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Pros and Cons of Green Power

July 18, 2012 | 0 comments

Green power use in commercial buildings is increasing every day, but still only 8% of U.S. energy comes from alternative energy sources, according to National Geographic. The United States is currently in second place behind China, the world leader in green power.

There are three options for incorporating green power in your facility: 1) purchasing grid-connected green power from suppliers, 2) installing onsite generation (wind turbines, photovoltaics, etc.), or 3) purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs). You can mix and match these options to create your facility’s green power strategy.

Check out some of the pros and cons of three up-and-coming green power sources:

Wind

Wind power currently makes up 9% of renewable energy use, and it’s the fast-growing electricity source in the world.

Pros:

  • Wind power prices have dropped by 80% or more in the last two decades
  • Wind energy is almost limitless; total wind energy potential is estimated to be 3600 TW, which could supply the world’s energy need 200 times over

Cons:

  • Turbines may not be considered “aesthetically pleasing”
  • Wind turbine installation relies on land/space availability; you have to be choosy about where turbines are located to harness wind power effectively without interfering with surrounding buildings, etc.
  • Onsite turbine applications work best in non-urban areas
  • Intermittency issues are possible based on daily wind levels

 

Solar

Solar power (either through passive strategies like windows, or through photovoltaics, solar panels, etc.) accounts for about 1% of green power sources. It has grown close to 20% a year over the past 15 years.

Pros:

  • There’s plenty of solar power to go around: Every hour, the sun beams more than enough energy to satisfy global energy needs for a full year
  • With tax incentives, solar power sometimes pays for itself within five to 10 years
  • Doesn’t take up a lot of land mass since solar panels can be incorporated into the building structure as roofing or glazing

 Cons:

  • Intermittency issues are probable on cloudy days or at night (solar doesn’t work in the dark without a storage device like a battery)
  • Although prices are falling (tenfold since the 1980s), solar power is still expensive

 

 Geothermal

Geothermal makes up about 5% of green power use. It will continue to grow, but its growth will trail behind wind and solar power.

 Pros:

  • Geothermal is efficient and reliable; it’s not weather-dependent like many other green power options
  • Geothermal capacity is expanding; by 2020, as much as 14.4 gigawatts of new capacity will be added at a 3% annual growth rate

 Cons:

  • Commercial geothermal power projects are expensive, especially when exploration and drilling for new resources is required
  • Geothermal needs lots of space to be effective (for one ton of cooling, it’s estimated that a commercial building needs 2,500 square feet and 200 to 250 linear feet of ground space)
  • Installation can require moist sand or dirt for best performance


Have you incorporated green power into your energy mix? Why or why not?

 


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