These days, there is a huge debate (it is not at all well informed or accurate) about the positives and negatives of renewable energy supplies. Interestingly though, the types of green energy most commonly discussed are solar and wind power. Hydroelectric and geothermal seem to be looked over. Why is that?
Not everybody can use hydroelectric-you have to be near a swift-flowing body of water. Furthermore, both hydroelectric generators and geothermal systems (use the earth’s heat to provide heat) are too large and expensive for the average household to build.
In contrast, panels of solar cells and wind turbines are comparatively small, and are inexpensive enough for individual households to invest in. More importantly, they can be used anywhere in the world. Sure, some locations are better than others-the Southwestern USA gets more sun and the Great Plains gets stronger, steadier winds-but the truth is the sun shines and the wind blows no matter where you are.
So why should households invest in solar and wind power? The main reasons fall into three general categories: Financial, Practical, and Ethical. Let’s look at these below.
Financial: In these days of credit crunches and recession, the financial benefits of solar and wind energy are the strongest arguments. Installing solar cells or a household wind turbine can reduce your bills by 80%, or even eliminate it completely. If you generate enough electricity, power companies may be pay you to divert the surplus energy onto the local power grid. The money saved on powering a household can counterbalance the soaring cost of food and gas, allowing households to leave their savings untouched, or spend it on more important things.
Practical: There are many practical reasons for households to install solar cells and wind turbines. Firstly, it is a great investment. Even though wind and solar power generators are expensive to install (at least $3000, and prices only rise from there), they are renewable energy sources. The money saved every month on power will pay for initial investment over the next few years. Furthermore, installing alternative power systems increase the property value of a home.
Ethical: Over half of all electricity is generated in power plants by burning coal, which releases greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and is causing global warming. The increasing demand for a shrinking supply of oil is driving the price steadily up and playing havoc with the global economy. Installing solar and wind power generators enables any household to contribute to solving these problems. It is better for the environment, decreases demand on limited fossil fuels, and created a better future for our children.
Finally, let’s clear up a few misconceptions about alternative energy. Opponents of alternative energy would have us believe that as soon as the sun goes behind a cloud or the wind stills, our homes would be blacked out. This is not true for two reasons: batteries and the weather. First, power generated by solar cells and wind turbines is plugged directly into electrical sockets of the home. The home runs off powerful batteries, which are in turn recharged by solar and wind generators. Secondly, storm clouds (that block sunlight from solar cells) are created by the collision of two air masses with different temperatures (higher pressure and lower pressure air cells).
The collision of these two air cells also creates wind. In other words, if there are storm clouds blocking out the sun, you can guarantee they will be accompanied by strong winds. On the other hand, still, listless air occurs when one air cell dominates the area-in which case there will be little or no cloud cover, and the solar cells can drink up the sunlight. Consequently, installing a combination of both solar cells and wind turbines is the best option for powering a household with alternate energy generators.