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6 Ways to Save Money Using Renewable Energy Technology

The cost of energy is a burden for many small business owners. Luckily, there is renewable energy technology available that can both reduce energy bills and help the environment. The following are six recommendations from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

1. Biofuels

With gas prices at around $4 per gallon, finding other ways to fuel your company’s vehicles can result in significant savings. Apart from electric or hybrid vehicles, alternative fuel and flex-fuel vehicles are also available. These cars run on biofuels such as gas, propane, or ethanol. After a vehicle or engine conversion you can take advantage of cheaper fuel prices. In April 2011, the price of gas was listed at $3.69, while it was $3.19 for propane and $3.20 for ethanol. The website CarsDirect estimates that you can save up to $2,000 per year from such a conversion.

To find out more information about alternative fuel availability in your area, please visit the following site:

http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/fuels/stations.html

2. Geothermal Heat Pumps

Geothermal heat pumps use the Earth’s constant temperature of 50-60°C to warm and cool buildings which can help your business save money on air conditioning and heating.

Geothermal heat pumps consist of a heat exchanger, heat pump unit, and air delivery system. The heat exchanger is a system of pipes that is buried in the ground and filled with a fluid that circulates through to absorb or relinquish heat in the ground. In the winter, the fluid removes heat from the ground and delivers it to the indoor air delivery system. In summer, it moves heat from indoors to the heat exchanger that goes into the ground. According to EnergyHomes.org, the estimated cost of installation for a business of 2500 square feet would be between $20,000 and $25,000.

To find a company that specializes in installation visit the following site:

http://www.igshpa.okstate.edu/

3. Passive Solar Heating

A third option is to remodel (or build) your business to take advantage of solar energy. For example, having large, south-facing windows or a south wall painted black and made of material that absorbs and stores the sun’s heat during the day and releases it at night. Sunspaces are a type of innovation that are like greenhouses, also placed on the south side of a building that, with proper ventilation, can warm your business. To save on electricity, having a clerestory—a row of windows near the roof helps to take advantage of natural light. A testimonial from Sound Home Resource Center said that their home’s heating bill decreased by over 50% after making the appropriate changes.

For more information visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s website:

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/commercial_initiative/index.html

4. Photovoltaic (Solar Cell) Systems

A photovoltaic system uses one or more solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity. The cells can be installed on the ground near your business, on the roof, or in the walls. According to Getsolar.com, the estimated savings of installing such a system is 50% or more. The average cost of PV modules is $4.30/per watt as of January 2010, according to TipsBase.com. The typical system is between 150 and 1000 square feet, with power production between 1200 and 5000 watts. You can use the solar cost calculator to estimate the cost:

http://www.getsolar.com/blog/play-with-our-solar-cost-calculator/9123/

More information about the cost of a PV system can be found here:

http://www.tipsbase.com/tips/10839-average-cost-of-pv-panels-cost-of-solar-panels

5. Solar Hot Water Systems

Solar hot water systems use the sun to heat water used in your small business. The typical system consists of a solar collector and storage tank. Heat builds in the solar collector and warms the fluid in the tubes running through it, which collects in a tank. Pumps are used to move the water through the system. While numbers were not available for small businesses, an installation for a household of three and storage tank size of 120 was $8,300-12,900.

To see the full chart, please visit the following page:

http://www.rerc-vt.org/shw_investing.htm

6. Wind Energy

Many of you may be familiar with large wind farms, usually placed in rural areas. Microturbines, which can be used for homes or businesses, are a viable option for rural communities with the potential of lowering electricity bills by 50-90%. They take the kinetic energy in wind and translate it to electricity. The estimated costs of setting up a wind turbine system are $700-1100 per kW with maintenance costs of $0.005-0.016/kW every 5000-8000 hours. Because of their high capital costs, the government has tax benefits or an extension of credit through laws such as the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008.

With gas prices surging—up from the national average by almost $1 from this time last year—in addition to lagging sales from the depression you may be looking for ways to cut energy costs at your business. The good news is that there are government subsidies available to make this happen, and while the initial capital costs are high for many of the renewable technologies the long-term benefits have the potential to reduce costs by over 50%.

Sources:

1) US Environmental Protection Agency: “Alternative Fuel Conversion”

2) National Renewable Energy Laboratory: “Geothermal Heat Pumps”

3) National Renewable Energy Laboratory: “Passive Solar”

4) National Renewable Energy Laboratory: “Solar Photovoltaic Technology”

5) US Department of Energy: “How Small Solar Electric Systems Work”

6) US Department of Energy: “How a Small Wind Electric System Work”

 
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