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Solar Photovoltaic – Photovoltaic (PV) refers to the process of turning light into electricity. Individual photovoltaic cells are connected to panels which convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. Inverters convert the DC electricity into alternating current (AC) for electricity in the building. Batteries can be added to the system to store energy during times when the sun isn’t shining. However, since most utility providers offer net metering, batteries are generally used in areas not connected to the grid. Remote agricultural operations are an ideal application for energy storage.

The ecological advantages to solar energy systems are immense. The electricity generated by a PV system is clean, reliable, and renewable, producing no air pollutants, carbon dioxide or noise; no water for system cooling is required; and no by-products are produced. When located on buildings they have minimal impact on the environment and no bulky mechanical generator systems are necessary. Installation is fast; maintenance is minimal since there are no moving parts to wear out or break; and they are expandable. By installing solar PV systems we are reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and imported sources of energy.

Wind Energy systems generate electrical energy by harnessing the power of the wind. The blades of the turbine, which look much like aircraft propeller blades, are turned by the moving air to power an electric generator. The generator, in turn, produces an electric current. In order to be effective there must be a sustained wind speed of at least 14 miles per hour. Wind turbines usually generate between 50 and 300 kilowatts of electricity each.

Geothermal Energy is heat from the earth. The earth’s temperatures vary, depending on latitude. However, just a few feet below the surface the ground stays at a nearly constant temperature. By using coils buried in the ground the system converts the Earth’s natural temperature to heat and coolness.

Geothermal heat pumps are durable and require little maintenance. There are fewer mechanical parts than other systems and most of these are sheltered underground. They are also quieter to operate since they have no outside condensing units.

Fuel Cells generate electricity by converting chemical energy into electrical power with few moving parts. No noxious gasses, particulate pollutants, or unburned hydrocarbons are produced; and the amount of carbon dioxide is less than other less efficient technologies. Fuel cells combine hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air to produce electricity. Water is the only significant byproduct. Since fuel cells produce electricity from an external fuel supply, they can provide electricity as long as the fuel is supplied. By using fuel cell technology to replace fossil fuels, hydrogen will become the fuel of the future.

Energy Audits may be required to qualify for a rebate from your energy provider. mPOWER does not require Energy Audits for residential properties to participate in the program, but they can provide useful information. For more information, watch a video on CalCERTS: An Introduction to Home Energy Rating Systems. If your building is older than 3 years your energy auditor may be able to identify upgrades that will boost the efficiency of your building. Thus, reducing the size of the system required to meet your electrical needs. Building Permits are required for the installation of all renewable energy systems1.

1 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF Energy – Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy