Interested in using renewable energy? Consider the tips on this page
to save you time and money and to help you decide what energy source
might be right for you:
1. Know Your Energy SituationCalculate your energy usage in the three energy areas: heating,
electricity, and transportation. Chart it on paper. Involve staff
members or members of your family. How much does your business or your
home spend monthly and annually on space heating, electricity and fuel
for your vehicles? How much do you spend per kilowatt-hour, gallon, and
mcf (natural gas)? Which energy do you spend the most on? The least?
2. Start with EfficiencyDon’t forget the simple steps you can do now. We know they are not as
exciting as solar panels or making your own fuel. We know insulation
isn't nearly as easy to brag about as a geothermal heat pump. . .but it
is the place to start without a doubt. The Department of Energy claims
you can knock 20% off your usage with simple no cost/low cost
3. Choose an Energy SourceAfter you know your energy usage and expenses and have reduced
your demand, you need to decide what you want to accomplish. What is
your end goal? Are you looking to heat your building, produce
electricity, or fuel your vehicle? Learn more about each energy source below, along with a few key points to consider when assessing the feasibility of each resource.
Biomass is organic material and can provide heat, electricity and/or power transportation. A
fireplace, pellet stove or boiler can be used for heating. Large
facilities may find that electricity production is also financially
viable with a boiler or anaerobic digester. Biofuels can power
vehicles. The sources available will vary by region and ultimately
dictate the financial viability of using this type of energy.
Geothermal heating and cooling systems utilize underground thermal
energy to provide constant humidity and comfortable temperatures while
using only enough electricity to power a blower to move the warm or cool
air throughout a building. Correctly sizing the system to the space it
will be heating/cooling is crucial for efficient operation. Climate,
soil conditions, and available outdoor space will dictate the the layout
of system. Retrofitting an existing building is possible.
Hydroelectric is often cost effective but requires running water on
your property. The height the water drops (head) and the flow of water
are used to determine the amount of electricity that can be produced and
will dictate system design. Permitting can be a long multi-step
Solar energy can be utilized in many different ways, from passive space
heating to water heating to electricity generation. Incorporating
passive heating design is easiest in new buildings, but steps can be
taken to also utilize it in established buildings. A south facing
location that is shade-free is the key factor in determining whether
solar water heating and electric generation are possible.
Wind energy can be an efficient way to generate electricity, when a
resource is available. Proper siting of a turbine (including being in a
windy location and well above obstacles, like trees and buildings) is
essential for maximum power production. Wind maps can help determine
whether advanced site analysis would be worthwhile.
Also take note of the following questions:
If you are planning to generate your own
electricity with solar panels or a wind or small hydro turbine, will you
be using a battery-less grid-tied system, grid-tied with
battery-back-up, or an off-grid system? Most common is the battery-less
grid-tied system. When selecting to connect to the grid, you will have
to notify your utility, because any electricity you generate impacts
the grid. We recommend contacting your utility very early in the
process and building a good relationship with them. Go to Homepower Magazine to learn more.
Depending on the type, size, and location of
your project, you will probably need to seek approval before beginning.
Be sure to check with your local municipality to see if there are any
regulations regarding your technology. You may also need to contact
other organizations, such as state and federal government agencies to
ensure all proper approvals are met.
4. Determine Costs and Secure FinancingKnowing where to find financing is one of the most important elements of
developing a renewable energy project. Financing for a renewable
energy improvement or to add it to new construction is similar to
financing any other home improvement or capital project. However, there
are some important differences, challenges, and resources you should be
aware of. These systems are not cheap and typically you will need to
make a significant investment on your own plus have some help from
incentives to make it pay. Installers should also be knowledgeable of
available opportunities related to your project (see step 5).
Rural Energy for America Program
(REAP)Administered by USDA—Rural DevelopmentThe Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to complete a variety of projects. Offering both loan guarantees and grants, REAP helps eligible applicants install renewable energy systems, make energy efficiency improvements, and conduct energy audits and feasibility studies.
On-Farm Energy InitiativeThis program, through the UDSA NRCS, provides
funding for an energy audit (Agricultural Energy Management Plan, or AgEMP) or
energy efficiency improvements on the farm.
Appalachian Regional Commission
ARC, a joint program of federal, state, and local governments in the Appalachians, provides a
range of assistance to help communities develop clean energy programs, a well as support to help new energy businesses expand and create local jobs.
Federal Tax CreditAdministrated
by the US Internal Revenue Service, Environmental Protection Agency and Department
of EnergyThis program allows a tax credit on fuel cells, small wind turbines, geothermal heat pumps, solar water
heaters and photovoltaic systems (with a gradual step down over time, before being phased out). Homes, businesses, farms,
industrial facilities and other organizations may qualify.
Modified Accelerated Cost-Recovery System
This tax strategy can be used by businesses to recover the cost of various renewable
Alternative and Clean Energy Program (ACE)Administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority - Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
The Alternative and Clean Energy Program provides financial assistance in the form of grant and loan funds that will be used by eligible applicants for the utilization, development and construction of alternative and clean energy projects in PA.
Energy Development Authority (PEDA)
The authority finances advanced energy projects
in Pennsylvania through grants, loans, and loan guarantees.
PA DEP Small Business Advantage Grant This program offers a 50% match of up to $7,000 to enable Pennsylvania small businesses to purchase energy efficient or pollution prevention equipment, or adopt waste reduction processes.
PA DEP Website
Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE)
Commercial and agricultural property owners may
develop a clean energy project and secure a capital provider to finance the
project (including equipment, labor and soft costs). A low-cost, long-term loan
payment that repays the costs of the upgrades is added to the property tax bill
and collected as an assessment by the county/municipality. Available in participating locations.
ACT 129 and other energy efficiency/conservation initiatives Many electric utilities offer rebates and other incentives to reduce electricity consumption and peak demand.
Sustainable Energy Funds (SEF)Created through the restructuring of electric companies, these funds promote sustainability and renewable energy in PA.
Metropolitan Edison Region Sustainable
Energy Fund, Administered by the Berks County Community Foundation
Penelec Region Sustainable Energy Fund, Administered by the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies
Met-Ed/Penelec SEF Website
Sustainable Development Fund, Administered by The Reinvestment Fund
TRF SEF Website
West Penn Power Sustainable Energy FundWPPSEF Website
Sustainable Energy Fund of Central Eastern
Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE)Maintained by the Carolina Clean Energy Technology CenterFunded through the U.S. Department of Energy
DSIRE is a
comprehensive source of information on state, federal, local, and utility incentives and policies.
5. Choose an Installer WiselyNow that you know what energy you will be using, you need to determine how your system will be installed. We recommend you learn the basics of each technology before calling installers. Renewable energy systems are significant investments, somewhere between buying a car and buying a house. Take your time to shop around, compare suppliers and find the one you feel comfortable with. See our business directory for questions you should be prepared to ask installers and questions they will ask you as well as for a listing of renewable energy installers.
So you've reviewed your situation, but you are still not sure what to
do? Contact us and we would be glad to point you in the right
direction. Email email@example.com or phone 814-472-2872.
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