Home Sweet Home: How to switch to renewable energy
by Lina Khan
Anyone buying a new home for the first time may wonder what he or she is getting into. I don’t think I fully comprehended what it would mean to have property to my name. When my husband and I finally closed on our home with the sellers, it still didn’t sink in. We started to get it when we rented the basement to our first tenants and when we combated mice and bought a new refrigerator. But the thing that truly made us feel like homeowners was switching our electricity to 100 percent wind power, about a year and half after moving in.
I swear we just raked!
Renewable energy is a concept most of us are aware of, but putting it to use for the average person is still a new science/art. Why switch to wind? Wind energy produces negligible air emissions and little waste. The net generation of renewable energy sources in the United States—like solar, geothermal, biomass, and wind—is small (‘net’ meaning the amount generated minus the electrical energy consumed). According to the Energy Information Administration’s Electronic Power Monthly for September 2014, of all net energy produced in the United States in the year to date, only about 7% came from renewables (that doesn’t include hydroelectric power by the way, which is counted separately). On the other hand, the same source shows that the (net) amount of renewable energy generated went up by about 11% between July 2013 and July 2014. And, the American Wind Energy Association predicts that wind energy could power 20% of the U.S. electrical grid by the year 2030.
Since using wind energy doesn’t change our standard of living (we continue to receive electricity as usual. It wasn’t like switching from candles to light bulbs, or using lead-free paint), this wasn’t really a home improvement decision. It was more for Earth stewardship. The use of wind power is novel now but could become commonplace one day.
There are different ways to switch to a renewable energy source to power your home. For example, homeowners can install solar panels or a geothermal heat pump. (These measures can come with nice tax credits, by the way!) We decided to go through a non-profit called Groundswell, which organizes group purchases between utility companies and wind energy suppliers. The group energy purchase was easy to opt into though, without upfront costs. It felt like a safe start.
This energy purchase hasn’t changed all of my habits as an Earthling. I run the A/C a lot and still buy a lot of unrecyclable things I don’t need. But, there are different ways to be an environmentalist. For some, there’s the more personal route of making lifestyle decisions in line with an environmental ethic. On a larger scale, technology developers and large industries evolve methods to produce less waste and regenerate their power. With the group energy purchase, I felt like I could join that evolution.