With energy prices on a steady upward trend, microgeneration has become increasingly popular among many households. It presented an opportunity for homeowners to reduce their carbon footprint and cut their energy bills simultaneously.
It also helps that the cost of getting set up as a microgenerator is inverse to the rising cost of energy by becoming more efficient at producing electricity and much cheaper to install. But what is microgeneration, and what does it have to do with solar panels? And is it easy to get started?
What Is Microgeneration?
Microgeneration is a general term that refers to the generation of electricity from renewable technologies by homeowners, businesses, and small communities. Renewable technologies include using small-scale wind turbines, hydropower, combined heat and power (CHP), and solar panel systems. Essentially, any person or business that installs a solar panel system or a small wind turbine on their property is technically a micro-generator.
Unlike your local power plant, microgeneration takes place on a much smaller scale and is typically on-site, where the electricity will be used. The on-site generation helps increase efficiency and reduce or even eliminate distribution costs.
As mentioned earlier, there are quite a few microgeneration technology options. These include:
- Wind turbines
- Combined heat and power (CHP)
- Anaerobic digesters
However, solar panels are generally the most suitable for many households. You must also keep in mind that your location and the microgeneration technology will determine the amount of energy you produce.
For example, if you go with water turbines, you’ll benefit more if you live next to a river than a small creek. Similarly, you wouldn’t want a wind turbine if you live in an area known for breezes rather than strong winds.
Solar Panel Systems
This is the most popular form of microgeneration and is generally the most suitable for households and businesses. Depending on the size of your installation and solar cell type, your solar panel cost will vary.
But keep in mind that while solar panels may have a higher upfront cost, there is a Federal Tax Credit (ITC) and potentially some state and local incentives that more than make up for it. A common misconception about solar panels is that they won’t generate enough electricity on cloudy days. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Even on a dark, dreary winter day, solar panels will create energy, although it won’t be as much as a sunny summer afternoon. But there are also varying types of solar cells that are more efficient than others. For example, the solar panels that you see strewn across roofs of houses and businesses are typically made from monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or thin-film solar cells.
Out of the three types, monocrystalline is the most efficient but also the most expensive. If you’re thinking of installing a solar panel system, you must also consider your electricity usage and if you have space to house enough panels.
If you have limited space, you’d typically want to go with the monocrystalline solar panels because they are much more efficient than the other two, even if they have the same number of cells.
On the other hand, if you have lots of space, then you can save on upfront costs by going with a polycrystalline panel. Although they’re not as efficient, you can simply add more panels to make up for the lost energy.
Thin Film Panels
Thin-film panels, however, are generally reserved for large-scale projects like solar farms or for commercial buildings. That’s because they’re the least efficient, but they have an aesthetic and lightweight design that won’t weigh down a roof.
Water turbines require a source of constant water that runs all year long. These operate by using the running water to turn the turbines, which converts into usable electricity.
These are always going to be on a smaller scale than the giant ones you see on wind farms. They’re typically between two to eight meters tall, and the amount of electricity you produce will depend on wind strength.
If you want a wind turbine, you must check with your local authorities because you will often require planning permission and paperwork before beginning the installation process.
Combined Heat and Power (CHP)
CHP rigs operate like a boiler by generating electricity when it heats the water. CHP technology currently uses gasses and liquified petroleum gas but is still considered green technology. This is because it’s more efficient than using fossil fuels alone.
This is a type of microgenerator that uses a rapid composting-like process. This microgenerator generates energy by breaking down animal and plant materials with micro-organisms in an air-tight container. As the micro-organisms break down the material, they release bio-gas, producing usable energy.
Why Should I Install a Microgenerator?
People get into microgeneration for a wide variety of reasons. Some might want to simply save money or even eliminate their monthly energy bill, while others may do it to be more eco-friendly.
Microgeneration is an overall green process that sees solar panels becoming carbon neutral in three years and reduces the need for energy produced from harmful fossil fuels.
Generating Sustainable Energy with Microgeneration
As you can see, there are many ways to start with microgeneration, but solar panels are generally the most suitable. With energy prices continuing their upward trend and financial incentives like the ITC set to decline over the next few years, it may be time to get your microgeneration project off the ground.
For more specific financial incentive information, get in contact with your local solar panel vendor. They should have all the up-to-date information on any federal, state, and local incentives that you can take advantage of!