Thursday, May 16, 2013

GREEN ENERGY: Generate your own or use a provider?


If you can’t put up a wind turbine without pissing off the neighbours or you don’t feel like digging yourself a debt-grave to buy a brand new solar PV system, alternatives exist to power your home with green energy. Solar power leasing and using a green energy provider are two viable options. But before jumping into either of these arrangements, first consider the ramifications to determine which option works best for you.

 

Solar power


As long as you own a home and qualify, a third party provider such as REC Solar will enter into a contract with you to install and maintain a PV system on your property at no cost. Under a solar power purchase agreement (SPPA) they own the panels and charge you a set rate for the electricity that their system generates. A solar lease is the same except you pay a fixed monthly rate to rent the system regardless of how much power your panels produce.

Pros


Free – First and foremost, the greatest benefit to leasing is not having to pay the substantial upfront costs of purchasing and installing a solar PV system (aside from possibly paying a small installation cost). But is it really yours? No. You can’t say you actually own it, but should you generate the funds at some point in the future you may be able to buy the system from them.

Predictable pricing – The two most common pricing options under these arrangements are fixed price and fixed escalator. You could choose to lock in at a fixed rate, which may result in higher initial costs, but can save you in the long-term as electricity prices rise. The fixed escalator alternative translates to a lower initial cost, with slight annual increases. Either option means you can count on a predictable electricity rate for years to come.

Minimal concerns – You neither have to worry about your system not performing up to par nor concern yourself with the complicated permitting process and installation and maintenance headaches.

Cons


Lack of ownership – You don’t actually own the system under this arrangement. And since it isn’t yours, you’re at the mercy of the contract and can’t do what you want with the panels.

Incentives – Government tax credits and rebates offered by utility companies go to the third party provider, not you.

Contracts – If you don’t like dealing with paperwork and signing contracts, this type of arrangement could cause aggravation.

Additional costs – Putting panels up on your home may raise your property taxes.

 

Wind


Green energy providers such as Bullfrog Power buy up electricity from wind farms and other renewable energy sources, then resell that electricity to you. You continue purchasing energy from your local utility and the provider uses your funds to add green energy to the grid. It’s a simple setup that doesn’t require much work at all on your part.

Pros


Backing the right cause – By supporting green energy producers you not only increase their sales, which leads to more wind farms, but you avoid putting money into the pockets of coal, nuclear and other dirty energy providers.

Easy – Making the switch is as simple as filling out a form that you can cancel at any time. If you cannot install a wind turbine on your property or if you just don’t like the idea of having one, this avoids the hassle.

No NIMBYsWind turbines have sadly been stigmatized as noisy eyesores. The not in my backyard factor stops many a wind turbine from ever spinning a blade. Going this route allows you to use wind energy without the headaches associated with putting up a turbine.

Cons


Cost – Purchasing power from a green energy provider means that you’re still paying your regular energy bill as well as a premium to the green energy provider on top of that.

Invisible – People won’t know you’re powering your home by wind unless you tell them. Do you enjoy advocating on behalf of renewable energy? If so—and you don’t like openly advertising that you buy green energy—this may not be the choice for you. If, on the other hand, you like to stand on the soapbox and spin soliloquies about the benefits of green power, here’s your chance!

No sight to see – To some people, staring into a wind turbines’ spinning blades until they enter a trance is quite a thrill. Going this route means you won’t have your own turbine to look at, but you would be contributing to the building of turbines at a wind farm somewhere nearby.

Syndicated from TheMindfulWord image: mechanikat (Creative Commons BY-SA)

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