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Smart Meters: Giving Away Your Secrets to Save Energy?

Smart meters are set to become an increasingly familiar item in our homes, as energy companies start a major campaign to roll out these devices across the country from 2015, as part of a Government mandated programme to install 53 million of them by 2020.

Billed as the ‘next generation’ of gas and electric meters and a major boost to energy saving, they come with a whole host of intelligent functions built-in, which offer unprecedented levels of convenience and ease of use for suppliers and customers alike – but not everyone is happy with the idea. A report from the EU Data Watchdog in 2012 concluded that Smart Meters represent a significant risk to personal data security, while some in the defence and intelligence community fear the potential danger of web-enabling the nation’s critical infrastructure, in this age of burgeoning cyber-terrorism.

So, are Smart Meters the must-have gadget of the future, or another example of Big Brother’s growing surveillance? Just what does lie behind these controversial devices? As Obi-Wan Kenobi once (fictitiously) said, many of the truths we cling to most dearly, depend on our point of view.

Smart benefits

There is no doubt that Smart Meters represent a huge functionality leap from their current ‘dumb’ counterparts.

  • They can display your usage in real time and in real money
  • Give households the ability to keep tabs on mounting bills quickly and simply
  • Because they communicate directly with the energy company’s HQ, there will be no more missed meter-readers or estimated bills!

Perhaps in the future they could even allow devices such as washing machines or electric car rechargers to switch on automatically, when energy prices are cheapest.

Aren’t the advantages just marginal though?

Opponents argue however, that these are pretty marginal advantages; already you can buy energy monitors very cheaply, that will enable you to keep track of your usage. Sending in your own readings by ‘phone or the internet is a long established practice, and timers can do today what smart meters only promise for tomorrow. The benefits, many argue, do not outweigh the costs.

Secrets Revealed

Smart metering carries huge risks to personal data protection, it enables a vast amount of information to be collected routinely from households and potentially could allow what individual members of a household do within the privacy of their own homes, to be tracked.

If someone you had just bumped into came up with that sort of thing, you might be forgiven for putting them down as a bit of a conspiracy theorist – but this was what the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) had to say in his report on plans to roll out the technology across the EU. Even so, it does sound a little far-fetched, surely? After all, it’s only a meter…well, not quite; those in the know will tell you, it all comes down to granularity.

The traditional model – a meter reader calling once or twice a year – allows your supplier to bill you accurately, but doesn’t really say much about you, or your household, beyond how much energy you collectively use. Collect readings every 15 minutes, night and day, year after year and it doesn’t take much imagination to see that what goes on behind your front door suddenly becomes a lot more transparent.

With access to that data, it becomes a fairly simple matter to know very precisely when something is switched on, or off; it might also be possible to identify exactly what was being used – and records like that over the months could very soon build up a fairly detailed picture of household behaviour.

It led the EDPS to highlight a number of concerns; knowing when a house is regularly empty might be of interest to criminals; the personal profiles being generated might be used commercially; health issues might be inferred if someone was known to be using a particular type of medical device.

A bogus threat?

Yes, but hang on a minute. Just because it might conceivably happen, that doesn’t mean that it will – right?

Wrong, actually; it already has. At the 28th Chaos Computing Congress, ‘White Hat’ hackers reported that they had been able to intercept unencrypted data travelling from Smart Meters which allowed them not only to work out if houses were occupied at the time – but also what those occupants were watching on TV!

Frightening levels of detail

Apparently, the changing brightness of a picture on plasma-screen or LCD sets is mirrored in the TV’s power-consumption levels – and that gives every programme its own distinctive electrical signature. With the power company in question taking readings every two seconds (yes, two seconds!), matching household consumption patterns to on-screen viewing becomes a simple exercise for anyone with enough know-how and a handy laptop.

Your data, your choice

So, where does that leave us? Can smart meters help you save energy and the UK achieve its carbon reduction target? Yes, they can. Will you be giving away at least some level of ‘extra’ information about your household into the bargain? Yes, you will.

How you feel about that, is of course, up to you. The manufacturers of smart meters quite rightly point out that at least as much information is regularly harvested by the likes of Google, insurance companies and your favourite supermarket cards or loyalty programmes – and many people routinely give away far more on Facebook.

All of that is, of course, true, but for many of those who oppose smart meters it is about a much more simple principle – the right to choose. You can avoid overly intrusive companies, and you don’t have to use particular credit cards or loyalty schemes; being forced to host an enforced ‘spy’ in your own home is something different entirely. It’s your data, they argue; it should be your choice.

In the end, however, the whole debate may itself be superseded by technology. Waiting in the wings are solutions which might see the whole idea of ‘meters’ consigned to the history books, as appliances and devices start to communicate directly with a smart grid, taking load on demand and reporting their own usage without the need for any kind of separate meter at all.

Heaven, or hell? That old Jedi was right; it really does depend on your point of view.

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Saving Energy Through Double Glazing

Insulating your home is one of the best ways to make your home energy efficient – and one of the key ways to save energy is through double glazing. Double glazing acts as second layer of protection for your home from losing heat. And when around half of heat used to keep your home warm is lost through the walls, windows or loft, you could cut this significantly by installing double glazed windows.

Single glazed windows alone can lose around 20% of your home’s heat. Double glazing can make a wise long term investment for your home, and be good for the environment. Double glazed windows can save $80 to $100 and 680kg of CO2 every year – not to mention adding real value to your property if you later choose to sell.

How Double Glazing Works

Double glazing works by trapping air between two panes of glass. This creates an insulating barrier that will stop heat being lost, stop condensation appearing at your windows, and will also help stop noise from outside.

You should look for energy saving recommended double glazing, to ensure that you are installing the most energy efficient frames and glass. This will be particularly important when Energy Performance Certificates give an energy efficiency rating to homes in the new Home Information Packs that you’ll need, if you choose to sell your property after June 2007.

Top Tips

Remember that installing double glazing can considerably alter the outside appearance of your property, so choose the type of double glazing for your home carefully. This is of particular importance when installing new frames and window panes into older style properties.

In the main, you can choose uPVC, aluminium or timber frames for your windows – choose wisely and in accordance with the other main style features of your property. If you have a listed building or a building with unusual features, please bear in mind that you may need to get building or planning permission from your local council before you start work. Contact your local council to find out if you’ll be affected by any regulations.

Ensure that you use an experienced professional to install double glazing rather than trying to do it yourself. However do get involved by asking how the windows will look when the job’s finished, what sort of security is being fitted to the windows and what guarantees accompany the double glazing work.

The Costs

The cost of installing double glazing greatly depends on the size of your house, and how many windows you wish to fit double glazed panes into – but expect to pay several thousand pounds for it. The double glazing company market is a competitive one, however, so shop around and see what deals are on offer – and don’t be afraid to haggle!

If your budget is tight, you may choose simply to double glaze the windows in individual rooms rather than your entire property. Pick the rooms you use most often and tend to heat most. Remember there may also be grants available to you in installing double glazing.

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How to Choose the Right Energy Efficient Windows

Everyone knows that having single glazed windows is a disaster as far as energy usage is concerned. Many houses already have double glazed windows and one of the objectives of the government is to refurbish many more homes in the next five years so that they have more energy efficient windows. But is it always enough to have double glazing? Cold countries such as the Scandinavian countries favour triple glazed windows, with special heat conserving glass – some people in the US believe that the extra expense is also worth if for homes in this country.

Energy Efficiency with Style

The manufacturing processes and the technology involved in making double and triple glazed windows has progressed a lot in the last few years. It’s now possible to get energy efficient multiple glazed windows in any style, suitable for modern, new builds, or traditional Victorian homes or medieval farmhouses. It is crucial that the frames are airtight and let in no drafts – the glass may be energy efficient, but the window overall will be a drain on energy and on finances.

Double or triple glazed glass units for windows can be fitted in any style or material, but the main ones used tend to be wood or UVPC. There are advantages and disadvantages to both; wood may look good and fit in much better in an old house, but it does need regular maintenance to prevent weather damage and to keep it in the best condition. UVPC is available in different colours – you don’t have to have white – and it needs a clean a couple of times a year to keep it looking new.

How Much Can you Save with Double Glazing?

Various studies have been done to illustrate how an individual householder can save money with double glazing – the current estimates say it’s about $135 per year, which represents a reduction on your energy bills. Double glazing costs a lot more than that though, even for one window, so getting new energy efficient windows must also increase the look and appeal and saleability of your home. It takes many years for the windows to pay for themselves.

Triple Glazing is Usually A Rated

Although some double glazed energy efficient windows do carry the A rating, triple glazed windows are always highly rated as they have three layers of glass with internal gas filled spaces to provide much better insulation. The most energy efficient designs have krypton, argon or xenon between the sheets of glass. These are the inert gases – there is little chance that they could leak out but if they did, the gases are completely harmless.

Other rating requirements are now imposed for all new windows fitted in England and Wales as part of the governments drive to reduce energy expenditure and to lower our national carbon footprint. New windows must be rated at least at the level of band D energy efficiency but if you are changing the windows, you want them to last for years, so choosing at least a B rating is sensible.

What is Low Emissivity Glass

Also called Low-E glass, this is the most thermally energy efficient double glazing. When you have this type of glass fitted to a south facing window, you can maximise the heating effect of the sun in winter and minimise the loss of heat through the glass from the inside. The windows are made from glass that has an internal thin coating of a metal oxide, so it lets heat in but stops it getting out again. You are looking through this layer all the time, but it is so fine that your eyes can’t tell the different between low emissivity glass and ordinary glass.

Professional Fitting

Whatever type of window you choose, the most important thing for energy efficiency and cost effectiveness is to get the windows fitted professionally. They will then look good and you can be assured they will be draft free and will comply with building regulations. It’s best to look for someone who is registered with one of the UK schemes for window installers – either FENSA or Certass. That way you will also get a certificate to show the windows fulfil energy conservation requirements and you can keep this to pass on if you sell your house during the lifetime of the windows.

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How do you save energy in the fall?

With cozy sweaters, pumpkin carving, and crisp breezes, it’s no surprise that many Americans proclaim fall as their favorite time of the year. Autumn brings people close together to celebrate family, holidays, and yummy food – including everything pumpkin!

But while you enjoy cooler weather and a break from the summer humidity, remember that you might need to make some changes to your energy-saving habits.

Follow the tips below to stay warm and save energy this fall:

  • Keep your thermostat at or below 68 degrees. Regulating the temperature in your home is important and can save you money. The Department of Energy suggests turning back your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees for 8 hours a day to save up to 10% on heating costs. If you set your temperature to 68 degrees while at home and lower the temperature before going to bed, your HVAC system will have less work to do, resulting in lower energy consumption. Managing the temperature of your home is even easier with a programmable thermostat or a thermostat that you can control from your phone.
  • Check for cracks, leaks, and drafts. Air leakage occurs because of cracks or gaps in in windows, doors and walls and can lead to higher monthly energy rates because it lets heat escape and cold air enter. Before it gets too cold, it’s important to check all your doors and windows for air leakage that could keep your heater running overtime. If your front or back door has space between it and the floor, add weather stripping to the bottom or use caulk to seal the gap. This will prevent excess heat from escaping and could keep your heater from running up your energy bill. Also, be sure to check out the exterior or your home – it’s common to find gaps or cracks around windows and doors or where different building materials meet.
  • Take note of your fireplace. Speaking of air leakage, your fireplace may also need a little extra attention. If you aren’t cozied up by the fire, keep the fireplace damper closed. When the damper is open and there isn’t a fire burning, warm air can escape through the chimney. You should also consider purchasing energy efficient fireplace grates – these grates will draw cool air into the fireplace while pushing warm air back into your room.
  • Let light and heat from windows inside.Let the sun do some of the heating for your home! Before you go to work, open the blinds or curtains of south-facing windows, allowing the sun to warm the room while you’re gone. When you get home, don’t forget to close them to lock in that free heat. In areas where your home doesn’t get much sun, keep your curtains and blinds closed to trap in the heat. You can also strategically plant trees in your yard to help with energy costs! Deciduous trees can provide shade during the summer, but lose their leaves in the winter, allowing for more sunlight to warm your home.
  • Reverse the spin of ceiling fans. Ceiling fans can easily keep you cool, but they can also help keep you warm. If you reverse the direction to clockwise, your ceiling fans will push warm air back down (remember, warm air rises). It will also redistribute the warm air from your heating system, making sure pockets of cold air don’t settle in the corners of each room. In the summer, don’t forget to adjust the fans back to counter-clockwise. This will pull hot air up to the ceiling and help with cooling costs, too. Don’t have any fans? Check your nearest home improvement store for deals and install ceiling fans in the rooms you use most. Some improvement stores will even install ceiling fans for you!
  • Replace your HVAC filter. This tip is easy to forget, but could save your home from using unnecessary energy. Your air filter is the access point for your HVAC system’s air flow, and the place that filters your home from allergens and dirt particles. If you don’t replace your air filter, it clogs up from excess dust. This reduces airflow, or increases resistance, which puts strain on your heating and cooling system. Check your filter once a month to make sure it’s not too dirty, or subscribe to a filter delivery service for a monthly reminder.
  • Conserve heat with tin foil. Yes, you read that correctly – placing a piece of tin foil behind your radiator will help reflect heat back into your home. Don’t let that precious heat go out the window; this cheap and simple hack could also help you save on winter heating bills. Just make sure the shiny side is facing the radiator!
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5 Free and Easy Ways to Save Energy

We’ve all read numerous tips on how to save energy, from turning off the lights when you leave a room to looking for the ENERGY STAR logo when shopping for new appliances, but do they really help that much?

The answer is: Yes! There’s a reason we see similar energy-saving tips over and over again; every single step you take to save energy helps you save money and reduce your home’s impact on the environment. SaveOnEnergy.com’s list of tips explains why each of these practices is so important, along with how you can easily implement them in your daily life.

Did you know: If every American simply replaced one light bulb with a more energy-efficient variety, we would save roughly $600 million in annual energy costs and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s equal to lighting up 3 million homes and keeping 800,000 cars off the road annually.

If a single light bulb switch can have such a major impact, imagine the difference you can make with these quick and free changes. Don’t forget to encourage your friends and neighbors to make these changes, too!

Here are our top 5 free and easy ways to save energy in your home:

1. Turn off the fan when you leave a room.

Why? Fans don’t cool the air – they only cool people by blowing warm, still air across their skin. The motor on the fan actually adds heat to the room – another reason to turn it off when you leave.

How: Just like turning off the lights and electronics when you leave a room, turn off the fan. It sets a good example for the younger generation that waste is never a good thing.

2. Close your drapes or drop your window shades during the day.

Why? Keeping sunlight out during the heat of the day keeps the house cooler. In the winter, doing the opposite lets the warm sunlight in.

How: Consider moving your furniture around with the seasons to take advantage of or avoid the sun. Eating breakfast near a sunny window can start your chilly winter day off right.

3. Wash your clothes in cold water.

Why? Ninety percent of the energy used to wash your clothes is for heating the water.

How: Cold water is just as effective for getting clothes clean with today’s high-efficiency washers and cold water-formulated detergents.

4. Wrap or cover foods and drinks in the refrigerator.

Why? When foods release moisture they make the compressor work harder to keep the unit cold.

How: Take a few seconds to put on some plastic wrap to trap that moisture. Better yet, put that food in a reusable container with a lid to avoid having to throw away the plastic wrap.

5. Always use the cold water faucet, unless you really want hot water.

Why? Turning on the hot water faucet (or placing the faucet lever to hot or warm) requires energy to heat the water, even if it doesn’t reach the faucet before you turn it off.

How: Use cold water, especially for cooking. Hot water from the tap absorbs more lead and other contaminants from pipes.

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5 Ways to Save Energy and Money at Your Vacation Home

Ahhh, Friday afternoon is finally here and you can’t wait to escape for the weekend to your second home. Whether you have a cottage at the lake or a cabin in the mountains, your vacation home should be a place for rest and relaxation – not a place for worry about how much energy it’s eating up and what the extra utility bills are costing you. Stop the worry with these tips on how to make your vacation home more efficient so you can return to the carefree-weekend you’re craving.

  1. Make sure your house is sealed up tight. This means making sure the roof, siding, foundation and gutters are free of holes – or even cracks, dents or nicks that could become holes – that allow air leaks or even insects and bigger critters into your house. You also need to make sure your doors and windows don’t have any cracks. Since you don’t live in this house every day, you might not notice a small problem before it turns into a big issue, so it’s important to maintain a tightly sealed home.
  2. Use a smart thermostat. These new kinds of programmable thermostats are web-enabled so you can adjust the temperature anytime, anywhere. That type of access is particularly helpful for preventing damage to a second home. For example, you may have turned off the heat in your vacation home to save money, but an approaching winter storm threatens to freeze your pipes. With a smart thermostat, you could turn on the heat with your smartphone or computer to prevent the pipes from bursting, requiring a costly repair. Smart thermostats can also help make your vacation home more comfortable. Instead of waiting for an hour or so for the house to cool off or warm up once you get there, you can simply adjust the thermostat from the road, making your entry to the vacation that much smoother.
  3. Make sure your exhaust fan is working properly. With too much moisture in a locked-up house, mold can build up quickly. Make sure your exhaust fan in the bathroom is working and be sure to use it after every shower, especially on the day you leave.
  4. Turn off your appliances and electronics when you leave. This may sound obvious, but you may not realize that many plugged-in appliances draw energy even when they are “turned off.” Electronics with a standby mode (such as a microwave or TV), power cords with a large brick in the middle of the cord (laptop adaptors) and large block plugs (phone chargers) use electricity all the time. The easiest way to turn multiple electronics and appliances off is to plug them all into power strips; then with one flick you can turn everything plugged into them off at once.
  5. Set the hot water heater to a lower temperature. Make sure the temperature on your hot water heater is no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. When you leave, you can turn the temperature even lower or set it to vacation mode if your hot water heater has one.

There’s no reason your vacation home can’t be just as energy-efficient as your daily home. Save some energy and money with these simple tips that will make your weekend.

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What You Need to Know About Alternative Energy Sources

When you boil it down there are only two types of energy: brown and green. Brown energy refers to electricity generated through the burning of traditional fossil fuels, such as coal or oil. This type of energy is associated with pollution because it emits a number of greenhouse gasses attributed to climate change. Green energy is the exact opposite. It’s made of alternative energy sources that are infinite and pollution-free, such as wind, hydroelectric or solar power.

Types of alternative energy sources

When it comes to alternative energy sources, you’re likely talking about the following renewable energy generation processes.

  •  Wind energy.  Wind energy is one of the most abundant alternative energy sources in the United States, at times generating more than 6 percent of the nation’s electricity, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.  Today, wind energy is typically generated through a wind turbine. These structures, which can stand more than 400 feet tall, resemble large pinwheels. As wind blows, the turbine blades spin, producing kinetic energy. That energy can then be converted into usable electricity for your home.
  • Solar energy.  The sun is so powerful that just one hour of sunlight could power the planet for an entire year. In order to harness its energy, solar panels, or photovoltaic cells, use semiconductors to capture the powerful rays. The semiconductor, typically silicon, absorbs sunlight and knocks its electrons loose, creating solar energy that can be harnessed and transported to the power grid.
  •  Geothermal energy. There are geological hot spots, such as volcanoes or hot springs, all over the world that are teeming with energy opportunity. These areas radiate extreme temperatures that, if harnessed, can be converted into renewable energy. To capture this energy, geothermal power plants are set up around hot spots where they drill into the Earth’s core. The steam or scalding water that comes up in the process pushes a turbine to create electricity.
  •  Hydroelectric power. Water is another free resource that makes a great alternative energy source. And it’s one of the nation’s oldest renewable energy resources. In the 1920s, hydroelectric power supplied as much as 40 percent of the nation’s electricity needs. Though the resource supplies significantly less today, it’s still a valuable energy source. Hydroelectric power plants typically include a dam that helps control water levels and movement. To generate energy, the plant forces water through a turbine, causing it to spin. The movement is then captured by an attached generator that transforms the waters energy into electricity.
  •  Biomass. Instead of letting plant waste decompose on its own, the energy stored in the plants can be converted into renewable energy. Because plants store energy from the sun, they are full of usable energy that just needs to be harnessed. The process of creating energy involves burning plant material to create heat and then converting the heat into renewable electricity. Common biomass materials include forest residue, corn stalks or husks, sawdust and switch grass.
  •  Biogas. Biogas energy is generated by converting animal manure into electricity.  As bacteria works to decompose the manure, special machinery is used to depress oxygen and convert the animal waste into methane gas. The methane can be used to heat water or create electricity for your home, while any leftover manure becomes fertilizer. But there’s little-to-no biogas available on the grid today. Most biogas plants reside on large farms, where farmers use the energy source to power their own operations.

Buy renewable energy from green energy companies

Although installing your own set of solar panels is a great way to get green energy to your home, it can be an expensive option. Fortunately, there’s a more cost-effective solution to power your home off of alternative energy sources.  If you live in a deregulated area you have the opportunity to purchase a renewable energy supply. There are a number of green energy companies that offer electricity that’s generated from alternative energy sources. Some even offer 100 percent renewable energy plans so you can completely offset your electricity consumption.

If you don’t live in a deregulated state, you may still have opportunities to contribute to renewable energy generation. Some utilities will allow you to pay a small fee on top of your normal electricity costs to add power from alternative energy sources to the grid.

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Is Solar Energy Renewable?

Solar energy systems use sunlight to provide thermal and electrical power for residential, commercial and industrial locations. The amount of energy generated through solar energy systems directly depends on the amount of sunlight that’s gathered on a daily basis. With that being said, is solar energy truly a renewable resource?

The design behind solar energy systems

Individuals have the ability to harness solar energy through two forms: passive solar energy systems and active solar energy systems. Passive solar energy systems are designed without the use of any electronic devices. A structure harnesses solar energy through design elements such as window location, shading, proper insulation and thermal mass (e.g. brick, tile, concrete). According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), “passive solar design takes advantage of a building’s site, climate, and materials to minimize energy use.” South-facing windows can catch natural sunlight throughout most of the day. That’s why most residential passive designs implement windows in commonly used rooms such as a kitchen or family room.  However, passive solar energy systems often consist of non-renewable building materials and can require additional time for planning and construction.

Active solar energy systems are made up of external mechanical and/or electrical equipment that converts sunlight into usable energy. They are manufactured and require three main parts: panels, pumps and storage tanks. Similar to that of passive solar energy systems, active systems are partially made up of non-renewable materials such as silicon and aluminum.

Whether you’re talking about passive or active solar energy systems, it’s completely valid to refer to solar energy as renewable. The sun is a free, clean and consistent power source that has been producing energy for billions of years, meaning that solar energy is renewable. However, it’s hard to ignore that this source of renewable energy relies – to some extent – on non-renewable inputs.

If we were to deplete the non-renewable resources that are essential to produce passive and active solar energy systems, could we find an alternative way to harness and utilize solar energy?

Looking toward the future of solar energy

When it comes down to it, solar energy is one of the most popular forms of alternative energy; this can be linked to energy reliability, lower utility bills and a more environmentally aware society. According to Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS), residential and commercial passive solar has the ability to reduce energy use – mainly in heating and cooling – up to 90%.  In June 2019, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) recorded that residential active solar grew by 76% over the first quarter of 2018. In addition, the United States installed enough active solar energy systems to power 14.3 million American homes in the first quarter of 2019. As the demand for passive and active solar energy systems increases, you may want to find out if a solar energy system is the right choice for your home or business. But for now, we can confirm that solar energy is renewable.

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Learn About Hydroelectric Power

Although solar and wind energy are the most prominent forms of renewable energy generation, hydroelectric power, which uses moving water to generate energy, is one of the oldest. You can date hydroelectric power back at least 2,000 years when the Greeks used the force of water to turn wheels for grinding wheat into flour. Later, in the 1700s, hydroelectric power was popular for pumping and milling and in the early 1900s the process was used to create electricity. By the 1920s, hydroelectric power supplied nearly 40 percent of the electricity in the United States.

While hydroelectric power was once a popular choice for electricity generation, its use has slowly declined over the decades. Now hydroelectric power only makes up about 9 percent of electricity generation in the United States. This has occurred, in part, because of the nation’s growing population and increased energy demand. Many also believe hydroelectric dams pose an environmental threat, hindering the development of more hydroelectric projects.

How is hydroelectric power generated?

Like all forms of renewable energy, hydroelectric power transforms the energy from a natural resource into electricity. In this case, the force of water is harnessed to generate clean power. Hydroelectric plants, which are often situated on dams, push water through a series of turbines. As the water forces its way through, the turbines spin and create kinetic energy. Then an attached generator is able to capture the energy and convert it into the electricity.

The environmental impact of hydroelectric power

There are a lot of great perks to using hydroelectric power. It’s a consistent electricity source, it uses an abundant natural resource and because no fuels are burned it has negligible air emissions. And although some might worry about pollution in the water source, the generation process is completely clean. Once water has pushed through the turbines, it returns to the body of water below the dam. But still, there are a couple of environmental issues that stand as a barrier to hydroelectric power today.

·         Wildlife impacts. A major concern for environmentalists is that hydroelectric power plants are usually situated on dams. While dams are used for a number of other purposes, such as flood control, recreation and agricultural irrigation, they can change the habitats of natural wildlife. In addition to altering ecosystems of plant and aquatic life, hydroelectric turbines can injure or kill fish without proper precautions such as in-take screens to keep aquatic life out.

·         Land use.Often times, hydroelectric plants are massive and consume a large amount of land. Not only does this land use disrupt ecosystems, it can cause erosion at river beds and block scenic views.

Considering these environmental factors, installing hydropower has been a strenuous ordeal for decades. With government rules and regulations, it could take years to get approval to build a new hydroelectric plant. However, a couple of bills were passed last August that should help revive hydroelectric power and potentially add 60 gigawatts of renewable energy to the grid.

The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Bill will streamline small hydroelectric projects and allow power companies to add generation to the nation’s 80,000 untapped dams. And the Small Conduit Hydropower Development Bill will add renewable capacity at government property and irrigation canals. Though there’s no plan to allow companies to build new dams and hydroelectric plants elsewhere, these two bills could bring a rise in renewable generation in the coming years.

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Does Solar Power Save Energy?

Harnessing energy from the sun to power everyday lives is an exciting prospect that is already true for many homes and businesses. However, understanding how it works isn’t as widespread, and the benefits of solar energy can be misconstrued. Renewable energy and green technology are areas where many people have questions, but one main question is, “Does solar power save energy?”

Per the first law of thermodynamics, energy is transformable, but it is not something we can create or destroy. In other words, the only way to save energy is to not use energy. While solar power is a source of energy that is renewable, it is not a method of energy conservation. Instead, it is a method of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Solar power can reduce pollution

The largest solar thermal power plant in the world, Invanpah, is located in California’s Mojave Desert. The solar power plant can produce enough energy to power 140,000 homes in California each year. While this plant does not use the same technology as solar panels, Invanpah uses solar energy to run a steam-powered turbine. Now think of a coal-fired power plant. Fossil fuels heat water that makes a turbine spin. This process is continuous, which means that burning of coal is continuous. With solar power, there is virtually no pollution.

How solar power may save you money

Instead of saving energy, solar power might be able to save you a nice chunk of change. If you install solar panels at your home and remain connected to the electrical grid, you can be your own power plant and contribute to the grid. When the sun shines all day and there are no clouds in sight, the solar panels could harness more energy than you will use. Any excess energy is exported from your home to the electric grid, reducing the need for electricity produced by your utility and cutting down on pollution from your local power plant. If you produce energy for the grid, you may receive a credit from your utility. Instead of spending money, you’ll be making it.

The cost of installing solar power can be reduced through tax credits from local, state and federal governments. Each state has different tax credits, rebates and other ways to save, so be sure to check and see what savings you may encounter through installation of solar panels.