Renewable energy differs slightly for each state. This can lead to confusion for homeowners who are looking to improve their homes and reduce their energy costs because a simple google search for green technology on homes doesn’t give you a solid picture. There are some similarities across borders though. Most states agree on the major components of what renewable energy is and include at least solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, biogas and biomass.
This is far from an exhaustive list of renewable energy sources, but it covers the main ones that most homeowners are familiar with and have a high probability of trying to incorporate. Each one has a different kind of market, depending on location and availability. Even when working with the best possible options for an area, there are still substantial costs and challenges to overcome.
Wind energy is, currently, difficult for individual households to install. That’s because our primary tool is still wind turbines. An industrial wind turbine is over 300 feet tall, so it’s not something most people are willing to install. However, there are smaller models available for homeowners that are much more reasonable. Many people aren’t familiar with them, and they stick out pretty significantly. If you have any trees or hills around your home, it would be hard to get enough airflow to make it worthwhile.
However, if you live in an open, windy area and you have enough land, then wind turbines might not be a bad idea. A residential wind turbine comes in at around $48,000. It’s still a hefty price tag, but if you live in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, California, North Dakota, or one of the other big states for wind power, it may be well worth the investment.
Solar power is probably the most versatile and well-known option for renewable energy. Almost anywhere you go, you can now find homes that have solar panels installed, and that’s a big deal! It allows people to have more control over their energy use without having to depend on the grid, which in turn, helps to cut down on the strain the network is already under.
Evaluating how much money it can save you is pretty tricky since renewable energy costs by state are so varied. However, the installation of one product can help reduce your reliance on the grid, which is mainly powered by fossil fuels. As we continue to use them, fossil fuels will continue to get more expensive, while solar power will continue to fall as demand rises.
The installation cost of solar power is usually what stops people from making the jump, and if you’re not planning to stay in your home, then you may not want to have them installed. However, if you’re going to be there for at least five to 10 years, then solar is a great option. Right now, the average is around $15,000-$20,000, but that price is expected to continue falling. Some companies, like Tesla, are looking to move their production more into the US to avoid penalties for importing solar panels.
Hydroelectric power is already well integrated into our power grid, but not on an individual scale. Dams are built all over the world, but it’s a lot harder to have one on your property. Hoover Dam is known throughout the world as one of the first, most advanced hydroelectric dams in the world. But hydropower like that isn’t considered renewable. The creation of a large lake often wipes out so much land that the resulting power, while sustainable, devastates the native area.
For an individual home to take advantage of hydroelectric power, most people would assume that you’d need to be close to a stream or flowing body of water, but micro-hydro power generators are available. It’s still recommended that you live near a naturally occurring body of water, but the cost comes down a lot with this method. One generator can be installed without a professional and costs less than $100. Of course, if you don’t live near a stream, then it’s probably not worth the trouble of moving!
Geothermal has a lot of potential in the West and Midwest of the United States. Areas out there have a vast supply of geothermal heat and seismic activity, and homes are often fairly rural. This makes for the perfect place to install geothermal.
Geothermal heat is based on heat from the ground, where it is both stored from the summer and provided by seismic activity. Places close to Yellowstone, for example, would have ample supplies of geothermal energy due to the natural resources in the area. Getting them installed requires a decent amount of land and geothermal has substantial installation costs, with estimates starting at $20,000 for the low end.
It’s nearly impossible to estimate what those costs would be since it’s so dependent on the exact location you live in, but you can figure out if it’s worth it! Hawaii, Alaska and western continental states can get the most bang for their buck when it comes to geothermal. If possible, joining together with multiple houses or an apartment complex can reduce the cost for everyone involved and create a massive opportunity for community funded renewable power sources.
Biogas is a greener option for most places than biomass. Biomass is burning organic matter, which many people do in their homes. Fireplaces are conventional, and they can certainly help cut down on the heat, but they aren’t very useful in areas that are warmer year-round. However, this can be useful if you have a method to alter your fireplace to act as an incinerator or can have one installed. Burning enough waste, installing incinerators and expelling scrubbed air will be prohibitively expensive for most individuals though.
Biogas, however, has a more distributed use. People can use it to collect and store energy even in the remotest areas. AgStar is a government based program dedicated to reducing methane emissions from livestock waste, making this a perfect option for farmers. The cost is on the lower end, especially since you can rig up a system on your own and have it cost well under $5,000. Systems like this are the most cost-effective on large farms where you have to pay to store and eliminate animal waste anyway. You might as well get something back for it!
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to give a breakdown of what any energy system will cost for a home. There are just too many variables to consider, so you would have to call and request an estimate. The government offers a variety of programs for help with funding and tax breaks for homeowners who do it, so check with those sites and ask the representative that you meet.