Tallahassee, Florida- July 10, 2012
The term "going green" means doing our part to help keep our environment clean-- but the green movement goes way beyond recycling our bottles and cans and driving hybrid cars.
One home in Tallahassee is already using new technology to take advantage of renewable resources.
On a typical summer day in the south, the sun is shining and the breeze is blowing.To most of us, these are simple pleasures from Mother Nature. To others, they're the resources we need to be energy independent.
"We need to move off of the finite resources on to renewable. Extraction costs for oil are only increasing over time. How many more years do we have... 10, 150? There's a wide range, but it's inevitable that we will be changing and shifting to new technologies" says Julie Harrington.
Julie Harrington runs FSU's Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis. She says solar and wind generated power will be the key to freeing us economically from the use of non-renewable resources like oil.
In fact, she is part of a group researching the possibility of wind energy being harnessed off Florida's expansive coastline.
One of the leading scientists in that group is National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist Mark Powell, and he's fighting the perception that Florida isn't windy enough to merit large wind turbines off the coast.
Says Mark Powell: "If you look at that resource, and you compare it to some of these midwest states, that are already producing wind, some of our offshore areas have the same resource as some of these midwest states inland do, so the resource is there."
Powell says it may be a few years down the line, but Florida could generate just as much wind energy as Iowa, which currently produces 23% of the state's electricity from the wind.
But a renewable resource we know is available right now, is solar power. Matt Chertnick is trying to make solar for everyone a reality.
He went from wanting to install solar panels on his home, to founding a company doing that for others. He says solar is the only investment that pays for itself.
"Most solar panels now have 20-25 year warranties. There's almost no maintenance whatsoever, they're completely clean and quiet, and will make free electrical power for decades."
Despite the benefits, neither Florida nor Georgia have legislation that mandates the use of solar, wind, or other renewable resources.
However, both states do have several programs and rebates available for people who want to make their home or business energy independent.
One of the people who took advantage of those programs is National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist Mark Powell. When he isn't promoting the use of wind turbines on the coast, he's enjoying his LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) home.
His home was built to LEED Certification standards, and is one of the greenest homes in Florida.
"On a typical day, we can generate anywhere from 20-25 kilowatt hours, and that's enough to cover a little less than half of our energy needs."
And it's not just creating energy with solar panels that makes his home unique.
Doors, cabinets and counter tops are all made of recycled materials.
His roof and outdoor siding are insulated with foam.
He even has a rainwater collection cistern beneath his backyard.
All this translates into electric bills that hover around $150 a month - for his 35-hundred square foot home.
Powell's house was built like this, but what about those who want to retrofit an existing home with green technology?
He says now it's more affordable than ever to take that step.
"Things have changed, just in the last two years. The cost of solar panels has plummeted. The energy savings that you're going to get will offset the additional money you are borrowing."
Renewable resources aren't a short term solution to the world's energy needs, but in the long run, we could all be reaping the benefits of going green.
Another advantage to using solar in your home is most utility company's solar buy back programs. Most companies will pay you for the surplus solar power fed back into the electrical grid.
Rates for solar buy back can be as high as 20 cents per kilowatt hour.