If you keep up on developments in green energy, you may have seen a headline or two about a new wind farm off the coast of the Atlantic. Just this past December, Rhode Island opened the Block Island Wind Farm–the first of its kind in U.S. waters. The five turbines that make up the wind farm are big news for such a little state, as they’re expected to power about 17,000 homes a year with clean, renewable energy.
Renewable resources are on a lot of people’s minds lately. With a mounting body of evidence showing the damage to our environment caused by fossil fuels, conscientious Americans everywhere are looking to energy sources like wind. But what can we really do here in Pennsylvania? Many residents of the Ocean State of Rhode Island will be getting their electricity from the new offshore wind farm, but what if you live in landlocked Pennsylvania? After all, it’s not as though we’ve got ocean breezes gusting through our backyards.
The Backyard Turbine: Why They May Not Be Popular in Pennsylvania
If you’re interested in going green, let’s take a look at one of your options: installing your own backyard wind turbine. I mean, people are putting up solar panels all over the place and Pennsylvania is 15th in the nation for installed solar capacity. Why not throw up a turbine designed to generate wind power in your backyard and call it a day?
To the curious, but perhaps not-quite-informed, DIY turbines may seem like a great route. After all, we live in a pretty windy area. We even have a city named… Windy City, PA. But, as with almost every brilliant idea, it’s a little more complicated than that.
If you want a turbine that’s actually going to generate enough power for your household, you’re going to end up spending thousands of dollars just buying the turbine itself—then you still have to set it up as well. And you could easily run into some trouble getting permission to do so.
You’ll need to check your zoning restrictions with the local building inspector and find out if you need a building permit, or if there are any requirements for setup. For instance, in Mill Creek Township, wind turbines are permitted, but cannot be taller than thirty-five feet or generate more than 100 kWh of electricity, among many other very specific regulations. But your stiffest resistance might come from the local homeowner’s association. Wind turbines can potentially obstruct views, and most run slightly above the ambient sound of wind.
Let’s also not forget that you need a real estimate of the power you can expect to generate with the turbine, and you can’t do that by licking a finger and holding it up to the breeze. A good start is to consult the U.S. Department of Energy’s wind resource map for Pennsylvania, but, after that, you’ll probably need a wind resource measurement system on site which will run you anywhere from $600-1200. If you don’t get enough wind, you’ll be the proud owner of Pennsylvania’s most interesting lawn ornament. Folks will come all the way from Pittsburgh to see it!
RECs: The Alternative Answer
Luckily, there’s a different way to tap into wind power that doesn’t involve installing a massive turbine in your backyard—and researching municipality codes to do it. It’s by purchasing a Renewable Energy Credit, or REC (pronounced like “wreck”). RECs are a great way to support renewable energy sources like wind that promote a healthier planet.
For every megawatt-hour of electricity produced, the company that owns the massive, and effective, I might add, wind turbines generates a REC. A REC is a unit of energy that is proven to have the environmental attributes of a unit of renewable energy. When you as a consumer purchase a REC, you get the credit for the environmental benefits that are a result of the renewable power created from your purchase. You’ve effectively “gone green” by offsetting your power consumption with these certificates representing a renewable source.
RECs help us distinguish between electricity from green sources and electricity from fossil fuels once they both enter the grid to be consumed by individuals and businesses. Without them, it would be like taking a glass of tap water, dumping it into your pool, and then claiming you could tell the difference between the pool water and water from your sink. RECs let you make sure that tap water, or renewable energy, is being recognized.
Purchasing RECs through Competitive Electric Suppliers
If you want to buy RECs, and contribute to the demand for clean energy sources like wind power, an electric generation supplier (EGS) can help. EGSs use the same delivery system for your electricity as the big utilities like Penn Power, but they offer more flexibility when it comes to energy products. They also help you pick a plan that works for you, like purchasing renewable energy, so that you help contribute to the health of our planet while budgeting your monthly electric bill.
So no, we may not have an ocean here in Pennsylvania in which to set up turbines, but you can still make sure that clean energy is in demand. At Liberty Power, we offer the option to purchase RECs for your personal energy use so that you know you’re part of the clean energy movement. Get in touch with us to learn more about your options for introducing sustainable energy into your home.
Photo Credit: VisualHunt.com