The sun provides all the energy the world needs for a year every hour. And the winds that blow around the earth could also supply enough electricity for everyone’s needs. The problem, of course, is finding ways to harness, store and use such power in an affordable way. While renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass and geothermal energy still make up but a fraction of our use, their importance is growing every day.
Large industrial renewable energy facilities are supplying much of the renewable energy in our nation today. Huge hydroelectric projects at big federally- owned dams and the Cabin Creek project above Georgetown are examples of hydro power. Major wind farms with hundreds of giant turbines are being built on Colorado’s eastern plains and throughout the “wind corridor” that stretches through the nation’s Great Plains states. Big solar projects that showcase huge arrays of panels or mirrors that use the sun’s heat to warm liquid are proposed or under construction in the sunny southwest.
Photo Courtesy of DOE/NREL, Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell, AZ
But not all renewable energy projects are large and expensive. Interest is also growing in smaller, more decentralized renewable options available to individuals and communities known as “distributed generation.”
Thanks to incentives, rebates and innovative financing schemes, it’s easier than ever to go solar. You can now choose whether to own your own solar panels, or to lease them from a company that owns the panels and allows you to pay only for the energy. And if you don’t have a suitable site, community solar gardens are cropping up to give you another option.
Meanwhile, small wind turbines are coming into their own as a reasonable option for many people who live in windy areas. With much of the West ravaged by mountain pine beetles that have killed millions of trees, burning wood makes sense for many, and clean pellet stoves are emerging as a good way to use up this fuel. Follow the links on the left to start your exploration!
Photo Courtesy of DOE/NREL, Overview of solar field concentrated sunlight heats circulating fluid, parabolic troughs