Start a Renewable Energy Project

Partnering with the power of nature

  • Helping you get started

     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 Situation

      Get Started 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 Efficiency

      Get Started 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 solutions. 

    3. Choose an Energy Source

      Get Started 3 Choose An Energy SourceAfter you know your own energy usage and expenses and have reduced your demand, you must first know what you are wanting to accomplish.  What is your end goal? Are you looking to heat your building, produce electricity, or fuel your vehicle?  See the tabbed section below to help you decide.  Also take note of the following questions: 

    4. Will you be generating electricity?

      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.

      What permits will you need?

      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.

    5.  Determine Costs and Secure Financing

      Get Started 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).

      Financial Resources

    6. Choose an Installer Wisely

       Get Started 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.

  • Determining what is right for you

    Use the resources in this section to help you decide if a project may be feasible. Select a user tab to begin.

    Homeowners
    Homeowners

    REC's Renewable Energy Rules of Thumb

    icon_cflbulb_grayStart with energy efficiency. You can save money and reduce your impact on the environment. Buy efficient appliances and light bulbs.

    What resource should I use?

    icon_geothermal_grayGeothermal heating and cooling systems provide constant humidity and comfortable temperatures while using only enough electricity to power a blower that sends the warm or cool air throughout the building.

    icon_hydro_gray Hydro is often cost effective but requires running water on your property.

    icon_wind_grayIf you don't have running water on your property, see if you have good wind resource.

    icon_solar_grayThere are many different ways to use solar, from passive space heating to water heating to electricity generation. Often the most cost-effective solar technology is a solar hot water system. Solar electricity is expensive, but prices are dropping.

    Resources

    To Find an Installer visit our Pennsylvania Renewable Energy Business Directory 

    If you are interested in pursuing solar, check out Get Your Power from the Sun (pdf) and Heat your Water with the Sun (pdf) from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

    Want to determine if you have a wind resource?  Visit our Pennsylvania Wind Maps

    SFU Wind Turbine - We have our own demonstration small wind turbine on campus.  Contact us to learn more!

    If you are interested in pursuing wind, select a frequently asked question below.

    Do I have enough wind?

    In Pennsylvania, wind resource is strongly related to elevation, so the higher you are in elevation the better the wind resource. Generally properties with 1,500 - 2,000+ of elevation are best suited for wind energy. You can put a wind turbine just about anywhere and it will generate electricity. . .the question is how much and if the result satisfies your financial goals and other desired results.Your annual average wind speed should be at least 10 - 12 miles per hour. To help assess your wind see our wind analysis page, which includes wind maps from PA.

    How much will it cost?

    A residential wind system can cost as little as $3,000 for a very small turbine or over $50,000 for a system that can fully power your home. Typical installed costs can range from $15,000 - $20,000 for a 1.8 kilowatt turbine to $50,000 - $60,000 for a 10 kilowatt turbine that can power your home. Bear in mind that you do get what you pay for, therefore an inexpensive turbine will not produce significant amounts of electricity. The amount of power you get depends on your resource. Elements of an installed system include the cost of the turbine, the cost of the tower, and the cost of the installation. Do not skimp on the tower height as the taller the tower, the better the resource and the more electricity you will produce.

    How much will it save?

    How much money you save depends on how much electricity you produce and what your cost of electricity is. You wouldn’t fill a bucket with water if the bucket were full of holes. Before you invest in a renewable energy system, you should make your home as efficient as possible.Efficiency means getting the same benefit with less electricity. For example a laptop computer uses less than half of the electricity as a desktop computer. A compact fluorescent light bulb uses 75% less energy than an incandescent bulb.Conservation refers to your actions, what we call the COPs - cheap, obvious, and profitable: turning things off when not in use unplugging devices that use energy even when they aren’t on lowering your thermostat and water heater when you’re not around. These changes alone can save you 10% - 20% on your energy bills—around $300 dollars a year!The experts at Homepower Magazine claim that every dollar spent on efficiency and conservation will save you three to five dollars on your solar, wind or hydro system. So if you spend $200 to do an extreme green makeover of your home or business—that’s $1,000 you saved on your renewable energy system (because now it doesn’t have to be as large since your energy demand decreased).

    What is the process?

    1) Determine Resource  2) Wind Map Analysis  3) Installer Site Visit  4) Investment Analysis  5) Permitting  6) Power Purchase Agreement  7) Financing  8) Turbine Procurement  9) Construction  10) Operations and Maintenance

    How do I choose an installer?

    Visit our Renewable Energy Center's PA Business Directory for tips on this.

    Are there financial incentives? Where can I find them?

    See our financing page for additional information.

    How much land do I need?

    Generally speaking, you need at least a 1/2 acre of open land where you can mount the turbine on a tower (though this depends on local zoning and regulations)

    What size turbine do I need?

    A typical home uses approximately 9400 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity.The size of your turbine depends on your resource, your energy consumption, and how much power you want to produce. Again, invest in energy efficiency first and never skimp on the height of the tower.

    Do I need a permit?

    This varies by township. Contact your local township office and ask if your township has a residential wind ordinance.

    Farms & Businesses
    Farms & Businesses

    REC's Renewable Energy Rules of Thumb:

    icon_cflbulb_gray Energy efficiency - the most cost effective approach is to begin with energy efficiency.  The Environmental Management Assistance Program provides free energy assistance to small businesses in PA.

    What resource should I use?

    icon_geothermal_gray Geothermal heating and cooling systems provide constant humidity and comfortable temperatures while using only enough electricity to power a blower that sends the warm or cool air throughout the building.

    icon_hydro_gray Hydro is often cost effective but requires running water on your property.

    icon_wind_gray If you don't have running water on your property, see if you have good wind resource.

    icon_solar_gray Solar - there are many different ways to use solar from passive space heating to water heating to electricity generation.

    icon_biomass_gray Biomass - can provide heat or electricity or power transportation.

    Resources:

    To Find an Installer visit our Pennsylvania Renewable Energy Business Directory

    Want to determine if you have a wind resource?  Visit our Pennsylvania Wind Maps

    If you are interested in pursuing wind, we have answers to frequently asked questions here.

    Do I have enough wind?

    In Pennsylvania, wind resource is strongly related to elevation, so the higher you are in elevation the better the wind resource. Generally properties with 1,500 - 2,000+ of elevation are best suited for wind energy. You can put a wind turbine just about anywhere and it will generate electricity. . .the question is how much and if the result satisfies your financial goals and other desired results.The Renewable Energy Center’s Community Wind Power Project assesses wind resource for community wind projects.

    How much will it cost?

    Most of the commercial-scale turbines installed today are 2 MW in size and cost roughly $3.5 Million installed.  Ask for a copy of  "A Review of Feasible Financing Structures for Community Wind Projects in Pennsylvania" - How a project will be financed, owned, and operated can be just as critical to success as wind resource. This study examines financing and ownership structures that can be used for community wind projects in Pennsylvania and discusses the financial model used by the Center to assess the economics of various community wind ownership structures.

    How much will it save?

    How much money you save depends on how much electricity you produce and what your cost of electricity is. You wouldn’t fill a bucket with water if the bucket were full of holes. Before you invest in a renewable energy system, you should make your business as efficient as possible. Contact the Environmental Management Assistance Program for free and confidential consulting.

    What is the process?

    The Renewable Energy Center’s Community Wind Power Project assesses wind resource for community wind projects.

    Are there financial incentives? Where can I find them?

    See our financing page for additional information.

    How much land do I need?

    The land requirements vary by township ordinance and project requirements.

    What size turbine do I need?

    The size of your turbine depends on your resource, your energy consumption, and how much power you want to produce.

    Schools
    Schools

    Assistance from SFU

    A number of different organizations on campus provide educational resources. Check out a few of them below.

    Renewable Energy Center - The Center gives presentations throughout Pennsylvania.  We frequently explain what wind energy is, how a turbine works, costs, and environmental and aesthetics aspects, but we will tailor the talk to your class needs.  Typically we give these presentations to science and environmental classes, but we can structure them for math, history, economics, and political science classes.  

    Science Outreach Center - SOC's mission is to develop relevant, effective, and systemic efforts to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in the community; increase the number of students pursuing an education in STEM fields; and support K-12 schools and their students. SOC delivers inquiry-based and project-based, math and science professional development during a teacher Summer Science Institute.  The program, offered through the U.S. Department of Education, annually serves 76 teachers in 15 school districts in the region.  At the state level, the SOC is a leader in Pennsylvania's STEM Initiative, a statewide partnership begun in 2007.  The University's SOC is the lead organization for the Central Pennsylvania's STEM Network.  SOC hosts several outreach days on campus including Science Day which draws about 450 students and 35 teachers.  Learn more...

    Educational Resources Online

    Looking to go green at your school?

    Interested in Wind?

    The Renewable Energy Center runs Pennsylvania’s anemometer loan program.  The Community Wind Project is for community and business leaders with a serious interest in working on behalf of their business, farm, school, or municipality for a prosperous and healthy future. Successful applicants will have a 60-meter meteorological tower installed at their site for a 12-month feasibility study.  In addition, the Wind for Schools Program will work with selected schools to install small turbines.  Wondering if you have good wind resources? Check out our wind maps to see what type of resource you may have at your site.  Please contact the REC for more information.

    Financing your Project 

    • DSIRE: Check out this site to learn about incentives and policies for renewable and efficiency in Pennsylvania and other states.
    • A Review of Feasible Financing Structures for Community Wind Projects in Pennsylvania - request a copy from the REC 
      • How a project will be financed, owned, and operated can be just as critical to success as wind resource. This study examines financing and ownership structures that can be used for community wind projects in Pennsylvania and discusses the financial model used by the Center to assess the economics of various community wind ownership structures.
    Students
    Students

    There are a number of ways that Saint Francis students can become involved with green initiatives on campus.  Some examples are below...

    • Join the Environmental Action Society
    • Renewable Energy Resources

      Types of Renewable Energy - REC 
      Student Resources on Renewable Energy - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
      Energy Kids -
      Energy Information Administration
    • Conduct research
    • Reduce your energy use
    • Recycle
    • Donate to the Dorothy Day Center
    • Check out an environmentally themed book or video from the library
    • Take an environmentally themed class
    • Major in an environmental field
      • B.S. in Environmental Engineering     
      • B.S. in Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies
      • B.S. in Biology with Environmental Science Concentration
      • M.B.A. with Renewable Energy Concentration
    •     Find a green career after college

    Have other suggestions that are not on the list?  Let us know!  renewable@francis.edu

    Developers
    Developers

     Anemometer Loan Program-Community Wind Project

    The Renewable Energy Center runs Pennsylvania’s anemometer loan program. This program allows landowners to learn if their site has commercial wind potential. If our pre-feasibility analysis indicates that there is commercial wind potential at the site we will measure the resource for a minimum of 12 months, analyze the data, extrapolate the data to different heights, and report the amount of power that would have been generated over that period with a variety of wind turbines.  
    • Explore our wind services page for sites where we have collected data and at what sites we are currently collecting data.
    • We know this data is valuable both for project development on-site and also for validation and correlation purposes for other wind projects in the region - and for other research purposes. Contact us for information on our data and how to obtain it.

    Wind Maps of Pennsylvania

    Determining if a site has adequate wind resources is an important part of developing a project. Check out our wind maps to find your site. Here you will find wind maps of each county in Pennsylvania.  Wind maps page

    Laws/Regulations

    Determine the the laws and regulations associated with wind development so that your project can comply with all requirements.

    Developed Wind Farms in Pennsylvania

    Wind farms have rapidly developed across Pennsylvania since the turn of the century. Check out Pennfuture's list of projects here.
    Policymakers
    Policymakers

     Wind Ordinances
    See what goes into creating a wind ordinance from the Department of Energy

    Examples:
    PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources: A Model Wind Ordinance for Pennsylvania Municipalities [pdf]
    National Renewable Energy Laboratory - Wind Energy Guide for County Commissioners

    Wind Farms in Pennsylvania

    Wind farms have rapidly developed across Pennsylvania since the turn of the century. Check out Pennfuture's list of projects here.

    Financial Information

    Community wind can have up to four times the local economic benefit of wind developed by outside entities.1 By increasing the tax base it allows local government to offer more services and better infrastructure without raising tax rates. Community-owned projects show two times the job creation of absentee –owned projects because local people prefer to use local businesses. These create local jobs, both direct and ancillary.2 Wind provides returns for the investor and direct and indirect local economic benefits for the community. This includes attracting new residents and creating tourism.
    1 Bolinger, Mark; Ryan Wiser, Tom Wind; Don Juhl; and Robert Grace. July 2004. A Comparative Analysis of Community Wind Power Development Options in Oregon
    2-Bolinger, Mark; Ryan Wiser, Tom Wind; Don Juhl; and Robert Grace. July 2004. A Comparative Analysis of Community Wind Power Development Options in Oregon
    General Accounting Office, September 2004, 82, 83. Renewable Energy; Wind Power’s Contribution to Electric Power Generation and Impact on Farms and Rural Communities
    Shoemaker, Jessica. August 2006. Community Wind: A Review of Select State and Federal Policy Incentives, Farmers Legal Action Group.


    Anemometer Loan Program-Community Wind Project

    The Renewable Energy Center runs Pennsylvania’s anemometer loan program. The Community Wind Project is for community and business leaders with a serious interest in working on behalf of their business, farm, school, or municipality for a prosperous and healthy future. Successful applicants will have a 60-meter meteorological tower installed at their site for a 12-month preliminary feasibility study.Learn more about the project here.

    Environmental Pros and Cons

    Wind turbines, like all electricity sources, can have both positive and negative impacts on the environment. On the positive side, wind turbines emit no pollution, generate no waste, require no mining for fuel, and use negligible amounts of water. They have a small footprint and the land around them can still be used for farming or forests. On the negative side, turbines and their access roads can fragment habitat. Unless carefully constructed and maintained, the roads can lead to erosion. The turbines must be properly sited to avoid avian migratory paths and bats. Turbines are also sometimes noted for producing noise and causing a shadow flicker. Some people enjoy seeing wind turbines, viewing them as kinetic sculpture and some find them aesthetically unpleasing.
    Learn more: Environmental Impacts and Siting of Wind Projects

    Additional Resources

    Distributed Wind Policy Comparison Tool
    This tool provides information about potential state and local government policy options (including tax rebates, tax incentives, and ways of overcoming zoning and interconnection hurdles) to encourage the development of wind energy systems.
    National Renewable Energy Laboratory - Jobs & Economic Development Impact Model (JEDI)
    NREL: Economic Benefits from 1000 MW of Wind in PA [pdf]
    U.S. Department of Energy - Wind Economic Development
    Economic Benefits of Wind Energy Development Woo Local Communities - Radio Interview about Somerset County, PA