Burning fossil fuels produces many health and environmental hazards including acid rain, smog, regional haze, and climate change. In addition to these hazards, fossil fuel supplies are dwindling and shortages are causing political strife. There are several clean, affordable, renewable alternatives to burning fossil fuels for power generation and heating. Options such as solar power, wind power, hydro power, and geothermal heat exchange systems are clean and simple ways to meet your energy needs.
Go outside on a sunny day. The light falling on your face left the sun just eight minutes ago. In that time it traveled 93 million miles. That golden sunlight is full of tiny packets of energy called photons, which move at 186,000 miles per second. (Moving at that speed it would take you less than 1/8th of a second to circle the earth). Those photons are hauling and when they strike a solar panel, their motion can be converted into electricity or used for heating water.
Enough sunlight falls on the roof of an average Colorado house to provide most of its electricity and hot water. Instead of producing more than 25,000 pounds of greenhouse gases each year, as most local homes do, it’s possible to meet most residential energy needs with solar hot water and solar photovoltaic systems.
Solar Electric (PV) Systems
PV systems power the international space station and hundreds of satellites transmitting TV signals and cell phone calls. PV is an elegant, sophisticated, and reliable technology that now powers many homes. Yours could be next! In the Roaring Fork Valley, solar electric systems are net metered. That means when your solar system is producing more energy than your home is using, your meter will spin backwards. When your home uses more than your system produces, your meter will spin forward, but at a slower speed. You are only billed for the “net” usage: (Electricity bill = Kilowatt hours from the utility – Kilowatt hours from solar.)
Curious How It Works?
- Virtual Solar Electricity Tour
- CORE Solar Cash Incentives
- PV-What Its Worth by Randy Udall
- Stud Muffins and Kilowatt-hours by Randy Udall
- Energy Payback of PV Installatio
Solar Hot Water Systems
A typical family of four in the U.S. uses about 80 gallons of hot water each day. To heat that water with electricity takes about 16 pounds of coal. In sunny Colorado, a standard solar hot water system can supply 60% – 95% of this energy, pollution free from the sun, while saving its owners a lot of money.
How does it work? Solar hot water systems capture the sun’s heat in rooftop solar collectors. Pipes channel that heat from the collectors to a solar storage tank, where cold water is preheated on its way to the hot water heater. Since the storage tank stays hot, it works even after the sun goes down.
Solar hot water can be used for domestic hot water, hot tubs, pools and radiant heat. It can also be used for snowmelt on sidewalks and driveways. With high efficiency and all of these potential applications, solar hot water offers a rapid payback.
The result: You save on electricity or gas because your hot water heater has to do little or no work, and the environment wins as well.
In the Roaring Fork Valley, we have abundant resources available–one of which is hydro power. There are many locations in the Valley that have the potential to produce electricity. If you have flowing water onsite with a volume of at least 3 cubic feet per second, you may have a good site for micro-hydro. CORE can help you pay for a feasibility study with a $250 grant, and if you are able to install a system, CORE offers a $1,500 rebate. Call CORE at 544-9808 for more information.
Geo Exchange Systems
Installing a geothermal system is another way to tap into the Valley’s renewable resources. Geothermal heat pumps take advantage of the constant temperature of the ground’s surface (around 58 degrees regardless of air temperature) in order to heat your house. Ground-source heat pump systems have been installed locally at the Doerr-Hosier Center and at ACES. For more information, please call CORE at 544-9808.
A list of local contractors certified by the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association is available at http://www.igshpa.okstate.edu/directory/directory.asp.