Why Aren’t Energy Producers Converting to Renewable Energy

Why Doesn’t My Electrical Provider use Renewable Energy?

written by: Mike Aguilar•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher

If we want to keep using electrical devices in the not-so-distant future, we need to start investing in renewable energy sources. Energy producers are balking at this development mainly because of the cost of renewable energy installations and plants.

Oil and coal, although common and popular sources now for electrical power generation, are finite resources that will one day no longer be available. Nuclear power can provide us with electrical power for much longer than fossil fuels, but the danger it entails makes many people nervous. Other than biofuels, which so far tend to use up as much energy to manufacture as they produce, that leaves wind power, solar power, and wave power as the best bets for energy sources that won’t run out in the foreseeable future. The bottom line is money, but there’s more to it.

We’ll take a look at the various forms of renewable energy that can be leveraged in each region of the country. Then we’ll explore why more energy providers aren’t investing in our future by investing in renewable technologies.

How Your Electrical Utility Makes a Profit

This sounds pretty obvious. You get a bill every month showing how much energy you used at what rates, and at the bottom the total is listed.

System upgrades and new energy production resources cost money, but energy producers aren’t like most businesses. Your favorite mechanic isn’t going to raise his rates immediately in order to pay for a new tool that allows him to perform more work. If the tool is expensive, he’s going to pay for that tool over a period of time, making monthly payments and taking a small profit from the use of that tool each month.

An energy producer, on the other hand, is going to petition the state utility commission, and maybe the federal government, asking to raise rates to cover the cost of construction, material acquisition, and implementation costs BEFORE they make the decision to perform the upgrade or acquire the new generating capacity.

Different Types of Renewable Energy Sources

By now almost everyone in the country has heard at least some of the discussions concerning renewable energy. Many people are familiar with solar power and many would have had enquired about their local government solar panel scheme or atleast have looked into solar panel installation quotes by now. Most people may have seen windmills while driving around.

Unconventional Sources of Alternate Energy

Wave Energy

The natural tidal motion of the oceans can be a source of power as well. Large floats, for example can be made to move up and down on the waves, rotating a shaft that turns a generator. This is a power source that is eternal, since the oceans are always in motion, and that is not very dependent on the weather, and it’s contently located near population centers on our nation’s coastlines.

Biomass – Fuel from Rubbish

Biomass energy sources convert organic waste into methane and then use the methane to generate power. One renewable source (that at least seems eternal) is the use of landfills. In these, the entire area is covered in plastic and a network of pipes under them collects the methane produced from the anaerobic decay of organic materials. From these pipes the gas is pumped into holding tanks for the power generator plant.

This is in contrast to how landfills are usually considered “closed.” When a landfill has reached its limit of garbage, typically, they’re just covered over with a relatively thick layer of dirt, and the garbage is allowed to decompose. Of course, methane is still produced. Instead of being used, however, it is left to percolate out and dissipate upward as an occasional surprise for unwary golfers.

The local municipality operating the landfill can help defray the costs of garbage collection and processing by selling the methane that the decomposition process generates.

Renewable Energy Potential of Different Regions in the US

Technically speaking, any type of renewable energy source can be used anywhere. However, conditions in the various regions of the country make certain types of renewable energy more feasible. As an example, desert areas are prime locations for solar panel farms, while flat, windy prairie areas are ideal for wind turbines. Below, we’ll take a look at the various regions of the country and mention the energy types that make the most sense for them.

Western United States

The western region of the United States is friendliest for renewable energy. Many people living in this region are environmentally conscious (and vocal) and make their desire for greater investments in clean methods of producing power perfectly clear.

California and the desert states have plenty of sunshine to make solar power feasible. The high deserts and lower mountain ranges of the state also experience plenty of wind. Oregon and Washington experience enough “wind days” to make windmills effective, and the long coastlines gives easy access for the use of wave power and for offshore windmills to generate power.


Even though the Midwest region of the US experiences a large number of stormy days, there is enough sun that the newer, more efficient solar panels of today can still make solar power a feasible source of energy. The Plains Region, for example, is fairly windy almost every day. Newer windmill technology requires very little wind speed in order to be productive.

This area of the country is sometimes referred to as “The Nation’s Breadbasket” because of the various food grains that are grown here. These food grains, and the remains from their production, can make sense as sources of power as well. (The main hurdle that solar panels and windmills encounter in this region is storms, as the area is known for tornadoes.)

South and Southeast

Like the western states region of the US, the south has a long coastline that can make wave power an effective source of power. Florida is known as the Sunshine State, which means that solar power can be very productive. The coastal areas experience light breezes quite often, so wind is another likely renewable source of energy production.

A major university in Florida recently ran a large scale experiment using a covered landfill generating methane to provide the power for a large portion of the campus. This experiment proved the efficacy of power generation using biomass-generated methane.

East and Northeast

All of the above mentioned sources of renewable energy are possible, to some extent, in the east and northeast of the country. Coastal regions can benefit from wave and wind generated power, while inland areas can utilize solar and wind power. Area landfills can be converted to biomass methane production.

Why Isn’t My Energy Utility Using Renewable Technologies Yet?

Energy companies don’t like to spend money that they can’t recoup immediately. For this reason, most are holding off on investing in renewable technologies until the federal government takes a leadership role and provides them either with funding to convert from fossil fuels to renewable technologies… or allows them to raise their rates.

The financial company Ernst and Young recently authored a study in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit. They polled a number of executives from energy producers and consumers across the country. Every one of the executives said that money was a prime reason why their company wasn’t doing more in the renewable energy sector, and extremely low profit margins was one of the main reasons they cited. Until government incentives are brought forth, most of these companies aren’t going to make any sizable investments into renewable energy.


Image: HAWT and VAWTs in operation medium courtesy wikimedia commons by Ssgxnh in the Public Domain.

Image: Mafate Marla solar panel dsc00633 ciourtesy wikimedia commons by David Monniaux under GNU Free Documentation License.

Renewable energy in North AmericaMoving toward a richer mix – Ernst & Young Produced in co-operation with the Economist Intelligence Unit

Image: Dollar sign (reflective metallic) courtesy wikimedia commons by anonymoususer and is in the Public Domain.

Article sourced by http://www.brighthub.com/environment/renewable-energy/articles/127522.aspx

Green Living: Our Attempt At Living Off Grid With Renewable Energy

While the well and septic adventures were under way, we had been in discussions with various companies to have a pole barn built. A very good learning here is that you can be TOO detail oriented when getting a pole barn built. The first few companies could never come up with an affordable price for us because I kept going over the top with details and alterations etc. The result was always an estimate we could not accept. So when my wife finally stepped in and forbade me asking more than three questions of the next company representative, we finally made a deal.

Somewhere during all the planning we had also been getting estimates for the cost to bring in electricity and telephone and cable. We learned that they could all come up in one trench, but would be separated by depth in the trench. Fine. But the cost was prohibitive on our budget at the time. Since it would all have to come up about a half mile, the estimates were coming in around $20,000. Too much. We talked and talked between us, my wife and I, and decided to look into providing our own power with a generator at first, and with renewable energy down the road. We were going off grid.

We were committed to doing this for ourselves, to do it in our meager budget, so we would not be calling in the ‘green energy companies’ or the ‘renewable energy companies’ at this point. In fact, we would not even be setting it all up at one time. Realizing we could develop our green electricity slowly, starting with dirty brown generator power at first, gave us the freedom to enjoy our dream. I knew we could find solar panels for sale at any time, and had even started to hear the term affordable solar power. As it would turn out, wind would be more appealing in the short run, and I never got around to those residential solar panels.

I’m not going to lie to you about this. It took a lot of research to get up to speed on the concepts involved. But none of what I learned or did is beyond the abilities of most people. After all, I was an accountant at the time, not a general contractor!

So we bought a generator. Not even a giant one, the first one was a portable contractor’s generator. I hate to say it, but I was not into machine maintenance at the time, so we eventually burned it up. Oops. Live and learn. But it got us through converting our pole barn into a home. When the contractor was done with our pole barn, it was an empty shell with three small windows, two garage doors, two man doors, and a dirt floor. It was a two story model (see the pictures), but had no second floor installed either. We did all the rest of the work ourselves. The next generator was a little more robust, and I performed regular maintenance on it. Better.

We got a used propane stove for the kitchen, and propane space heaters, and lived with them for a while. In the very beginning, because we were so anxious to get to living up there (selling our home in town), we even lived with oil lamps for a while. Getting propane in place, with the same tanks you use on a barbecue grill in the beginning, was easy. It got us cooking, and some heating, in short order. Later, I installed an airtight wood stove that was wonderful for heating the place. Firewood is an entirely different subject though.

Off Grid Living: Trace Inverter Panel, Bosch Aquastar Tankless Water Heater, 12X Battery Bank – 24 Volt

Off Grid Living: Propane Powered Refrigerator

Off Grid Systems

Water was a matter of running the generator for about a half hour to pump water from our well up the ridge about a hundred feet to our thousand gallon water tank. Gravity would then provide water pressure to the house. It worked great. Be sure to bury the water lines though, or things get a little dicey when the temperatures hit the freezing mark. For hot water, I installed a Bosch Aquastar tankless heater, running on propane. That thing is awesome! Never running out of hot water is sweet.

Eventually, we would get a propane powered refrigerator, and a high efficiency washer and dryer. We went with propane wherever we could, and high efficiency or low voltage whenever it required electricity. To provide clean household current that would not damage sensitive electronics like our computers, we installed a battery bank with 12 batteries and an inverter from Trace Engineering. I think they are called Xantrex now. The inverter set I bought also included a integrated battery charging module.

Once a week, we would run the generator for three or four hours. During that time, we would do our laundry (because the washer was such a drain on the battery bank), refill the water tank (the well pump used 220 volts and ran only 30 minutes), and recharge the batteries for the coming week. Due to careful planning, sort of, we only needed electricity for lighting, television, and computers during the week.

Some of the lighting in the house was low voltage, with the transformers stripped out so I could run it directly from the battery bank, in case I had to take the inverter system off line. In other places, we used low wattage bulbs, and cfl’s. It wasn’t luxurious in the mainstream sense, but we were loving it.

I learned a lot in this experience. I did a lot of things wrong, and never even got around to doing other things. For example, by the time we sold the property, I had bought two wind generators but only installed one of them (Southwest Wind Power, 400 watt models). It was not an easy life and should have been easier than it was. I blame myself for that.

It just comes down to learning the right ways of doing things, and learning that there will be times when you might not feel like doing something, but you had better do it, or you will be uncomfortable later. Firewood is a good example of this. Firewood should be taken care of during the spring and summer, when the weather is nice, and you can get to the fallen trees in the woods. The problem is that when the weather is so nice, you want to go off and play instead. Not good.

How do I feel about living off grid now that I am living on the grid in a city? I would do it again in a heartbeat! I have every hope of getting another crack at it. There are many things I would do differently, and many things I would do the same. Mostly I would be doing the same things, but I would do them differently. Get it? I would take care of things more quickly, and get systems in place before I moved on to the property. I would make an annual schedule for myself that would keep me focused on things to be done during nice weather so as to be comfortable when the weather turns nasty. But no matter what, I would do it again in a minute. It’s the most wonderful feeling to live off grid and be taking care of yourself.

Additional Relevant Titles

The Homeowner’s Guide to Renewable Energy: Achieving Energy Independence through Solar, Wind, Biomass and Hydropower (Mother Earth News Wiser Living)

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