Advances in renewable energy technology are making green energy options more and more accessible to both large and small farm owners.
Determining if renewable energy is right for your home or farm, however, may seem daunting given the number of variables that must be considered when evaluating the options:
- your current and future projected energy needs
- solar and wind resources in your geographic region
- installation costs
- state and federal tax incentives
Talk with a renewable energy contractor with experience in your local area. Most contractors will offer free initial consultation services to help you navigate the maze of renewable energy options. Before you commit to spending any money, they can tell you what systems will work best on your land, how to take advantage of tax incentives, and how long it will take to receive a favorable return on your investment.
As green energy becomes increasingly popular, more and more companies are popping up across the country and advertising themselves as green energy “experts.” Make sure you do your homework when choosing a contractor, and find one that is experienced and willing to provide referrals for their work.
Small hydropower, where the water from a stream or river is used to power turbines that convert the water’s energy into electricity, seems like a good idea on the surface, but consider the impact. While the need to develop alternative energy is very important, new hydropower projects, even small ones, are generally not the answer. The dams and channel diversions associated with these projects have a significant impact on the environment, blocking fish and other aquatic species’ passage, altering water temperatures, trapping sediment, and changing the stream’s natural flow regime. Additionally, many projects simply do not work out in economic terms. The installation and maintenance costs of small hydropower often far outweigh the electricity benefits, and changing flow dynamics can make power generation unpredictable. Of particular concern is the large number of outdated dams in the United States that no longer serve their originally-intended function. These dams are too often left in place, causing ecological, recreational, and safety hazards, because the owner does not have the necessary funds to remove it.
For these reasons, wind, solar, and geothermal generally provide more environmentally-sound, economically-viable options.