First Things First:
The first step in any home or business energy conservation effort should be to implement methods to reduce your current energy consumption and make your home or business energy efficient. Once you have conducted an energy assessment/energy audit and have implemented recommended improvements such as additional insulation, windows, Energy Star appliances, etc., the installation of a renewable energy system can be next on your energy savings journey.
Choosing a Renewable Energy System:
What type of system is right for you?
The most frequently used renewable resources used to generate energy in Ohio include the sun, wind, and waste.
The most commonly used RE systems for residential structures include:
- Solar: Photovoltaic panels that produce electricity, and Solar Water Heaters
- Wind: Turbines that harness the energy from wind and turn it into electricity
Businesses also use solar and wind, and in addition can use:
- Biomass: the production of energy from crop, yard and garden, food, livestock and other wastes
- Anaerobic digestion: the creation of electricity and heat through a process of using bacteria to break down biodegradable organic matter into energy
Each renewable source and RE system has its own advantages and disadvantages. Most decisions about which RE system to install will come from a weighing of various factors with differences based on our individual values. The following factors and related questions will help guide you in considering the options and guiding the questions you will want to ask your utility provider and RE installer. It is a good idea to discuss your plans with your utility provider first.
- Financial issues: initial cost, payback period, return on investment Questions to Consider: How long will it take me to get to payback on my investment? What can I afford out of pocket? Does my utility give favorable treatment to a specific type of renewable? Are there any incentives offered by my utilities and local, state and federal government that might help to reduce my costs?
- Input issues: availability of inputs in sufficient quantity (sun, wind, waste) Questions to consider: Does my property have sufficient, constant wind speed to make wind generation feasible? Do I have sufficient space to install a wind tower? Does my building’s roof have the proper orientation for solar (southern exposure)? Are there trees blocking the sun? Is the structure of my roof strong enough to handle solar panels? How and where will I be able to get a quantity and quality of waste needed to make anaerobic digestion or biomass a possibility?
- Output issues: amount of energy you can produce by type of renewable system Questions to consider: Am I looking for energy strictly for my own use? Or, am I also looking to produce excess energy to sell on the grid to my utility? If the latter, starting out by talking with your utility is best.
- Social issues: neighbor acceptability and housing development covenants Questions to consider: Does my housing development have covenants prohibiting certain types of RE installations? Will my neighbors accept my plans?
- Environmental issues: viewshed, impact on wildlife, local zoning and building regulations Questions to consider: Does my local zoning and building office allow for the type of RE that I are interested in? If there are stipulations, what are they and how will they impact on my plans? Am I in a bird/bat migratory path or nesting area? (for wind)
What tools can help?
The In My Backyard (IMBY) tool created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory helps you estimates how much electricity you can produce through solar and wind power in your own backyard. The following web site walks you through steps that will help you learn the estimated energy output of a solar or wind system: http://www.nrel.gov/eis/imby/about.html
Your utility provider also has programs and tools that can help you to analyze and assess the benefits of different RE systems, and help you to make choices compatible with your own values and resources. The Incentives search feature on the Energize Ohio web site can be used to access programs and assistance provided by your specific utility. The home page address is: https://energizeohio.osu.edu
Choosing a Renewable Energy System Installer
How do I choose a reliable, capable installer?
In order to find an installer for your renewable energy project, it is best to seek out those who have been certified or are experienced in the type of application that you are interested in. Two organizations (see below) provide installer certification programs in solar technologies, so this provides a good place to start if you are interested in this type of RE system for your home or business. Green Energy Ohio provides a list of certified installers in Ohio, so this is also a very good resource to use. Their web site is: www.greenenergyohio.org
The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, a voluntary board of leaders in renewable energy, is a national certification organization for professional installers in the field of solar renewable energy. NABCEP issues voluntary certification credentials to those qualified professionals who satisfy eligibility requirements established by the Board of Directors. Their web site address is: http://www.nabcep.org/installer-locator?state=OH
The Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association offers program that promotes the establishment of a professional field of systems integrators and installers by providing advanced training that builds professional proficiency in solar photovoltaic system design, application, business management and ethics for meeting the requirements of electric utility, state and local electrical standards. GLREA provides certification for installers. Their web site address is: http://www.glrea.org/education/sic.html