Go Green: Renewable Energy
Choosing your energy from renewable sources is a solid way to make a difference. Whether offsetting your power or installing your own PV system, renewable energy choices make great strides to reducing your carbon footprint.
You can purchase green power from local sources of renewable energy to match 100% of your electricity usage – in many instances right on your electric bill. Plus your contribution is 100% tax deductible.
Since 2005, CET has partnered with Mass Energy Consumer’s Alliance to offer affordable green energy options for residents – from the Berkshires to Boston. Mass Energy is a non-profit organization that has pursued a mission to make energy more affordable and environmentally sustainable for the consumers of Massachusetts since 1982.
Learn more about different renewable energies here:
There are numerous local, state and federal incentives available to help make your investment in renewable energy more affordable. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy is a comprehensive, up-to-date source of information about the many financial incentives available to you. To learn about local and state incentives, click on Massachusetts. To learn about federal incentives, click on Federal.
How does it work? Solar electricity is generated by Photovoltaic (PV) technologies that convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV cells are made of at least two layers of semiconductor material. One layer has a positive charge, the other negative. When light enters the cell, some of the photons from the light are absorbed by the semiconductor atoms, freeing electrons from the cell’s negative layer to flow through an external circuit and back into the positive layer. This flow of electrons produces electric current. PV cells are in a sealed, weatherproof package called a module and to achieve the desired voltage and current, modules are wired in a series and parallel into what is called a PV array.
Is PV a good option for me? You can install PV modules on your roof or in a yard or field near your home and size the system to meet up to 100 percent of your electric needs. A solar electric system can be either grid-tied or off grid. Generally, PV systems are connected to the electric grid and do not have battery back-up. For more information about PV technology, visit the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. For information about what you should know before embarking on a solar project, review the Solar Energy and Industry Association consumer resources.
See a partial list of local solar installers.
Solar Hot Water
How does it work? You can use the sun’s energy to heat your domestic hot water supply, radiant heating system or swimming pool. Solar hot water systems consist of solar collectors, well-insuated storage tanks and are typically active systems with circulating pumps and controls. In a solar hot water system, the sun heats antifreeze liquid, and the heat is transferred by way of a heat exchanger to the domestic hot water supply.
Types of solar hot water systems: The most common types of solar collectors in the Northeast are flat plate and evacuated tube collectors. Flat plate collectors are generally insulated, weatherproof boxes that contain copper tubing on a dark aluminum absorber plate with an iron-tempered glass covering. Evacuated tube collectors feature parallel rows of transparent glass tubes. Each tube contains a glass outer tube and a metal absorber tube attached to a fin. The fin’s coating absorbs solar energy but inhibits heat loss.
How do I know if I have a good site for solar PV or hot water systems?
To work well, a solar system needs unobstructed light from the sun during most daylight hours for most of the year. Three main factors determine whether your site is a good one: shading, orientation (compass direction) and tilt (slant). Solar PV and solar hot water systems are most often installed on roofs, but can also be mounted on poles or the ground. Shading: If your site faces south and is largely unshaded, especially between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day, you likely are a good candidate for solar energy. Orientation and tilt: In the US, the sun is always in the southern part of the sky and is higher in in the summer and lower in the winter. The tilt of the collectors also contributes to their performance; the optimal tilt angle for your collector is an angle equal to your latitude (approximately 45 degrees in Massachusetts). That means that solar panels are most efficient when they face south and are installed at an angle – either on a slanted roof or ground mount. Panels installed on a flat roof can be tilted to enhance performance. Your local solar contractor can perform a solar site analysis. Or, if you’d like to do it yourself, see the Evaluation Tools under Learn More in the box to the right.
Another option for harnessing the sun’s energy to heat your home is passive solar design. Passive solar homes use building orientation and architectural features for both heating and cooling. Passive heating can be as simple as having many windows on the south facing side of a home augmented by careful selection of building materials that have a large thermal storage mass. These materials act as heat ‘banks’ that store the energy during the day and release it during the evening.
Wind is a form of solar energy that is caused by the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the irregularities of the earth’s surface, and rotation of the earth. Renewable energy from wind is generated by wind turbines, which consist of a tower, a rotor and a generator. The rotor harnesses the wind’s energy; the generator converts that energy into electricity; and the tower supports the whole apparatus.
Do you have a good site for wind?
- You need a good steady wind for wind power to be viable at your home. The Wind Energy Screening Tool is an website that can help you evaluate your site for wind energy, that includes wind speeds, land use and aerial photos.
- In addition to having adequate wind power, you need enough land to accommodate setbacks from your home and your neighbor’s property.
- What are the zoning and permitting regulations in your community?
- Check with your Town or City Hall to see if there are zoning or permitting regulations or restrictions in your community that pertain to wind turbines or tower construction. Plan on needing a tower somewhere between 80 and 120 feet tall. If your turbine is connected to the grid you will also need to work with your utility company to apply for an interconnection agreement. Your contractor will be able to help you with this step.Download a PDF model amendment to a zoning ordinance or by-law for a small wind energy system can be viewed here.
- What are the Costs and Financial Incentives?
- Installed costs (before financial incentives) can range from $4,000 – $8,000 per kW depending on several factors such as the site and permitting requirements. A contractor will be able to give you specific information on costs and paybacks on a small-scale wind system that suits your needs. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiencies is a great resource to learn about state and federal rebates and other financial incentives.
- More resources for residential-scale wind energy are available by visiting the links in the Learn More box to the right.
Hydropower systems use the kinetic energy in flowing water to produce electricity or mechanical energy. Hydropower was once used extensively in our region to power local industry, like our textile mills. More recently, homeowners are looking at low head and run of the river hydro as a possibility for “greening up” their electrical consumption. For more information about hydropower for homes, visithttp://www.eere.energy.gov/topics/water.html.
Biomass is organic matter that can be used to provide heat, make fuels, and generate electricity. Wood is the most common type of organic matter used to generate bioenergy, but other types of biomass such as plants, residue from agriculture or forestry, and the organic component of municipal and industrial wastes can be used as fuel. Many Massachusetts residents use wood and pellet stoves to heat their homes.
There are numerous local, state and federal incentives available to help make your investment in renewable energy more affordable. For a comprehensive, up-to-date source of information about the many financial incentives available to you, go to:http://www.dsireusa.org. To learn about local and state incentives, click on Massachusetts. To learn about federal incentives, click on Federal.