From November 20 through December 12, 124 countries gathered in Dubai to participate in the UN’s COP28 climate conference to identify global solutions for limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. This year’s conference emphasized accelerating the adoption of renewable energy while focusing on phasing out fossil fuel emissions (source).
To preserve a livable climate, coal, oil, and gas production must rapidly decline, and global renewable power capacity – including wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal energy – needs to triple by 2030. At the same time, financing for adaptation and investments in climate resilience need a quantum leap.
Phasing out or reducing the reliance on fossil fuels helps the environment because coal, oil, and gas account for over 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. These emissions blanket the Earth and trap the sun’s heat, causing the temperature to rise (source).
As governments from across the globe come together to fight climate change, you might be wondering how you can reduce your carbon footprint and adopt energy-efficient practices and renewable power sources in your home this winter and beyond. Join us as we explore renewable energy systems for your home, the effects of winter weather on solar panels and wind turbines, and tips for a more energy-efficient winter.
Renewable Energy for Your Home
Sure, you’ve most likely driven past solar farms, seen giant wind turbines lining the highway, or sprouting out like a foreign object from the sea. But what are some residential renewable energy systems available for your home? Let’s break down the options and explore how, by reducing your reliance on fossil fuels, you can still save money.
Geothermal Heat Pumps, also referred to as ground source or water source heat pumps, represent an innovative and energy-efficient technology for heating and cooling homes. When ambient temperatures are colder than the ground, a geothermal heat pump removes heat from the collector’s fluids, concentrates it, and transfers it to the building. When ambient temperatures are warmer than the ground, the heat pump removes heat from the home and deposits it underground (source).
Solar Water Heating Systems utilize solar collectors on your rooftop to transform sunlight into solar energy, which is then used to heat the water in your home. All solar water heaters include a collector and a storage tank that absorbs the sun’s thermal energy to heat water. These systems require a backup system, such as conventional hot water heaters, to heat water when there is insufficient sunlight.
Solar Energy Systems are the systems you might see on your neighbor’s roof. They convert sunlight into electricity. Solar energy can generate all or some of a home’s electricity needs, depending on the number of solar panels used, and can heat water as well.
Wind Energy Systems require sufficient land area and average wind speeds. These energy systems can generate all or some of a home’s electricity needs. Wind turbines can be integrated with solar and battery storage for emergency backup power.
Renewable energy systems seem like a great idea in the southern part of the United States, where it tends to stay warmer and sunnier longer, but how do they function in the winter? Solar power and wind power can thrive in cold weather. Also, geothermal heating systems are not affected in cold weather or winter climates because while we experience temperatures above ground, the earth just a few feet below us is unaffected by drastic changes in weather.
Additionally, self-consumption systems allow you to store extra energy onsite using a home battery instead of sending it to the grid. “In winter, any excess power generated from your solar panels and wind turbines can be re-used to heat your home, rather than left to get diverted back to the grid when you’re not using it (source).”
Winter Weather’s Effect on Solar Power and Wind Turbines
Although it would seem that solar panels only work well in sunny climates, the Department of Energy’s Regional Test Center (RTC) has shown that these panels are reliable in snowy, harsh conditions (source).
Let’s review how low temperatures, snow, and ice affect solar panels.
- Panels, like other electronic devices, tend to function more efficiently in cold weather compared to hotter temperatures.
- Light snow can be dusted off by the wind.
- Sunlight can be scattered through a sparse coating of snow.
- Can prevent panels from generating power.
- The weight of the snow can place stress on the PVs support structure.
- Pro-tip: Homeowners can clean the snow from their panels with a soft brush. Check with your provider for how to care for your particular panels.
- Solar panels are built at an angle to take advantage of the sun’s rays. This design also helps reduce the accumulation of snow.
- Once the snow starts to slide off the panel, even a little bit of the exposed panel will produce electricity.
- When the snow melts off the panels, it will clean them because dirt on the glass will bond with the snow. Cleaner panels reach higher efficiency.
- On cold, clear days, snow from the ground can reflect extra sunlight onto your solar panels like a mirror enhancing efficiency.
Innovation continues to improve the performance of solar panels in snowy conditions. One example includes a team of engineers at the University of Toledo who have developed an innovative strip coating that effectively removes snow from solar panels, ensuring continuous electricity generation during harsh winter conditions while maintaining peak efficiency (source).
Here is how wind energy is affected by cold weather:
- Increased power generation due to denser winter air.
- Colder temperatures enhance the aerodynamic performance of turbine blades, allowing them to capture more wind energy efficiently.
- Snow-covered terrains typically exhibit stable wind patterns, ensuring a steady wind flow.
- Snow buildup is not an issue.
- However, ice build-up on the wind turbine blades can cause a decrease in power production.
The good news is that both solar power and wind turbines have batteries for energy storage, so if snow or lack of wind causes issues, the stored energy can be used.
Tips to Saving Energy in the Winter
Maybe you aren’t ready to install solar panels in your home, or live in an area where the conditions aren’t ideal for a residential wind turbine. Don’t worry; there are still things you can do this winter to reduce your energy usage, which will save you money on your electric bill and help the environment.
Check out Payless Power to find a prepaid or traditional electricity plan that fits your lifestyle and budget.
Here are five simple ways to reduce electricity usage this winter:
- Clean your heating system
- Cover your windows
- Lower the thermostat and hot water tank by a few degrees
- Close your fireplace
- Use a humidifier
As we navigate the winter season, we can reflect on the global efforts made during the COP28 climate conference in Dubai. As individuals, we can still play a significant role in this collective endeavor. By exploring renewable energy options for our homes, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal heat pumps, we not only contribute to a cleaner environment but also embrace sustainable practices that align with the goals set forth by the international community.
Whichever way we decide to do this, whether installing solar panels, educating ourselves about these options for future home improvement endeavors, or finding ways to cut back on our energy usage this winter, we can make a difference. Remember small steps can lead to a large impact.