re very good at. Let’s get
let’s look at the lexicon. What’s the difference between renewable
energy and alternative energy?
Renewable energy generally refers to energy sources that are
natural, continuous and large, such as solar, wind, hydro,
geothermal and certain biofuels.
Alternative energy, in its broadest sense, is any type of energy
used to replace a different source of energy. However, most often,
the term is used to mean energy that has replaced another source
because of negative consequences of its use. For example, when coal
is used to replace oil. More recently, alternative sources have
included bioenergy and biofuels such as palm oil or ethanol.
For many of us
looking to reduce our dependence on traditional sources of energy,
the three energy sources to begin with are solar energy, wind and
geothermal. I’m going to focus on solar and wind because I’ve been
working on both of these on two different properties I own.
1) Solar Energy:
Solar energy is power from the sun. The good news is that once
a system is in place, you have a vast and inexhaustible resource.
After your initial investment, the fuel is free and will not be
subject to the ups and downs of energy markets.
where you live, you can calculate an average of how much energy you
could produce a day. Below is a map from the National Renewable
Energy laboratory that gives you a visual sense of the concentration
of solar resources in the United States. This doesn’t mean you have
to be in the West to benefit from solar energy. (See Solar Case
Study in CT on page 3.)
A Solar Case Study in Connecticut:
have been working the renewable energy scenarios on my Connecticut
property for a year. When I started, the State of Connecticut was
no longer doing the individual incentives for solar power. While I
was in the process of installing a 6kw solar system, the state
reinstated its program. I put my project on hold, applied for the
rebate and was awarded a $9,071 rebate for my 6KW system based on
the amount of energy it’s going to generate (which is pretty close
to 9071 KWH per year). So, make sure you check out what kinds of
incentives your state is offering.
increase the amount of power my panels were going to create and get
the maximum rebate possible, I had to chop down just one tree (in a
stand of about ten other trees). I reran my payback analysis
figures based on my most recent data. It is going to cost me a
little over $28k to install the 6kw solar system, and it will pay
for itself in 15 years.
on what else I could be doing with that money, this will generate a
4.5-times better return over 20 years than anything else I could be
doing with my money right now. Even compared to the safest place to
park your money – U.S. Treasuries adjusted to keep up with inflation
– the solar panels still generate a 2.3-times better investment.
Wind energy is the fastest-growing source of electricity in the
world and is poised to play a major role as we move toward a
sustainable-energy future. In 2008, more than 27,000 megawatts (MW)
of new capacity were installed worldwide. This stands as a
36-percent increase in annual additions compared with 2007,
representing $51.5 billion in new investments. The United States
installed a record 8,500 MW of wind power in 2008, capable of
producing enough electricity to power more than 2 million typical
homes. In fact, in 2007 and 2008, more wind power was installed in
the United States than in the previous 20 years combined — a $27
So, how do
you get started with wind? The first thing you want to do is a wind
currently working on developing a wind-farm concept in Haines,
Alaska. Depending on the size of the
wind turbines, this wind farm can create from 9 to 18 mw of power.
The town right now only uses 3 to 4 MW of power. The extra power
could be used to create a hydrogen refueling station for a fleet of
fuel-cell powered fishing boats at the small boat harbor.
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