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Oklahoma is rich in “free” energy possibilities. The sun is shining for free nearly every single day of the year and causes zero CO2 emissions. Energy from the sun is most often used as light; however, through the use of semi-conductors in photovoltaic (PV) panels we can maximize our use of solar energy by converting sunlight directly into electricity. Sunlight hits the PV cells and electrons are released through chemical reactions that generate electric current.
Solar PV systems can be used in two primary applications: grid-connected or off-grid. When the costs associated with connecting the system to the power grid (installing long-distance power lines, etc.) exceed that of the PV system itself, an off-grid system is used. In a grid-connected application the PV system provides a portion of the power used by a home or business, but utility-generated power is used on cloudy days and at night.
“Net-metering” gives system owners an opportunity to sell extra energy back to the utility company when the system produces more power than the home or business requires. Many states are beginning to offer incentives for the purchase and installation of PV systems. These incentives, in addition to concerns over climate change, electric demands, and fuel costs, are prompting many businesses and homeowners to invest in the earth’s most abundant natural resource for energy.
Solar Energy Resources:
People have been able to tap into wind power for centuries; but, sustainability and conservation are the most recent motivators for funding and using wind energy. The re-emergence of these ideals and increased awareness of climate change has multiplied the incentives for using renewable energy sources.
Many wind farms are owned and operated by individuals, not public utility companies. These Independent Power Producers can sell the electricity generated by their machines to utility companies. If you do not have the resources to purchase a wind farm or individual turbine, you can still support the wind industry by choosing to purchase renewable energy from utility companies.
Wind Energy Resources:
According to the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA), located in Stillwater, OK, ground source heat pumps are electrically powered systems that tap the stored energy of the greatest solar collector in existence: the earth. Instead of the traditional chiller and boiler combo, modular geothermal heat pumps are placed in a building and run water or an antifreeze solution through a closed loop system located in the ground.
The constant temperature of the earth reduces the intensity of work required by heat pump units. Decreased workload for air ventilation systems makes geothermal units one of the most efficient ways to heat or cool a building. During the winter, the system uses heat from the earth to warm the water/solution and circulates warm air throughout the building. Conversely, during the summer, the system cools the building by pulling heat out of the building, moving it through the system and releasing it into the ground. With over 70 accredited geothermal installers located in Oklahoma, a local business could easily be used for geothermal projects.
Biofuel is another renewable resource that is made from Biomass. Biomass is usually made from materials high in starch, such as corn or soybeans. Due to high availability and lower impact on food sources, cellulosic feedstock (corn stalks, switchgrass, paper pulp, etc.) has been the subject of recent biomass research. These forms of biomass are most often used to make ethanol or Biodiesel because they are the easiest Biofuels to produce.
Ethanol, typically blended with gasoline, reduces emissions and boosts octane by causing a more efficient combustion process in engines. To minimize the use of petroleum, pure ethanol can be blended in different proportions with gasoline. For example, E85 is a blend of 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol that is used to fuel Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs).
Biodiesel is a clean-burning, biodegradable fuel made from removing glycerin from natural oils found in plants and animal fats. As with ethanol, Biodiesel can be blended with petroleum diesel to reduce pollution; however, according to the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) only 20% Biodiesel can be mixed with the petroleum-based form.
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) & compressed natural gas (CNG) are also forms of clean energy for vehicles. These fuels are clear, odorless, non-corrosive, and non-toxic. According to the California Energy Commission, natural gas vehicles reduce ozone-forming emissions by 80% when compared to gasoline vehicles. Heavy-duty vehicles, such as garbage trucks, transit buses, and delivery trucks are common LNG applications.
The decision to use clean, renewable energy is usually an easy one; but up-front costs, and sometimes lengthy payback can scare away many prospective investors. Below are a few links to use when researching the financial feasibility of a renewable energy project.
Last Modified on 10/30/2009
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