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Making green energy affordable and scalable is going to be one of the most important topics of the next century. Fossil fuels will run out – it’s only a matter of time – and we need to be prepared for that eventuality when it happens.
How do we make green energy affordable? Let’s take a look at the primary challenges, possible solutions and what you personally can do to help.
==> The Primary Challenges
The primary challenge of green energy is its cost. At the moment, energy invested into green sources yields a return that’s anywhere between three to ten times more expensive than fossil fuels.
That’s why there’s so much more money to be made in fossil fuels than green energy. The return on capital is much higher.
The intermittent nature of green energy is also a big challenge. For example, wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, making wind and solar power difficult to handle consistently.
In order for wind and solar power to be competitive, there needs to be significant breakthroughs in battery technology, both in price and in storage capabilities.
==> Working Towards a Solution
How does one overcome these challenges?
Green energy venture capitalist Vinod Khosla has looked at the issue as a matter of experimentation.
In order to make green energy scalable, a new technology that’s as profitable (or close to as profitable) as fossil fuels and coal needs to be discovered.
As long as green energy is only profitable when subsidized by governments, it won’t take off to the scale of fossil fuels. The reason fossil fuels is such a huge industry is because so much money can be poured into it profitably. In order for green energy to get the same amount of investment, it needs to offer the same level of profitability.
Khosla views getting green energy to that level as a matter of stepping up to the plate and doing as many ambitious experiments as possible.
The assumption is that nine out of ten experiments will fail and only one will succeed. But the one that succeeds can have a big impact on the planet.
==> What Can You Personally Do?
Chances are, you’re not a banker or scientist who’s actively working in the green energy industry. How can you personally help progress our future?
There are a couple things you can do.
The first is to get involved in local politics to get more green energy subsidies. Yes, it’s true that energy subsidies are not a scalable way to grow green energy.
However, the more money the green energy earns as a whole, the more money they’ll have to experiment with. Subsidies might not be scalable, but they’ll help companies get themselves to scalability.
Another thing you can do is to vote with your wallet. Buy energy-saving light bulbs, invest in home solar panels and buy a hybrid car rather than a gas guzzler.
Getting our planet to a green future doesn’t happen overnight. It’ll take major breakthroughs, but it’ll also take a collective effort on all of our parts.
Building and installing your own solar panel can help you save a lot of money on electricity, without extravagant upfront costs. Getting a solar panel installed professionally will usually cost you five figures. Doing it yourself, however, can cost just a few hundred.
Here’s an overview of how the buying and construction process works.
==> Buying the Solar Cells
There are a few ways you can buy solar cells. You can buy them as part of a group, in which case you’ll be able to buy from a wholesaler directly. Though this is perhaps the cheapest way to do it, it’s much more difficult to organize.
The easiest way to buy solar cells is to use eBay. EBay has several sellers providing solar cells, which means the competition keeps the price down to inexpensive levels.
==> Constructing the Solar Panel
A solar panel is basically a series of solar cells joined together. The electricity generated from the cells flows together until there’s enough electricity generated for actual use.
To construct the panel, you need a wooden container of some sort to put the cells in. You need wire cutters, strippers and soldering equipment.
All you need to do is wire the cells together to create a panel. You might also want to install a diode to make sure that energy doesn’t flow from the battery back into the panel when sunlight isn’t hitting the panel.
==> Inverters and Batteries
Energy generated from a solar panel comes in the form of direct current (DC) power. However, in order for your home electronics to be able to use the power, you need the energy to be in alternating current (AC).
Also, unless you plan on immediately using the energy generated by your solar panel in your home, you’ll probably want a battery so you can store the energy.
Inverters and batteries can cost quite a bit of money. Again, eBay can come in handy when acquiring low-cost or second-hand supplies.
==> Passing Inspections
The final step to installing your solar panel is passing inspections.
While it’s possible to create a solar panel and run it without passing inspections, you’re leaving a lot on the table.
First of all, you can’t qualify for the many tax incentives that come with owning a solar panel if you don’t pass an inspection.
You also can’t wire your solar panel to the grid without passing inspection. If you get permission to attach your panel to the grid, you can “sell” energy to the grid and actually have your electric meter flow backwards while your panels produce energy that you aren’t using.
That’s a basic overview of the entire buying and construction process. Building your own solar panels takes a lot of dedication, but the process can be immensely fun and save you a lot of money at the end of the day.
If the human race is to survive, we’re eventually going to have to switch over to completely renewable energy. At the moment, most of our energy comes from natural gases, coal and oil based energy sources. These energy sources are both dirty and unsustainable.
What other alternatives do we have? These are the five main different types of green energy.
Hydropower is currently the largest producer of green energy, accounting for over 70% of our renewable energy production.
The way it works is that special installations are placed underwater, where strong currents of water will push through a mechanical instrument known as a penstock.
This “push” is then converted into electricity and fed into the energy grid.
==> Solar PV
Solar energy is another common type of green energy. There are two main types of solar power: solar power for homes and solar power plants.
Though solar PV has gotten a lot of press in recent years, there are a lot of problems still.
First of all, though the production of energy is more green than oil, the process of creating the materials solar PV is made of is quite toxic.
Also, to make your money back from the savings of a solar panel may take as long as ten to twenty years.
==> Wind Power
Wind energy is a stellar renewable source of power. The key to wind power is to place these energy generators in high altitude, high wind velocity locations.
The return on wind power is quite substantial. The only downside is that aesthetically they block the view from just about any angle because of their size.
That said, wind power is more cost-efficient than solar and easier to construct than hydropower.
Geothermal energy isn’t applicable everywhere, but when it is the amount of energy generated can be very substantial.
Geothermal works by tapping into the earth’s intrinsic heat. It turns that heat energy into power and uses that as electricity.
In order to use geothermal, a high-heat underground spot must be identified.
Biomass is primarily the conversion of manufacturing by-products into electricity.
These by-products can include wood chips and fragments, leftover sugar, animal manure and anything else that’s burnable.
Biomass can also include materials produced specifically for the production of energy (e.g. corn ethanol).
The biomass is burned and the heat energy is turned into electricity. Biomass is a great way of disposing of products that might otherwise become waste; but is unlikely to become a primary producer of our world’s energy needs.
These are our primary sources of renewable energy. Of course, there are many other fringe sources of energy that are being researched all the time.
However, in order for a renewable energy to truly make sense, it needs to be both scalable and financially sustainable for investors. For the time being, the five listed above are the main sources of renewable energy.
If you don’t properly instill the habit of turning off lights in your kids, they’ll often end up wasting a lot of electricity and costing you a lot of money. How can you build this habit? Here are 3 proven ways.
Method #1 – Charge Them $1 Every Time a Light is Left On
Kids love their allowances. Having money is a privilege to most kids. It really sucks when your allowance is taken away; because it feels like something that’s already yours was taken away from you.
That’s why this method is so effective. If you charge your kid $1 from their allowance every time a light is left on, they’ll get the message very quickly.
Make sure you are absolutely meticulous about this. If you let your kids slide “just this one time,” they won’t really get that the consequence of leaving a light on is for real.
It may take a week or two, but with this system your kids will learn to turn off their lights pretty quickly.
Method #2 – Make it a Competition
If you have several kids, another way to get them to turn off lights is to make it a competition.
Whoever turns off more lights wins at the end of the week. The winner gets a small prize – A toy, a chore done by dad, whatever it is that’s small yet desirable.
This makes turning off lights fun for kids, which means it will actually get done.
Method #3 – Have Your Kids Turn Off the Lights
Unlike the other two methods, this method doesn’t involve any kinds of incentives at all.
Once you’ve taught your kids the importance of turning off lights, then simply explain which lights they need to turn off and when.
If they miss turning off the lights, have them turn it off. Never ever ever turn off a light for your child – That will teach them that leaving lights on is okay and that you’ll just turn it off for them. Instead, pull them away from whatever they’re doing and have them turn it off.
If you interrupt them during their favorite episode of SpongeBob or Dexter’s Lab because they forgot to turn off the lights, they’ll quickly get the message: “I’ll have to turn it off anyway; I might as well do it when I leave the room so that I don’t have to do it later (when I’m playing video games.)”
This method also takes a week or two to take effect, but once your kids get it the habit will be instilled just about for life.
Whichever method rings the most true for you, go with that. By instilling this habit today, you’ll save hundreds of dollars every year on your electricity bill.
Did you know that you can decrease your gas spending by as much as 20% just by changing your habits? Using less gas while driving is better for both your pocketbook and for the environment. Here’s how to use less gas while you’re driving.
Stay Below 60 MPH
When you go above 60 mph, your gas burn rate increases exponentially. You don’t just burn twice as much as when you’re going at 30 mph. You burn a lot more than twice the gas.
When you’re driving on freeways and highways, avoid going over 60 mph. Stick to the slow to medium lanes of traffic.
Put on Cruise Control
Speeding up and slowing down on freeways uses more gas than if you just put the car in cruise control.
If you expect that you’re going to be maintaining speed for a period of time, put on cruise control instead of manually controlling your speed.
Avoid Sharp Stops and Fast Starts
Instead of stopping sharply at stop signs and red lights, gradually bring the car to a stop by easing on the brakes.
Any time you start driving again, avoid going too quickly. Do not floor the gas! Instead, ease into the gas until you’re going at the speed you want.
Remove Things You Don’t Need
Don’t carry extra weight in the car or trunk.
If you have things that have been sitting in your car for over a month and you still haven’t used or moved the items, chances are they’re just going to be deadweight in your car. Take them out to save gas and stop lugging them around.
Turn Off the AC
Whenever you can, turn off the AC. AC usage increases gas usage. Open your windows instead, or just press the “let outside air in” button.
If it’s really too hot to not use the AC, then turn on the AC until the car is cool then turn it off again. Avoid leaving the AC on for extended periods of time.
Oil Change & Vehicle Maintenance
Having your oil changed regularly and having your vehicle maintained will also save you gas.
Don’t wait and put these things off.
There are many things in your car that can decrease your gas mileage if you don’t get a tune up at the right time. For example, if your alignment is off your tires could literally be “fighting” one another – One tire is leaning one way while the other tire is leaning the other way. Naturally, this increases gas consumption.
Fill Up Your Tank
When you get gas, fill up your tank all the way instead of partially.
This is because every time you need to come back to the gas station, that means extra driving to get to the station as well as extra idle time while you’re waiting your turn at the pump.
The money you save by not carrying the extra gallons in your tank is negligible. Instead, fill up all the way to avoid using gas to drive to gas stations.
If you follow these tips to the T, you can save as much as 20% on your gas mileage. Best of all, none of these tips are very hard to implement!
Saving energy at home means saving money, something everyone can appreciate. It also means conserving resources so we can ensure a healthier planet for all. Here are some simple home energy savings tips you can start using today.
#1 Smart strips. Every day appliances consume energy even when they’re turned off. Microwaves, coffee makers, computers, televisions, the list goes on and on. Rather than let this valuable energy go to waste, plug your appliances and electronic equipment into a smart strip. A smart strip is a strip of outlets with an off/on switch. When you’re not using the appliances and equipment, say at night when you’re asleep, simply turn the smart strip off. You’ll save thousands of watts each year.
#2 Compact Fluorescent. Compact fluorescent bulbs use significantly less energy, about 75% less. The added bonus is that while these bulbs cost a bit more at the store, they last for years. The average light bulb used in a high traffic area lasts 4-6 months. A compact fluorescent bulb lasts up to 10 times longer.
#3 Adjust your thermostat. Simply adjusting it a few degrees lower in the winter and higher in the summer will save energy. A programmable thermostat makes it easy.
#4 If you use automatic drying with your dishwasher, turn it off and let your dishes air dry.
#5 Your water heater uses energy to keep your water hot and ready for those steamy showers. Turn it down to 120 degrees. Your water will still be good and hot, certainly hot enough for a steamy shower, and yet not too hot to scald. And you’ll save energy.
#6 When replacing appliances, look for energy star appliances. They conserve energy and many communities offer rebates and credits when you purchase these appliances.
#7 If you have a fireplace, make sure the damper works well and is closed when not in use. You can lose a significant amount of heat during the winter and cool air during the summer through an open fireplace damper.
#8 Check doors. Many doors don’t seal well. Particularly if you live in an older home where the walls and floors may have settled and shifted. Air can easily escape through cracks around your door causing your furnace or air conditioner to work harder thus wasting energy.
#9 Embrace passive solar. The sun is fantastic for heating and lighting our homes. If your home has a southern exposure you can harness the power of the sun to heat your home in the winter and to provide daylight year round. Eastern exposures can open the curtains in the morning to heat and light the home and western exposures can open the curtains in the afternoon.
#10 Check your insulation. Too much insulation causes your energy to be lost through your windows while too little insulation causes energy to be lost through your roof or attic.
Home energy savings doesn’t have to require a home overhaul. A few simple steps can save you hundreds of dollars a year and conserves energy.