Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wind and Solar Energy: Why Aren't We Using Them?

The answer is that a thin slice of homeowners have adopted wind and/or solar power. That was a different era, however. A gallon of gas was around $1.30 a gallon (slightly higher in Hawaii). We were not feeling the pinch from the electric company either. You could get 2 loaves of bread for a dollar in most grocery stores; maybe 3 loaves if you catch a special.

I don't need to waste my breathe telling you what those same costs are in 2008. But the ideas of wind and solar energy for residential use is still "pie in the sky" for most of us. Oh, we'd like to do it, it's just not in the budget.

What puzzles me is why my electric company isn't beating down my door to get a wind generator (or two or three) put in my yard. Why isn't my county or state government encouraging me to use some of that undeveloped land I have to put wind generators up? I mean, if everyone who has a little bit of land was given the incentives (and subsidies) to put some renewable power back into the grid, wouldn't that help? Wouldn't that help reduce the amount of coal burned and deposited into the atmosphere? Wouldn't that bring down the cost of electricity, and our overall cost of living?

OK, there are incentive programs, but it's not going to help the vast majority of us. Most of us simply cannot afford the upfront costs, period. What I would like to see is the electric companies, local, state, and federal government make wind and solar power sources a viable option for everyone.

One promising initiative is being led by T. Boone Pickens, and if you watch TV at all, you've no doubt seen his commercials about America's dependence on foreign oil. He proposes to replace up the 22% of natural gas electricity with Wind. Then shift the natural gas to transportation needs. The end result is that we reduce how much money we export to oil producing nations (and in some cases terrorist supporting nations) by from $700 billion to $400 billion a year. This is going to be accomplished by creating "wind farms" that will feed back into the grid.

Here's the link to Pickens Plan or watch his video here.

So, I breach the question... What would be the impact if everyone who had the land put up as many wind generators as they could? Granted, some people do not live in houses with land around them. Apartments, townhouses, condos, and other multiple dwellings structures would still be disadvantaged for wind energy, but could probably implement solar energy. Homeowners associations would have to get over their rules and allow these things in. The overall cost of electricity to all of us would be greatly reduced. With mass production, and better government incentives, the upfront costs would come down to where everyone could afford it.

Valuable Resources:

American Wind Energy Association

U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technologies program

Solar Electric Power Association

Alternative Energy

National Renewable Energy laboratory

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