Energy Economics: Surplus Q&A’s 4.0

Q: What are suggestions that will help us save energy in homes and residences.

A: Changing incandescent and CFL light bulbs to LED, updating appliances to more energy efficient models, turning off/unplugging unused appliances, caulking and sealing leaky areas around doors and windows, turning down the hot water heater, wrapping pipes and hot water tanks, installing a programmable thermostat, maintaining and upgrading insulation, installing better double pane insulated windows, buying a new fridge (especially if yours is older than 5 years)…  All of these are good suggestions, but if you want to scale your efforts up a notch a professional energy audit by a certified practitioner is an excellent idea.  A home energy audit will closely analyse your home to identity sources of wasted energy. WMEAC is currently working with a couple of these auditors and the city of Grand Rapids on the stimulus funded Better Buildings program. Dwelltech Solutions does energy audits for West Michigan. A resource for checking the energy efficiency of your appliances would be Energy Star.

If you’re interested in adding renewable generation to your house, check out the I Want Wind in My Backyard Q&A’s, where a list of wind turbine retailers was offered. A combination of these actions can greatly increase the energy efficiency of a household, cut your carbon footprint, and reduce the harmful pollutants and emissions currently being sent into our air and water.

Q: What will be the role of photovoltaic (PV) energy generation in a smart grid system?

A: PV energy, like all energy sources, is not without drawbacks; one of these drawbacks has to do with intermittency.  The sun doesn’t always shine; therefore PV can’t act as base load generation given the current electric grid and other constraints.  However, as was mentioned in our first installment of the Energy Economics Q&A’s, WMEAC and others envision a smart grid that would utilize a diverse portfolio of clean energy sources including geothermal, next generation hydro and bio sources, etc. The point of which would be to enable a clean energy generating portfolio of technologies to bolster and supplement each other.  For example, in a terribly simplified example wind would produce energy during the night, while solar produces on a stagnant August day.  And if you make “the grid” connected and large enough: “the wind is always blowing somewhere.”   In a smart grid that combines improved methods of energy storage and distribution, you can begin to envision renewables seamlessly plugging into the grid.

For more information about unlocking the potential of PV, please visit the Rocky Mountain Institute website and make use of their reports on making competitively priced solar energy.

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