Renewable energy, or green energy, is gaining a foothold outside of niche groups and is becoming a very viable and increasingly prevalent source of power for our electricity grid.
Various types of renewable energy are included in select electricity plans, but not every shopper knows what those sources are or what that means for them. Electricity customers have more choices than ever. Besides price and plan terms, they can also choose how much green power is coming down the wire.
It’s Easy To Go Green
Electricity customers in most deregulated states have the option to select 100% renewable energy plans from their energy provider. Additionally, several electricity providers give their customers the ability to convert their traditional electricity plans to 100% green plans for a small monthly fee. Many states also have renewable energy initiatives in place that require a certain percentage of all electricity generated be derived from renewable sources. It’s a great thing for electricity customers and for the environment!
How Does Renewable Energy Actually Get to My Home or Business?
Electricity cannot currently be stored (although that will soon change.) Electricity is currently created and delivered on demand. For example, when a wind farm in West Texas generates electricity on a windy day, that electricity is delivered to the grid real time regardless of the demand for electricity at that moment. A Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) is created that corresponds to every 1MWh (1000 kWh) of power generated from that green power facility. This certificate is sold to electricity providers separately from the power generated, making it a financial instrument.
RECs are basically the currency of green energy. Electricity providers, utility companies, or anyone wanting (or needing) to reduce their carbon footprint purchase RECs. These certificates support the success and further development of renewable energy facilities and help them compete with lower-priced fossil fuel electric generation plants.
So, what happens when you select a 100% green electricity plan? Your electricity provider has purchased RECs and, as you use electricity, your provider tracks your kWh usage and redeems the RECs to offset your usage. That’s essentially how you get renewable energy ‘delivered’ to your home or business.
What are the Types of Green Energy?
Renewable energy has grown way beyond solar panels and wind farms, though those are certainly vital to creating green electricity for the power grid.
There are lots of different ways that renewable energy generation facilities create all the sparks we need for daily life. These are the sources that are most likely to be included in a green energy plan:
- Solar. There’s nothing that affects our planet as much as the sun. This awe-inspiring star has given rise to a number of technologies that are designed to capture the energy that falls to Earth using photo-voltaic cells, solar sheeting and solar collectors. It’s still the most popular green electricity used nationwide.
- Wind. Using turbines that spin as the wind picks up, electricity companies are able to capture the power of wind and convert it to electricity. It neither slows the winds down, nor does it create any sort of pollution. Wind is clean and aside from the visual impact of wind farms, has no major negative features. Wind farms must be placed in areas where the winds are strong enough to turn the turbines more often than not, though, or they won’t produce enough electricity to be useful.
- Hydroelectric. Like with wind, hydroelectric forces moving water through turbines to help create electricity. You’ll often see hydroelectric associated with dams. It’s a natural marriage of huge bodies of moving water and a sturdy place to mount lots of equipment. Protections are in place to ensure the safety of fish swimming in the same streams. These protections include fish passages and ladder devices to help migrating animals continue on their way unhindered.
- Bioenergy. Fuels like biodiesel and bioethanol can be burned to create a cleaner-running electricity plant, in contrast to the polluting coal plants that are still in use across the country. A variety of plant and animal matter is extracted or otherwise manipulated to create electricity in special facilities whose goal is to be a zero carbon-emission electricity source. This is still a rapidly advancing area for electricity generation. Exciting changes are happening all the time!
- Geothermal. Utilizing the power of the Earth itself, geothermal turbines can turn heat rising from magma conduits, hot springs and other hydrothermal sources into electricity. Geothermal generation can be done safely and often quite cheaply, depending on the station’s location. Countries like El Salvador, Kenya, the Philippines, Iceland and Costa Rica are already generating more than 15 percent of their electricity from geothermal sources.
- Tidal. Wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and tidal electricity have one thing in common: turbines. These ever-spinning devices can take advantage of the tides to generate power as ocean water ebbs and flows. Facilities have been in operation since 1966, but the first grid-connected tidal power plant didn’t go online until 2015. It’s another emerging green technology to watch.
Hydropower and wind make up the majority of renewable energy delivered to the grid each year. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2015 renewable energy sources accounted for 10% of U.S. energy consumption and 13% of electricity generation. This percentage is expected to grow particularly with respect to wind energy generation.
Why Go Green?
Not only does green energy help fight global warming, it’s also a great way to help break our country’s dependency on limited resources like oil and coal. Expanding existing and creating new green power facilities can also guarantee a stable and reliable renewable energy source for all Americans.
Green energy can be surprisingly affordable. Search for renewable energy plans available in your area at ElectricityPlans.com. There’s no reason not to consider a renewable energy electricity plan. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to go green.