Home Power magazine encourages
fans of renewable energy to "give back to the grid" by installing
their solar panels and wind power generators intertied with the power grid.
Power companies complain that this practice endangers utility line workers
and is dangerous to the grid. Solar enthusiasts (like the gentleman to the
right) believe that sending their power to the grid is helpful to the environment.
Home Power calls these entrepreneurs
"Solar Guerrillas." For some, the connection allows excess power not
charging batteries to flow back onto the grid. For others, it keeps their
heating bills down. For all, it offers the joy of making the meter run backwards.
More information is available at Home
A wide variety of alternative energy sources have been developed and are
in use throughout the world. We have not yet perfected the fuel cell,
but we do have other viable alternatives while we're waiting.
The sun's rays can be captured by solar panels and saved for a rainy day.
On a clear, sunny day, the sun can provide 1,000 watts per square meter
on the earth's surface. Solar power can be used to provide electricity,
and also to heat buildings. For large office buildings, this could potentially
mean saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in winter heating costs.
Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells. These cells are made up
of semiconducting materials like silicon. When light hits the solar panel,
energy from the sun knocks electrons loose within the cell. Metal contacts
attached to the panel keep the electrons flowing in the proper direction,
and this electrical energy is harnessed through wires and batteries. By
connecting multiple cells in series (or in parallel), greater power can
be obtained from the sun.
By wiring the cells in series, greater voltage is achieved; by wiring
them in parallel, greater amperage is obtained and the voltage remains
More information on solar power and links to various companies providing
products and consultation is available here.
With wind power, a turbine rotates when the wind blows. This turns a system
of gears, and the gears send the power to an electrical generator. Current
technology has pushed the efficiency of wind power generators to 20-30%.
There are two concerns with wind turbine use:
Turbines can be very loud in strong winds. One wind power enthusiast says
that his turbine sounds like a truck rumbling down a New England dirt road
when the winds blow harder than 30 miles per hour.
The other issue with wind turbines is that they kill birds unfortunate enough
to fly in their path. However, manufacturers say that new designs and better
placement of turbines decreases this risk. Overall, the benefits outweigh
More information on wind energy and a list of companies specializing in
wind energy products are located here.
Garbage materials such as wood, manure, and crop residues can be burned
to release trapped hydrogen and carbon. These materials are known as biomass,
and the resulting energy is called biomass energy.
Ever billion gallons of ethanol produced in the US results in the creation
of 17,000 jobs, according to the US Department of Agriculture (via the American
Biomass Association website). The rural farmer economy will get a great
boost if biomass energy is investigated as a primary source of power for
the United States.
Biomass will also help to lower US greenhouse gas emissions. By burning
biomass, CO2 is released, but it is used again in
the growth of other biomass, maintaining a closed cycle. Extensive root
structures can capture carbon, actually resulting in a net reduction in
More information on this renewable resource is available here.