What a Thoughtful Idea! Renewable Energy Gift-giving for the Holidays

It’s that time of year again. Are you prepared for the gift giving season? 

In case you need some extra help, we here at RenewableEnergyWorld.com (REW) wanted to give you some ideas for holiday gifts that you might not have thought of yourself. Below please find some ideas to inspire you to give the gift of renewables.

Disclaimer: Part of this list is my own personal wish list.

You see, I’ve just purchased some land and plan to start building a home in the next year.  Over the past seven years at RenewableEnergyWorld.com, I have learned about some amazing green building techniques and I plan to employ as many of them as I can as I build.  I also plan to blog all the way through the building process here on REW.  So while today’s blog will hopefully inspire you to give renewable-energy inspired gifts to your friends and family, it’s also just the beginning of my compilation of ideas that I am accruing before I start to build.

These ideas mostly consist of “big ticket” items, but there are some that can be broken down into increments that you could easily give a friend or family member. Hopefully these will inspire you to think outside the box with your own gift giving.

Lead image: Presents via Shutterstock

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The Gift of Bioenergy

If you are looking for a way to green up your home, this home biogas system seems pretty cool. You simply drop in your organic waste and out comes renewable biogas that you can use for cooking.  The gas can be fed directly to your gas-powered cooktop or your outdoor grill.  I talked with the inventor Warren Weisman who explained that you just dump in any organic waste that you have and the digester turns it into methane gas.  You can feed it every day, and grass clippings, leaves and other table or cooking scraps are all fair game. Actually grass clippings produce the most gas of all.  “One of the big ironies of biogas is that you could very easily run your lawnmower with your glass clippings,” he joked.

Weisman said that most households generate about 500 lbs of grass clippings per year (a number that seemed a bit high to me until I looked at my compost pile this morning). He said that amount of trash would produce enough gas to do all of your cooking with.

Once a week or once every couple of weeks, you empty the slurry in the back and use that as fertilizer for whatever you are growing at home. Weisman explained that the system works in all temperatures but I wonder how it would fare in the northeast where cold and ice come into play.  Weisman suggested that a covered location would be best in that situation.

Safety is not an issue because the gas is not compressed and because the amount of gas that can be produced is limited to 2 cubic meters.  Once that much gas has been collected, the digester it will automatically relieve the pressure.

The units cost $3,995 including shipping. 

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The Gift of Solar Energy

You can find all sorts of solar-powered device chargers, mini-lamps, backpacks and more, but what about giving the people you love some money that they can put toward the purchase of an entire rooftop solar array? Residential solar power prices have dropped dramatically over the years and if someone you know has been thinking about going solar, your gift of just a few hundred dollars toward a new array might just push them over the edge.   Many of the major solar installers have partnered up with big box retailers to sell or lease their systems.  Earlier in 2014, SolarCity teamed up with 60 Best Buy stores to offer its services in several U.S. states.  In addition, and depending on where you live, Lowes, which has a partnership with Sungevity and Home Depot can sell you a home solar array or at least a gift card that your loved one can put toward the purchase of one.

Outside of the U.S., IKEA sells solar panels to customers in the U.K. and recently announced plans to sell them in eight additional countries including the Netherlands and Switzerland.  Residential solar power is expected to explode in the coming years — give the gift of rooftop solar to your friends and family and urge them to get ahead of the pack and go solar now.

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The Gift of Renewable Energy Education

What’s that great expression? If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, if you teach him to fish, he will never go hungry.  Why not give the gift of renewable energy education this holiday season with a gift certificate for an online educational course from Heatspring? 

RenewableEnergyWorld.com has partnered with the educational organization to offer a course on Microgrids with our renowned contributor Mahesh Bhave. We’ll be adding additional courses to our lineup in the coming months. 

You can purchase a gift certificate for a class in any amount and Heatspring is offering a 10 percent discount to RenewableEnergyWorld.com readers who use the promo code: REW.

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The Gift of Wind Power

Residential wind power only makes sense if you have the right location. While this idea probably won’t work for my dream home, if you or your friends and family live in a in place that has a great wind resource most of the time, then a residential wind turbine could be a great way to generate power and save a bundle on electricity costs.

Earlier this year, United Wind announced that it was now offering a lease for its consumer-scale wind turbines.  I talked with Aaron Lubowitz in May about distributed wind and he explained a bit about the company and its vision. Check out the video below to hear more.

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Image: Wind Turbine and a Home via Shutterstock

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The Gift of Geothermal

What’s not to love about highly efficient fossil-fuel-free heating and cooling?

I’ve been thinking hard about what type of heating system to put in my new home.  I know it will have radiant floor heating, but I’m just not sure how I will produce the energy to get those pipes warm in the wintertime.  I love the idea of ground-source geothermal. It uses the constant temperature of the earth (between 45-55°F) as the base temp from which electricity either warms a circulating fluid (for heat) or cools it (for A/C). 

The International Ground Source Heat Pump Association has a great description of how these systems work, here. Our podcaster, Barry Cinnamon, recently did a show on how geothermal heat pumps and solar work perfectly together, although he explains that the match is not necessarily a great one in the coldest climates.

Have a listen here and, if you are so inclined, reach out to an accredited installer to learn more about how you can help your friends and family use geothermal to ditch their use of fossil fuels for heating and cooling.

Image: Heat Pump / Under-floor diagram via Shutterstock

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The Gift of Energy Storage

Do you have a friend of family member that wants to go completely off the grid? If so, they’ll need some kind of energy storage backup to run at night or when the wind isn’t blowing. A battery is the perfect choice.

Even if they aren’t looking to get off the grid, more and more people are turning to batteries as generators of electricity instead of the gas-powered varieties.  I will never forget our 2008 ice storm when we lost power for eight days and were wishing we had a generator, like all our neighbors did.  For me, though, the problem with those diesel-powered generators — apart from the fact that they run on fossil fuel — was the noise! They are as raucous as a chainsaw (another noise we couldn’t get away from during the eight days after our ice storm) and spew exhaust, which is one reason that we never bought one for the home that we occupy now. We hope to have some type of quiet battery storage in our new home to go with the solar PV we plan to use. 

RenewableEnergyWorld.com’s Total Access partners Ecoult, Rolls Battery, Trojan Battery and SBS all offer systems designed to meet your energy storage needs or those of your friends and family. 

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The Gift of Hydropower

This comes from our friends over at Hydroworld.com, and while this “gift” is not something that most of us might purchase for our friends, it certainly is a “giftable” product — especially if you routinely celebrate the holidays in a mansion or a castle.

“There have been several estates in the United Kingdom that have installed Archimedes-type turbines over the past years — mostly as part of the UK National Trust’s efforts to increase its usage of renewable energy at its historical sites,” explained Michael Harris, associate editor in PennWell’s Hydro Group.

He pointed to a couple of great articles that he has posted on the HydroWorld.com website, including one describing how the Craigside Estate in Northumberland, England has just begun using hydropower for electricity, again.  Interestingly, the estate, which is surrounded by five lakes, actually began using hydropower for electricity all the way back in 1870.  The announcement this year was that it is using hydropower again with the use of an Archimedes screw.  Explains Harris in his article: “Water for the new Archimedes screw will be drawn from Tumbleton Lake, which is the lowest of the estate’s reservoirs. The water will turn a 17-meter long galvanized turbine that will produce about 12 kW of energy, or, the National Trust said, enough to power all of Cragside’s 350 light bulbs over the course of a year.”

So there you have it folks, seven gift ideas for your friends and family who have an interest in renewable energy. 

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Author

  • Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com

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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com

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