Bioenergy, Geothermal, Grid Scale, Solar, Wind Power

How Can I Develop a Portfolio of Renewable Energy Options?

Is there a list of national companies that take a multiple approach to home renewable energy systems? I am looking for companies that can assess a home’s energy needs and the possibilities available in terms of wind, water, sun, geothermal etc. and then both sell and install the system. — Brenda N., Bath, Maine

Brenda, Thanks for writing on this issue. I get calls around the country on exactly this topic all the time. Unfortunately experts in both the research and policy communities have separated energy efficiency, solar, geo-exchange, small wind, modular biomass, advanced batteries and controls and microhydropower into separate disciplines. That’s good for better research and smarter policy but crazy for someone like you that needs solutions.

Luckily, the marketplace has evolved quite differently—and most of the distributors and installers in the good ol’ USA (and elsewhere) look at the total building—including energy efficiency improvements and then the portfolio of renewable energy options for the consumer. Many blend these technologies, as I have personally done for my business where I utilize Unisolar’s photovoltaic roofing shingles, Southwest Windpower’s small wind turbine, GridPoint’s advanced battery bank with back-up power by Plug Power’s hydrogen fuel cell—and that’s after installing R40 insulation, double-pane argon-filled windows, a ceiling fan, advanced thermostats, and a high SEER ductless heat pump.

The easiest approaches to find installers of multiple technologies is to log on the SEIA and ASES websites and click onto their local chapters. Further click on the companies in your region and see how they market themselves—you will note many are multitechnology.

Companies that join SEIA and ASES pay dues and are committed to the industry. These groups and the U.S. Department of Energy have developed another tool, found at FindSolar.com that enlists these companies and makes sure they have a history in the market and all the relevant certifications.

As I have said before, always ask for references, get pictures and contact numbers and call them. No one is going to protect you like you can.

Good luck and I am glad you are looking at the portfolio of clean energy options.