For much of our industrial history power generation was provided by a mammoth, centrally located, power plant dependent upon a massive grid distribution system. Time and experience has proven that the central office approach to power generation is inefficient, costly and can be terribly unreliable. The grid system has many weak links from the enormous cost to build, operate and maintain these grids to the potential for wide spread loss of power do to a faulty transformer. We all remember the black out that went from the
Smaller scale and community power generation can create a power system that is far more reliable, less expensive to operate, safer and cleaner. Community or individual power generation can provide incredible freedoms, control over the power system and provide savings through increased energy efficiency benefiting the individual, community, state, country and the world at large. These local power units are readily available, less expensive to build and can be put into operation far more quickly than large central systems. Local units can be as small as single panel solar or wind turbine system to operate a road sign or can be large hydrogen fuel cells, solar panel arrays and wind farms to power a city.
I am proposing that our move towards energy efficiency and cleaner technologies must include wide spread use of solar, wind, geothermal and fuel cell technology for our homes, buildings and communities. In closely built communities can employ a community power farm to provide clean, inexpensive and renewable power to its residents. These power farms can be made up of one or more of the types of power units named above and can be combined to work with and complement each other. The combination of wind turbines and solar panels will allow the user to take advantage of the sun and the wind closing the gap of the other’s shortcomings.
Most areas of the world can employ any number of these technologies. These technologies are reasonable, clean and readily available. They are proven to work and can be tied to almost any grid.
Most of us know of solar panels and wind turbines, we’ve seen the commercials and more than likely have driven past a neighbor or field where these technologies are being used. These technologies are proven, last for decades and have been in use for many years (100s of years for wind mills). Geo thermal technology is the use of the natural regulated temperature of the earth to heat or cool fluid that is pumped through tubes through the earth, then through the floor of the building (much like radiant heat). Geo thermal radiant will maintain the floor at approximately 64 degrees regardless of season. A small auxiliary heating/cooling system then can be employed to tailor the environment to a person’s preference. A fuel cell uses an osmotic process to convert hydrogen to electricity. It is silent, clean and efficient producing electricity and hot water as a by product. I’ve found that we can generate clean, efficient electricity cost effectively and supply much if not all of the hot water for a home, office building even a commercial swimming pool and laundry with fuel cells. Today even the hydrogen production is produced onsite through hydrogen generating technologies that provide all necessary hydrogen to operate the system.
The cost to install these units on our homes or buildings is similar to the prices we already pay to the power company. A common mistake made by designers and owners is to design a system that will produce all of the power needs through one of these systems making these systems seem expensive. A better approach, for those of us already tied to a power grid, would be to install a supplemental system of power generation on our homes and buildings and sell what additional power is produced to the power company through a two way meter (readily available from the utility). This approach allows for less power generation at the central site, alleviates demand especially at peak demand times, produces clean power, reduces airborne particulates and helps reach clean air standards. All the while saving us money.
Cost for these units run from a few thousand dollars and up, depending on what goals you are trying to reach. For instance a small solar panel system that will provide 800 watts per day costs $5000 – $7000. Small wind turbines that produce 100 kw per month cost around $4000 and are installed on a glorified flag pole, can be installed quite easily on almost any property. Fuel cells can be more expensive, yet are affordable enough for a building or community to install them to produce enough power to meet the local needs plus sell the excess capacity for a profit. Geo thermal can have the collection lines run in a loop at about 8’ to 10’ deep (depending on the geographic location) which is less expensive than deep drilling and are installed as radiant lines. Geothermal heating/cooling will keep the floor and much of the house at 64 degrees all year around. A small supplemental heating and cooling system can be installed to meet the specific needs of the individual.
Besides the savings and independence that comes from individual power generation there are a number of other benefits. Producing clean power locally can lessen and in some areas eliminate the number of central power plants needed to supply our needs. Nuclear the most expensive and lest efficient could be eliminated completely and with it the nuclear waste that poisons our air and water and threatens our national safety. Coal fired plants maybe the least expensive of the central plants to build but are the most expensive to operate because of the capture and storage of toxic waste in sludge, ash and CO2. Plus coal fired plants create health hazards spewing tons of particulates into the air which led to the destruction of our air and water. What many of us don’t realize that as much as $100 billion per year is spent on respiratory disease, childhood asthma, and the like. By eliminating these horrible polluters we could save billions of dollars and improve millions of lives. There is no such thing as “clean coal”. To produce a “clean coal” power plant would mean not to use coal to produce the power.
On top of all the reasons to invest now in clean, renewable and independent power generation is that there are tax incentives of 30% of the cost to install such units provide by the federal government and more incentives from the states depending upon the state you live in. You can find out more about the tax incentives on your states website.
Practically all areas of our country can use one or more of these technologies. For instance wind and solar can be used in places like New York City on the building tops that capture incredible amounts of sun and a constant supply of wind. Collecting the heat generated in summer will lessen the amount of cooling needed in the building providing more energy savings and a more comfortable environment for the people to live and work in. Anyone who has ventured on to the roof of these buildings knows that the wind is always blowing and in NY it is quite strong because of the building grids and the proximity to the harbor and ocean.
By using the technologies already available, we as consumers could become independent of central power sources, control our futures and save our environment.