You Don’t Need Solar Panels to Support Renewable Energy in Your Home

Renewable energy is all the rage — and for good reason. For starters, a lot of our carbon emissions come from the electricity sector, so switching to renewable resources like wind and solar would decrease the amount of carbon dioxide we’re releasing into the atmosphere, which warms the planet. Burning fossil fuels also contributes to public health issues, where renewables can help tip the scales. And renewable energy is, well, renewable!

But not everyone can get solar panels on their house (hey, renters). And there’s a solution! In comes Clearly EnergyJust put in your address and see what renewable power options are available for your home — from switching energy suppliers to shopping for efficient products.

If your zip code is available for the renewable upgrade, Clearly Energy will give you a matrix of options, showing your current utility rate, utility rate under renewable power, and a plethora of provider options to choose from, depending what matters to you — from wind, to solar, to carbon equivalent numbers.

Here’s how it works. If your power company participates in the program, you’ll switch your provider to the new, renewable one. You’ll still pay your bills through the energy company, and they’ll still fix your wires if anything goes wrong or your power goes out. But you’ll be supporting that fresh, clean, wind or solar after you sign up.

Here in my house in New Jersey, it works like this: my power company, Jersey Central Power and Light, works with Arcadia Power to purchase renewable credits every month to SUPPORT wind projects and power in the form of renewable energy certificates.

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In some cases, in order to truly support clean energy, you’ll need to install solar panels on your roof (or install a wind turbine, which is a little more costly and difficult). Clearly Energy can help with, too, through Energy Sage.

If there are no options for you in the clean energy realm with your home, Clearly Energy will give you options, tailored to your home, to help you go green and save on your energy bills — who doesn’t like to save money?

And if you can’t do any of these things for any reason, there are still ways you can go green and save electricity, which include switching to LED light bulbs, using “advanced” power strips, and just reducing your energy use overall (like turning the lights off when you leave a room).

No matter why you do it, whether it’s to power your electric car with green energy, or to save a little money on your electric bill, it’s all worth it to fight the good fight against climate change. May your days be sunny (or windy, whichever way your energy likes it!).

Resources to check out renewables where you live:

Earth Week 2015: the rise of renewables

Welcome to my annual Earth Week series! I believe that protecting the Earth deserves more than one day, so I’ve given it a week. Check back every day from April 20-24 to learn about a new environmental issue (or solution!) each day.

So its not all bad news this Earth Week – renewable energy is on the rise. Renewable energy, once widely called alternative energy, is changing, considering it’s not so alternative anymore – it’s finally hitting the mainstream.

solar panels

According to Climate Central, renewable energy is in a “global renaissance”:

Renewables, mainly including hydropower, solar and wind, reached 28 percent of the total electric power supply in Germany in 2014, 19 percent in the United Kingdom, 22 percent in China, 76 percent in Brazil and 13 percent in the U.S., as investments in renewables increased more than 15 percent globally last year, BNEF Chairman Michael Liebreich said Tuesday.

“I haven’t heard the word ‘alternative energy’ in the last few years,” he said. “This is not alternative when the world average (for renewables) is getting to 11 to 13 percent. This is not alternative anymore. And, it’s cheap.”

For the United States, solar energy and nuclear energy are on the rise. Solar is cheaper and more efficient than ever, and more and more areas around the country are adopting it as their method of energy. By 2020, the World Nuclear Association expects America to be home to six new nuclear reactors for clean power generation, despite the stigma nuclear power has had in the past.

There are some cool energy projects starting up around the country and the world.

A vineyard in the Napa Valley outside of San Francisco has put 1,000 floating solar panels on an irrigation pond on the property, reports CBS News. Far Niente Vineyard is a certified national landmark, so the only place open for solar is the ponds, considering all other structures are out of bounds for solar development. The output of the panels daily is four times what the winery uses – they still get a power bill, but the balance has been zero for quite some time. The system also helps the drought “by reducing evaporation from the pond by providing shade. The proximity to the water also keeps the panels cooler and more efficient than they would otherwise be.”

In my opinion, that’s not a bad idea! Nothing much else is going on in those irrigation ponds, and there are farms throughout the entire state of California that could adopt this method.

Australia is also installing it’s first floating solar farm, which will be assembled on top of a wastewater pond.

vancouver

In a move to become more sustainable, Vancouver, British Columbia has committed to run on 100% renewable energy by 2030-2035, reports the Guardian. The Canadian city, population 600,000 will achieve these goals through the greening of their transportation, electricity, and heating and cooling sectors. Since cities make up 70-75% of global CO2 emissions, Andrea Reimer, Vancouver’s deputy mayor, feels it’s important to make this change and alter the global conversation about carbon emissions and how they affect our planet.

Although Vancouver isn’t as populous as major cities in the United States, this model shows that perhaps we can start to make city-wide changes, starting with San Francisco and San Diego, both of which have expressed interest and made progress on becoming green. Other cities around the world are in different stages of the process too, including Sydney, Copenhagen, Reykjavik, and the entire country of Costa Rica.

There are small projects going on throughout the country. Check into your town, city, or state and see how they’re making it sustainable. You may be surprised!

Check back Friday 4/24 for Earth Week 5: the state of our oceans.

 

Will the East Coast become an energy development hub?

Due to rising political pressure, water issues and other geographical constraints, energy companies (renewable and fossil fuels) are now moving away from the West Coast and trying to create an East Coast energy market.

A large reason? Politics. The Washington Times reports that while blue states line the West Coast, the bipartisan nature of eastern states provides more opportunities for these companies to come in and establish business. The biggest industries in early stages of talking seem to be offshore drilling and offshore wind farms.

Another reason? President Obama recently opened up the Eastern Seaboard for offshore oil and gas exploration, “approving seismic surveys using sonic cannons that can pinpoint energy deposits deep beneath the ocean floor,” according to the Associated Press.

Most of the talk comes from North Carolina. N.C. mayor Pat McCrory (R) is spearheading the conversation, stating that it is important to keep oil production in the U.S. instead of overseas.

We will see where this conversation leads. In the meantime, it is important to note that McCrory worked for Duke Energy, a large electric power company, before getting into politics. If you need a refresher, Duke Energy was responsible for the February 2014 coal ash spill in North Carolina, which spilled 39,000 tons of “coal ash slurry” into the Dan River in Charlotte, N.C. As of now, the cleanup is still underway, despite continuing statements from the electric company that the sludge is cleaned up. There is even a federal investigation underway.

Image from the Dan River coal ash spill of Feb. 2014.
Image from the Dan River coal ash spill of Feb. 2014.

In the renewable energy sphere, plans for an offshore wind energy farm are underway in Massachusetts. Both oil and renewable energy development will cause problems for marine life and provide a larger chance for pollution and spills.

I’m sure this debate will continue as we become more invested in renewables, so stay tuned.

Global Wind Day 2014

Happy Global Wind Day! Yesterday, June 15, was a day to celebrate what wind power has done for the world.

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Unlike many environmental holidays, Global Wind Day does not have themes every year. Instead, they try to hit home the same message: the world needs wind energy! Around the world on June 15, wind farmers in Europe open their operations to the public so they can learn about how wind energy works.

This event is coordinated by the Global Wind Energy Council and the European Wind Energy Association.

You can also view the events schedule here, although most are in Europe.

Last spring semester, I spent a lot of time doing a project on how wind energy and other alternative energy options can help get us away from using the amount of fossil fuels we use. Energy.gov has a great infographic about how wind energy has been increasing in America, as well as getting cheaper. Click through the photo to see the whole thing!