Alternative energy sources are another tool to consider when developing your energy management plan.
In addition to finding ways to reduce a client’s energy consumption, I often work with clients to evaluate alternative energy sources. With the proper strategy and research, an alternative energy source can provide a good return on investment and, in some cases, enable a client to reduce their utility usage from the grid to zero or almost zero over the course of the year.
Common alternative energy sources include:
Solar photovoltaic (solar panels) – A system of photovoltaic panels connected together that convert the sun’s energy into electricity. The panels are connected to inverters to take the current from DC to AC.
Natural gas generators – Natural gas generators operate by using the natural gas as fuel for combustion. That combustion spins a shaft (similar to how your car works) and that shaft is connected to a rotor which spins in an electromagnetic field creating electricity.
Energy storage devices such as batteries – These devices do not convert a fuel source into energy but rather store that energy in order to be able to use it on demand. Pairing a battery system with solar PV allows the customer to have electricity overnight and during long cloudy stretches while minimizing the need for utility grid electricity.
Wind turbines – Wind turbines operate by using the wind to spin a shaft (similar to how your car works) and that shaft is connected to a rotor which spins in an electromagnetic field creating electricity.
When evaluating alternative energy sources, I take three things into consideration: location of the building, utility company and type of alternative energy source. These three things are the main drivers for selecting the right alternative energy source for a client.
The location of the building gives me information on potential solar or wind energy available. A location that currently has natural gas distribution is key when looking at generators.
The utility companies each have different programs in regards to alternative energy so knowing what utility company serves the area helps me decide which alternative energy sources that company is most receptive to.
Each alternative energy source has pros and cons so understanding the clients’ interests and drivers for an alternative energy option is critical for a successful project.
With an understanding of building location, utility company and desired energy source, a solution unique to the client can be developed that provides an alternative source of energy in addition to the utility grid.