The benefits of alternative energy

If you want to lower your energy costs you need explore the benefits of alternative energy. Alternative energy sources provide many benefits and renewable energy can create new jobs and promote economic development, especially in areas far from the city where most jobs are located. If used to diversify utility energy sources, alternative energy technologies can provide a hedge against rising fuel prices and can be valuable risk management tools.

While some renewable energy resources are not always available (the wind does not blow or the sun does not always shine), the technologies perform reliably when the "source" is available. In this regard, they can add to the reliability of the electricity grid, especially for businesses in which power outages are extremely costly.

children and wind generatorWhere they come from, solar and wind technologies are emissions-free. This makes them attractive from an environmental standpoint. An additional environmental benefit could be the brightfields concept: installing clean energy technology-related businesses in environmentally blighted areas (brownfields).

Finally, selected applications of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies can enhance the disaster resiliency of communities and individual structures. For example, solar electric systems can provide needed power to hospitals, fire stations, police departments, gas stations, national guard armories, etc. in the sunny days that follow destructive storms.

Why We Need An Alternative

The very idea of looking for alternative energy implies that we need something better. We know we do. So seeking what the benefits of alternative energy would offer, is a no-brainer.

We know the limitations of many of our current fuel sources…

alternative energy

The main benefits of an alternative energy source would be that they counter the problems and limitations above.

Economics

States that import electricity, or utilities that import fuel for power plants from other states, lose vital financial resources because those payments leave the state and local economies. Renewable energy and energy efficiency tend to be labor-intensive and local. They can mean promising, quality job growth in manufacturing, construction, operation, and maintenance.

In addition, studies indicate that dollars saved through energy efficiency tend to be spent locally and then respent multiplying the benefits

Renewable energy and energy efficiency also can help revitalize rural communities. Biomass energy crops or wind turbines — or both — can provide energy, create new cash crops for farmers, and provide rural communities with new tax revenue. Especially in Rocky Mountain and Plains states, farmers are "harvesting" the wind, as well as both plant and animal biomass.

Farmers on windy lands can lease space to wind developers, earning thousands of dollars for each turbine every year. The footprint of a utility-scale wind turbine is minimal, so farming and ranching operations continue uninterrupted. Rural counties receive tax revenues to support their operations, as well as local schools.

Renewable energy technologies can be an economical addition to an energy supplier's resources. Examples include providing solar-generated electricity during peak sun times or shifting from purchased fuels to wind-generated electricity on windy days.

Even though wind is an intermittent resource, it is predictable and can be planned by utilities as part of their generating portfolios. Small wind turbines can generate electricity in homes or on farms, offsetting the need for the equivalent amount of purchased electricity.

Here's other clear economic benefits of alternative energy...

Environmental Benefits

Alternative energy technologies have significant environmental benefits. Solar and wind technologies are emissions-free at the point of use; emissions from biomass are lower than comparable conventional fuels; and energy efficiency, by definition, reduces energy consumption, which results in fewer emissions.

If future environmental regulations include carbon dioxide, renewable and energy efficiency technologies can provide a cushion for states and utilities. This could serve as a hedge against possible litigation, as conventional energy production and consumption contribute significantly to carbon dioxide emissions.

Renewable energy technologies also have minimal impact on water resources. They do not discharge pollutants into surface water, and toxins do not seep into groundwater. Cooling water is not required for solar and wind technologies — an important consideration in arid or semi-arid states, or where riparian rights are contested.

Reliability

Alternative energy technologies can provide a measure of assurance of continued electricity supply at times when it otherwise might be threatened. In some circumstances, renewable energy technologies can be more reliable than other forms of electricity.

For example, solar electricity systems can be used after storms for response and recovery. Renewable energy technologies such as generators powered by photovoltaics (PV) can supply electricity if the grid fails. Often the sun comes out in the immediate aftermath of a devastating storm. It can take weeks to repair the electricity grid and restore power to all customers. As long as the sun shines, however, rooftop or building-integrated PV can produce electricity on-site, despite downed wires. If battery storage is added to the system, it can supply electricity even after the sun goes down or through several cloudy or stormy days.

In California, policy makers minimized economic losses during the 2001 energy crisis by supporting and funding energy efficiency programs. The $1.3 billion that California taxpayers and ratepayers invested in energy efficiency and demand response programs in 2001 is favorable compared to the estimated $2 billion to $20 billion in potential losses from rolling blackouts that were avoided — in addition to savings associated with avoided wholesale power purchases.

Reliability is critical for electricity providers. As our economy becomes more dependent on complex computer technology, the standard for reliability has been raised to an unprecedented "six 9s:" reliable electricity must be available 99.9999% of the time. The power also must be of premium quality to supply highly sensitive equipment.

It may sound strange to describe renewable energy technologies as reliable. After all, they are intermittent resources — the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine. However, although the wind does not always blow, it is predictable and can be planned for quite reliably. When added to the electricity generation mix, renewable energy technologies can help energy suppliers stretch their other fuel supplies and mitigate the risk of blackouts during times of peak electricity demand.

The most reliable kilowatt is the one that does not need to be generated, transmitted, distributed, or stored. In California, energy efficiency and energy-conserving behaviors enhanced system reliability during the 2001 energy crisis by reducing demand on the system. Moreover, this was a supremely cost-effective effort. The $1.3 billion that California taxpayers and ratepayers invested in energy efficiency and demand response programs in 2001 is favorable compared to the estimated $2 billion to $20 billion in potential losses from rolling blackouts that were avoided (in addition to the savings associated with avoided wholesale power purchases).

Public Demand

Renewable energy sources offer several avenues for satisfying public concern for environmental preservation. National and utility-specific surveys indicate that consumers prefer environmentally clean energy and are willing to pay extra for "green" power. Increasingly, however, the premium for "green" decreases as the prices of conventional fuels increase.

Americans also support energy efficiency technologies and efforts because they view these investments as fiscally sensible and environmentally responsible. Polls across all demographic categories and political parties during the past 20 years have shown that these programs are consistently favored by the public.

The benefits of alternative energy are clear and the fact that the public and the government feel strongly about moving to a greener economy only makes them that much more compelling. The future is indeed bright and will be lit by alternative energy.


The US Department of Energy was a source for much of this information.

 

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