Eco Talk: How green energy can work in your home

February 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

As Kermit the Frog used to say, “It’s not easy being green.” Green energy, also known as renewable energy, is energy that comes from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind and geothermal heat. Let’s take a few minutes to briefly explore each of these resource opportunities.

Sunlight, more commonly referred to as solar technology, makes use of the abundant energy in the sun, and has little impact on our environment. Port Byron schools have 40 250-watt solar panels mounted on the southern side of the elementary school. They not only save the district money, they also are a teaching tool for students.

Wind is recycled solar energy. When sunshine reaches the earth, it heats the surface at different rates, and this uneven heating creates wind. A small increase in wind speed creates a large increase in wind energy. Wind turbines convert this energy into electricity. There are several wind turbines in the upstate New York area.

Geothermal heat comes from the ground. Even in northern climates, the soil maintains a temperature of around 50 degrees at about 4 feet beneath the earth’s surface. Heat pumps move this heat energy from the soil to the house in the winter and operate in reverse in the summer, pulling heat out of the house back to the soil. Heat pumps installed in energy-efficient homes can use dramatically less electricity than conventional electric heating and cooling systems. The Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES facility uses geothermal systems to heat and cool parts of the campus.

There are many ways that homeowners can reduce energy bills and environmental impact. Technologies such as solar electric, solar thermal hot water and geothermal heating and cooling can be good alternatives to reduce the usage of natural resources. While not for every home, these technologies offer powerful options together with comprehensive energy efficiency improvements. However, the first step is to make your home as energy efficient as possible. If you are building a new home, consider building a New York Energy Star Home. If you own an existing home, consider getting a comprehensive home assessment or an energy audit through home performance with Energy Star to evaluate the energy efficiency of your home and make necessary energy improvements. The Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency’s weatherization program, currently housed at 37 Brogan Manor, Auburn, can assist county residents in applying for grants. You can contact them at (315) 255-1703.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County conducts energy workshops in conjunction with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority during the heating season called Save Energy, Save Dollars at various locations throughout the county. There will be one from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at the Seymour Library, and another at the Port Byron Senior Center from noon to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20. Please call (315) 255-1183 ext. 246 if you are interested in attending (seating is limited).

There are many options for green, renewable energy, and we need to explore them now. In New York, renewables have the potential to meet as much as 40 percent of energy needs by 2030. To quote U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, “By investing in renewable sources of energy right here at home, we can create American jobs while protecting the environment for generations to come.”

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