by Scott Ranck
There are few issues in the energy world that create more discussion than renewable energy. In my position, I have had the opportunity to correspond with some of the best minds in the country on this topic. Like most topics, most of us form opinions on things we hear others say and don’t really have the time or energy to research the topics to really know the truth. The top two forms of renewable energy in the USA are hydro power like from the Hoover Dam. The other is biofuel, the largest of which is burning wood! Here are four things you need to know about renewable energy.
- Most renewable energy is expensive. Few people really understand the issues. Computer models of projected power supply and costs for renewable projects are often wrong. Once the project is completed it is discovered the plant under performs and cost more than expected. Rather than looking at computer models, look at the states that have the largest renewable portfolios and exam their electricity rates per KWH. Hawaii is tied for the number one producer of renewable energy and has an impressive mix of renewable energy sources to help generate their electricity. Their residential rate in 2013 on the big Island of Hawaii is $0.41 per KWH. For a small business you pay $0.47 per KWH. California has more renewable energy than many other states with the exception of those states which use hydroelectric plants. The average home in our market uses 1200-1400 KWH per month. We pay approximately $0.11-0.17 cents per KWH based on who provides your electricity. Look at the chart on California’s electric rates. 40-50% of their electricity will be charged at $0.32 per KWH. Imagine doubling your bill!
- Using either solar or wind as a source for electric generation is not consistent. All the electricity that is being used in our nation is also being generated at the same time. The only real storage of electricity is in the grid. The largest hindrance to the large scale use of renewable energy is there is no affordable, effective means of storage. If the electricity could be stored for a rainy or windless day it would be more useful. Currently, there is no large scale means to store electricity. For a solar array on your home, that would only provide a portion of your home’s electricity, the battery needed would be the size of a filing cabinet and your KWH cost would be the highest in your neighborhood!
- Because of # 2 individual home or business solar is an easier proposition than large scale. It is only easier because of the storage opportunity. Using solar to generate electricity on an individual home or business costs more per KWH than a large scale system with no storage.
- Continue using fossil fuels to generate electricity while growing the renewable portfolio is a balanced and wise approach. As renewable energy sources become more reliable and less expensive they will be incorporated more fully into the national grid. See this map produced by the Department of Energy. Click on any state to see where their renewable is coming from. Eye opening. http://energy.gov/maps/renewable-energy-production-state
For more on this or any other energy related topic, contact your energy experts at Florida Public Utilities www.fpuc.com/energyexpert
Scott Ranck is the Conservation Program Coordinator & Energy Specialist for Florida Public Utilities. Feel free to e-mail any energy-related questions or comments to Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org.