Start a Renewable Energy Project

Partnering with the power of nature

  • Helping you get started

     Interested in using renewable energy?  Consider the tips on this page to save you time and money and to help you decide what energy source might be right for you:
    1.  Know Your Energy Situation

      Get Started 1 Know Your Energy SituationCalculate your energy usage in the three energy areas: heating, electricity, and transportation. Chart it on paper. Involve staff members or members of your family. How much does your business or your home spend monthly and annually on space heating, electricity and fuel for your vehicles? How much do you spend per kilowatt-hour, gallon, and mcf (natural gas)? Which energy do you spend the most on? The least? 

    2. Start with Efficiency

      Get Started 2 Start With EfficiencyDon’t forget the simple steps you can do now.  We know they are not as exciting as solar panels or making your own fuel.  We know insulation isn't nearly as easy to brag about as a geothermal heat pump. . .but it is the place to start without a doubt.  The Department of Energy claims you can knock 20% off your usage with simple no cost/low cost solutions. 

    3. Choose an Energy Source

      Get Started 3 Choose An Energy SourceAfter you know your energy usage and expenses and have reduced your demand, you need to decide what you want to accomplish.  What is your end goal? Are you looking to heat your building, produce electricity, or fuel your vehicle? Learn more about the types of renewable energy.

    4. Below are a few key points to consider when assessing the feasibility of each resource.  

    5. icon_geothermal_gray Geothermal heating and cooling systems utilize underground thermal energy to provide constant humidity and comfortable temperatures while using only enough electricity to power a blower to move the warm or cool air throughout a building. Correctly sizing the system to the space it will be heating/cooling is crucial for efficient operation. Climate, soil conditions, and available outdoor space will dictate the the layout of system. Retrofitting an existing building is possible. 

      icon_hydro_gray Hydroelectric is often cost effective but requires running water on your property. The height the water drops (head) and the flow of water are used to determine the amount of electricity that can be produced and will dictate system design. Permitting can be a long multi-step process.  

      icon_wind_gray Wind energy can be an efficient way to generate electricity, when a resource is available. Proper siting of a turbine (including being in a windy location and well above obstacles, like trees and buildings) is essential for maximum power production. Wind maps can help determine whether advanced site analysis would be worthwhile.

      icon_solar_gray Solar energy can be utilized in many different ways, from passive space heating to water heating to electricity generation. Incorporating passive heating design is easiest in new buildings, but steps can be taken to also utilize it in established buildings. A south facing location that is shade-free is the key factor in determining whether solar water heating and electric generation are possible.   

      icon_biomass_gray Biomass can provide heat, electricity and/or power transportation. A fireplace, pellet stove or boiler can be used for heating. Large facilities may find that electricity production is also financially viable with a boiler or anaerobic digester.  Biofuels can power vehicles. The sources available will vary by region and ultimately dictate the financial viability of using this type of energy.

      Also take note of the following questions:

      >> Will you be generating electricity?

      If you are planning to generate your own electricity with solar panels or a wind or small hydro turbine, will you be using a battery-less grid-tied system, grid-tied with battery-back-up, or an off-grid system?  Most common is the battery-less grid-tied system.  When selecting to connect to the grid, you will have to notify your utility, because any electricity you generate impacts the grid.  We recommend contacting your utility very early in the process and building a good relationship with them.  Go to Homepower Magazine to learn more.

      >> What permits will you need?

      Depending on the type, size, and location of your project, you will probably need to seek approval before beginning.  Be sure to check with your local municipality to see if  there are any  regulations regarding your technology. You may also need to contact other organizations, such as state and federal government agencies to ensure all proper approvals are met.

    6.  Determine Costs and Secure Financing

      Get Started 4 Determine Costs and Secure FinancingKnowing where to find financing is one of the most important elements of developing a renewable energy project. Financing for a renewable energy improvement or to add it to new construction is similar to financing any other home improvement or capital project. However, there are some important differences, challenges, and resources you should be aware of. These systems are not cheap and typically you will need to make a significant investment on your own plus have some help from incentives to make it pay. Installers should also be knowledgeable of available opportunities related to your project (see step 5).

      >> Financial Resources

    7. Choose an Installer Wisely

       Get Started 5 Choose An Installer WiselyNow that you know what energy you will be using, you need to determine how your system will be installed.  We recommend you learn the basics of each technology before calling installers.  Renewable energy systems are significant investments, somewhere between buying a car and buying a house.  Take your time to shop around, compare suppliers and find the one you feel comfortable with.  See our business directory for questions you should be prepared to ask installers and questions they will ask you as well as for a listing of renewable energy installers.

  • Next steps 

    So you've reviewed your situation, but you are still not sure what to do? Contact us and we would be glad to point you in the right direction. 

    energy@francis.edu or 814-472-2872

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