(Guest contribution by Adam Davis @ HealthyHandyman.com)
Something very interesting is happening to the electric power supply, every day more of the electricity provided by utilities across the world is coming from renewable energy sources. In fact, in some parts of the world, renewable energy has become the lowest cost “fuel” available. I won’t go into all the gory details about wholesale power markets but suffice it to say, the fuel supply is getting greener.
Unless you are strictly old school and do all your work with hand tools or happen to have an antique water mill powering some tools, your workshop is 100% electric. And using electricity is becoming the right thing to do after many years of being the black sheep of the energy world.
So, why should you use renewable energy in your workshop and how do you accomplish that feat of physics? Let’s think about some of the reasons.
Reason 1 – Reduce your carbon footprint
Whatever the reasons for the variations in the Earth’s weather patterns, reducing the amount of fossil fuel used to operate your tools reduces the number of pollutants put into the air by a power plant. Every kWh of renewable energy used equals a kWh of fossil fuel not burned. That is a pretty good trade. If you are a renewable energy user, all your projects can claim to have green origins, especially when it comes to building them.
Reason 2 – Support the growth of renewable energy
There is a somewhat inaccurate saying that people use and that is, “Renewable energy is free.” The fuel itself (sun, wind, water, etc.) is free but converting it into electricity requires systems that are quite expensive. Think of the future when we are not dependent upon pulling something out of the ground to power our lives. If you support renewable energy by participating in your utility’s programs like solar gardens or ask for a renewable option, you are helping move towards renewable energy as our only power source.
Reason 3 – Be your own power plant
You have a shop because you like to build and tinker, right? Expand that with a renewable energy system. The most common form of renewable energy for individuals is solar photovoltaic, or solar PV. You could power your entire shop with a solar array. Cutting the cord on cable is nothing compared to cutting the cord on power.
Reason 4 – Batteries not included
Okay, before we get too carried away on cord cutting for power, remember that solar doesn’t work at night and that the wind does not always blow. That means complete grid independence requires batteries to store power for later use. The same way cordless tools have made life in the shop and on the job easier, having batteries to store renewable energy frees you from the constraints of “wired” power supplies. When it comes to battery envy, you’ll be the champ. Imagine this exchange, “Hey, I have a 60-volt Li-ion battery pack,” is met with, “Well, I have a 10-kW battery bank.” Boo-yah!
Reason 5 – Sustainability
Many folks I know with shops are conservationists. They are careful to use only what they need and recycle as much material as possible to replenish at least a portion of what they used. They also look for responsibly harvested wood, so they can be confident the wood supply will not run out, ending their hobby or livelihood. Call it stewardship, conservation, sustainability, or any other term. Renewable energy fits this mold beautifully and makes perfect sense for powering the workshop.
Easy to be green
Going green regarding power is a lot easier than it used to be. As already mentioned, you can install your own solar panels. You can “lease” a solar array from a company that installs and maintains the array for you. You can participate in solar gardens, larger solar arrays that support many houses, as more utilities offer access to these projects.
Or, you can do what I did and subscribe to a utility renewable energy program. My local utility offers programs for all the options I have mentioned, but my house is too small for a solar array in terms of roof area and lot size. So, I enrolled in a renewable energy program they offered, subscribing to have 100% of my electric use covered by renewable energy. I recall using a corded paint sprayer to put the finishing touches on our backyard chicken coop and realized that I was painting emission free!
One final bit about power physics. Unless you are tied directly to the power source, your electricity comes from the nearest power plant. But take heart, you are displacing an equivalent amount of fossil power by going renewable. Time to take your shop green with a renewable energy supply.