Despite a concerted effort by organizations in the government, nonprofit, and commercial arenas to educate the public regarding the benefits of renewable energy, we find that many myths ardently persist. Today’s post lays to rest myths in various facets of the renewable energy industry:
- Smart Grid
- Renewable Energy
Smart Grid Myth:
Smart grids don’t benefit consumers; they benefit utilities. FALSE
Smart grid technology gives consumers valuable input into the decision-making process by communicating with the electrical grid and adjusting to changing energy demands. Like any other web application you use to manage your daily life — banking, fitness, sleep, social media — smart grids will keep you informed.
- View your electricity usage in real-time
- See how costs fluctuate
- Use more electricity when it’s cost-effective, less when it’s not
- Generate your own power (if you have at-home renewables like solar panels) and even sell it back to utility companies
In tandem with smart grids, smart meters will be able to monitor and report the location of power outages, freeing you from making the call. The restoration of power and status notifications will be made easier and faster.
Offshore wind operations are unattractive and potentially dangerous to communities. FALSE
Many coastal communities are understandably concerned about the visual aesthetic of wind operations off the coast. The reality is that proposed wind projects, such as the Kill Devil Hills project on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, are not visible from land; in this case, the turbines will be 24 miles offshore.
Regarding the second misconception — wind turbines are dangerous — it is clear that wind turbines represent much less of a threat to coastal communities than offshore drilling. A “Catastrophic Wind Spill Endangers Coastline” is a headline you’ll never see, nor is there any plausible scenario in which wind turbines could damage beaches or aquatic life.
As for the coastal and migratory bird populations, we already laid to rest in a previous article the incorrect notion that wind turbines significantly harm bird populations. In fact, wind turbines harm birds much less so than cars, buildings, or Thanksgiving. Furthermore, with wind installations 20+ miles offshore, it is not farfetched to assume that the average 1-2 bird deaths per year per turbine will be lessened by the fact that “Atlantic Flyway” bird migratory patterns tend to be along the shoreline (not off the coast).
Windows don’t affect the energy efficiency of my home much. FALSE
Not exactly. The warmth, light, and ventilation from windows are of incalculable value to our psyche and quality of life; beyond that, however, it is true that they can lower the energy efficiency of your home.
To counteract this loss of efficiency, Energy.gov recommends installing:
“exterior or interior storm windows, which can reduce heat loss through the windows by approximately 10-20%, depending on the type of window already installed in the home.”
Though this is not a huge short-term gain, 10-20 percent can add up in terms of long-term costs. With a 30-year mortgage on a new home, it pays to factor efficiency into new builds or renovations of any size. There are many other ways in which to improve the efficiency of your home and put money back in your pocket.
If you have questions or need suggestions for making your space more energy efficient — for homeowners, renters, business owners — there are excellent resources in North Carolina for that as well.
Solar is great if you have lots of money, but isn’t accessible for average consumers. FALSE
Solar panel installations typically cost $15,000 to $20,000, and reduce your electricity bill by 70-100 percent, depending on roof size, positioning, and location (NC is in a prime location for solar energy production, even in the winter). Solar systems tend to generate enough savings to pay for themselves in five to seven years, according to Consumer Reports.
Additionally, the federal government provides tax credits as follows:
- 30 percent credit for the cost of a solar system installed through 2019
- 22-26 percent through 2021.
Try this solar calculator by EnergySage — a company positioned as a nonbiased marketplace for solar solutions and featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes, Fox News, and more — to get a sense of the timeline and amount of money you could save.
Renewable Energy Myth:
Renewables Are Too Expensive. FALSE
Due to their declining cost, wind and solar are becoming more and more competitive with natural gas and other non-renewables. According to a recent Bloomberg article:
|“Economies of scale are the true driver of falling prices: The cost of solar power has fallen to 1/150th of its level in the 1970s, while the total amount of installed solar has soared 115,000-fold.”|
On the other hand, the clean energy industry is soaring, in part due to this simple fact: solar and wind are technologies, not fuels (Bloomberg). Given humankind’s precedent for rapid innovation and pure grit in the face of overwhelming odds, it is reasonable to assume that technological advancements will continue to spur economic growth, productivity, and declining costs for the renewable energy industry, but most importantly the advancement of technology will benefit energy consumers in the short- and long-term.