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How to Get Green Energy for Your Home and Save Money
Brad Pitt is leading a project in New Orleans to build affordable homes powered by solar energy. “The idea that we pay utility bills is absolutely unnecessary,” he says.
Is he right?
Today, 85 percent of energy in the United States comes from fossil fuels. They’re called “fossil fuels” because they are the remains of organisms that lived roughly 300 million years ago. They include coal, oil, and gas, so chances are the home you live in now is powered by one or more of these sources. There are two problems with that: One, they pollute our air and are the leading cause of global warming; and two, they’re nonrenewable resources, and many experts believe world production of oil is already declining.
So what can you (or even Brad Pitt) do about it? You have two options:
The first is to wait it out. Right now, your home is very likely connected to the “grid” of public utilities, which means you are dependent on whatever energy sources your local utilities provide. The exciting news is that the options are expanding.
For now, clean renewable energy is more expensive for utilities to access than fossil fuels. But as I write, massive amounts of money—close to $120 billion dollars—are being invested in renewable-energy projects around the world. And much of that research is focused on creating affordable green energy sources.
Investment giant Goldman Sachs has already invested $1.5 billion in alternative energy and clean tech worldwide. Morgan Stanley estimates that global sales from clean-energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal power, and biofuels could grow to $1 trillion by 2030.
Even Google’s getting into the game! They recently announced plans to spend tens of millions of dollars on research and development and related investments in renewable energy. Their hope is that by funding research on promising technologies, investing in promising new companies, and doing a lot of their own R&D, they will help to “spark a green electricity revolution that will deliver breakthrough technologies priced lower than coal.”
This massive investment is sure to transform the way your home is powered in the future. But what can you do right now?
Electricity from renewable sources might already be available to you. Call your utility company today to find out what your choices are right now. If there are no green choices available, you can probably opt to pay a small premium on your energy bill to support development of renewable energy. That’s an investment you would make today to encourage availability of affordable sources in the future.
But there’s a more aggressive choice you can make right now, and that is to install solar panels (photovoltaic panels, known as PV) on your home, helping to reduce your reliance on the utility grid. You don’t have to be a movie star like Brad Pitt to let the star nearest to Earth power your home.
Converting to solar costs money, but tax incentives can slash the cost by as much as two-thirds, and once you’ve paid for the system, your electricity is free. A three-kilowatt system—which would generate most of the power for an average home—costs around $20,000 but may be reduced to as little as $7,000 by rebates and credits.
Think of financing a PV installation as paying a mortgage versus renting. Instead of sending money to the utility company every month (like rent), you’re making payments on solar panels—an investment that not only saves you money over time but also increases the value of your home.
If a million homes went solar-powered, it would keep 4.3 million tons of CO2 out of the air every year.
You can also go solar to meet your hot water needs, from sinks and showers to hot tubs to hot-water-heating systems. Solar thermal hot water systems are less expensive to install than PV—roughly $3,500 to $5,000—and also qualify for tax credits and other incentives. Imagine having a home with zero utility costs! It’s not just a dream. It’s the new reality.
Go Green Action Steps
- Find out what type of green power is available to you right now, as well as what it costs, at the Department of Energy’s Green Power Network. Go to http://www.eere.energy.gov/greenpower.
- Estimate the cost, size, and savings of a PV system, and find a solar energy professional in your area, at http://www.findsolar.com.
- To see what tax credits your state offers, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy. The site also has information on the federal tax credit—just click on “Federal Incentives.”
Go solar and one day…
Pay ZERO for energy.
Reach ZERO emissions for the planet.
From Go Green, Live Rich: 50 Simple Ways to Save the Earth (and Get Rich Trying) by David Bach. Copyright 2007 David Bach. Republished with permission of Random House and Finish Rich Media.