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Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy

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Published by Bill Taylor

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Published by: Bill Taylor on Nov 01, 2012
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11/07/2012

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Enterprising Rural Families
TM
 
 An Online Newsletter August, 2011 Volume VII, Issue 8
 
This newsletter is an instrument of the
 Enterprising Rural Families: Making It Work
program of theUniversity of Wyoming CooperativeExtension Service. For further in-formation concerning the Enter-prising Rural Families program oron-line course contact
infor- mation@eRuralFamilies.org
or go to
 http://eRuralFamilies.org
 / .TIP OF THE MONTH:
Economic Stress & Marriage
When two people marry, they bring withthem their individual attitudes, values,and behaviors toward money. As a result,a common and frequent area of conflictamong couples is money, and maritalproblems are more likely to be experi-enced by those who disagree about fi-nances. Conflict among married couplesis lowest when they share control overfinancial decisions.Disagreements often center around levelof contribution to the budget and involve-ment in the family finances, interest andexpertise in purchasing, and who is mostinfluential in making purchasing deci-sions.
Couples who employ systematic moneymanagement strategies can reduce oreliminate most areas of stress.
Strategieswould include proper record-keeping,goal-setting, and savings.Disagreements over family finances hasbeen shown to be related to the lack of family communications regarding moneyand money practices.
Spouses and fami-lies should hold regular and meaning-ful discussions about their financialsituation, goals, practices, and budget.
Based upon information from
 EconomicStress and Families
by Jonathan J. Foxand Suzanne Bartholomae.
RENEWABLE ENERGY: IS IT RIGHT FOR YOUR FAMILY BUSINESS?
Milton Geiger, Energy Extension CoordinatorUniversity of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service and School of Energy Resources
 All family businesses have at least onething in common – they all use some formof energy, such as electricity for a comput-er or heat for a working space, as an inputto eventually generate revenue (and hope-fully profit)! The cost of energy and whereit comes from is important to many busi-nesses. Small-scale renewable energy(RE), including wind turbines, solar elec-tric, solar thermal, geothermal heatpumps, and others, offers the chance forfamily businesses to become producers of their own energy. With thesesystems becoming increasingly common, it is vital to understand whyyour business wants a RE system. Without clearly understanding yourgoals and expectations for the installation, small businesses can be dis-appointed with the performance of an often expensive investment.
What are Your Renewable Energy Options?
Before exploring why you want a RE system, it is necessary to brieflyknow what options are available. RE systems fall into two broad cate-gories: those that generate electricity and those that generate thermalenergy for space conditioning and water heating. Each business willhave different energy requirements, and different RE systems will bebetter suited to individual needs. For example, a car wash may requirea significant amount of hot water while a home office may principallyuse electricity. One important point to remember prior to installing aRE system is that
the cheapest unit of energy is not the one you produce,but the one you never use.
In short, energy efficiency improvements aretypically more cost effective than a renewable energy system, so theseshould be completed before investing in an RE system. Once you decideif you want to focus on electricity production, thermal energy produc-tion, or both, it is time to learn about the different systems.
 
PAGE 2 ENTERPRISING RURAL FAMILIES
TM
VOLUME VII, ISSUE 8
The table below provides a brief overview of the different types of RE systems available to Wyomingites:The above RE systems are growing more common in Wyoming, but if you want to learn more about thedifferent RE systems, please visit the UW Cooperative Extension Service Energy website atwww.wyomingrenewables.org 
Why, or Why Not, Own a Renewable Energy System
There are numerous reasons that family businesses may want to install a small RE system, including: » Economic Considerations
Saving money now
Saving money in the future » Independence
Personal
National » Education and Community
Native curiosity
Positive publicity for the business » Environmental concern

Reducing impacts of fossil fuel consumption

SustainabilityThe desire to reduce the cost of energy, both now and in the future, is often a primary justification forconsidering a RE system. Some systems, especially thermal systems, can produce energy less expensive-ly than traditional fuel sources, especially when compared to high cost energy such as propane or electricheat. Also, as RE systems either directly or indirectly use the sun as a fuel source, future volatility infuel prices is not a concern (assuming sunshine stays free)! In this manner, an RE system is similar topurchasing insurance against future price increases. Still, family businesses must be aware that somerenewable energy systems, such as solar electric (photovoltaics), produce energy more expensively
System Type
 
Use
 
Selected Characteristics
 
 
Biomass
 Space HeatingGenerally requires regular attention toensure fuel supply. Can range from awoodstove to more advanced boilers.
Ground Source Heat Pump
 Space heating, cooling,and hot water Also called geothermal heat pumps. Trans-fers energy to/from the ground; uses elec-tricity to operate compressor and pump.Does not use high temperature geothermalresources, such as hot springs, so it isavailable everywhere in WY.
Solar Thermal
 Hot water with limiteduse for space heatingConcentrates the sun’s energy to supplyhot water; requires roof or ground mountedsouthern exposure.
Solar Electric
 Generate electricity Also called photovoltaic (PV). Uses sun-light to directly generate electricity, with-out a conventional generator, so systemshave no moving parts. Requires unob-structed southern exposure.
 Wind
 Generate electricityInstallation can be site specific, as a goodwind resource is essential. Generally bet-ter suited for rural settings.
 
PAGE 3 ENTERPRISING RURAL FAMILIES
TM
VOLUME VII, ISSUE 8
than provided by existing sources. Also, as a small-scale RE system can be thought of as “owning ratherthan renting” your energy source, it does require a significant upfront capital investment, just like pur-chasing a home or office. In some family businesses this capital could be put to more profitable use.Therefore, you must be careful to assess the true cost of capital, and the value of price stability benefits,before simply assuming that a RE system will save your business money.Independence is another concern for many of Wyoming’s individualistic business people. Althoughsmall-scale RE systems generally do little for national energy independence, as they typically displacedomestic coal or natural gas resources as opposed to imported petroleum, they can offer a degree of per-sonal independence. Most electricity-generating RE systems are grid-connected, meaning that you stilldepend on your utility when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing, but you can become lessreliant on your utility with an RE system. (If you are willing to spend more and make a few lifestylechanges, it is possible to integrate batteries with your system and go “off-grid,” but this is generally cost-prohibitive for businesses with access to utility-provided electricity). Similarly, a solar thermal, bio-mass, or ground source heat pump system can allow you to sever your relationship with a natural gas orpropane supplier. With independence comes responsibility. To continue the renting versus owning anal-ogy, if your RE system malfunctions, it is your obligation to fix it, not your utility’s (landlord’s) duty. You must also be willing to invest time and energy into the system to perform maintenance. In sum,your energy independence will come at a cost of time and treasure!Education and your community can bequite important to family businesses, andan RE system can be part of your involve-ment. As many people value the attrib-utes of RE, it may provide positive publici-ty through noting your products are pro-duced with RE or to simply have a visiblesystem (e.g. wind or solar) on your build-ing. These systems can also be used to ed-ucate your community about where theirenergy originates (hint: it is not the outleton the wall). In addition, some familybusinesses are simply fascinated by theability to produce their own energy. Manysystems use intriguing technology to har-vest energy, and this can appeal to thetechnical interest of business owners. Simi-larly, with excellent wind and solar re-sources in Wyoming, some may feel compelled to harvest the energy, as if not used it feels like “leavinghay standing in the field.” Many of these educational and community values can help to change what a“cost effective” RE system is to your business.Finally, the environmental benefits of using RE are very important to some family businesses. If youbelieve that burning fossil-fuels has negative environmental impacts, such as acid rain, mercury deposi-tion, or global warming, a RE energy system offers the chance to reduce your environmental footprint.
 An example of a solar electric system at the Natrona CountyCooperative Extension Office.

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