Renewable Energy and You


Energy Efficiency

A kilowatt-hour not used is just as good as a kilowatt-hour generated (actually better). Conserving energy is the easiest and most cost-effective thing that the average citizen can do, and should be addressed as part of using renewable energy. It does not mean "freezing in the dark": in many cases it will actually result in improved comfort.

Most Texans spend a substantial portion of their energy budget on transportation. When you buy your next car, consider something more efficient than that gas-guzzling pickup or sport-utility vehicle. If possible, carpool and use mass transit.
At Home
Attack the big things first. Your "big three" energy consumers (and some things you can do to be more efficient) are likely to be
  • Heating/Cooling
    • Lower your winter thermostat
    • raise your summer thermostat
    • install a setback thermostat for nighttime and when you are away
    • Evaluate insulation upgrades, storm windows, solar screens
    • Caulk/weatherstrip
    • In the spring and fall, turn off the A/C, open your windows, and take in the fresh air
  • Water Heating
    • Lower your water temperature
    • install a water-heater blanket
    • insulate your pipes
    • Use low-flow fixtures
  • Refrigerators
    • Today's refrigerators are significantly more efficient, and super high-efficiency models are available. If you have been considering a replacement, now might be a good time.

    In addition, as your lightbulbs burn out, consider replacing them with the new Compact Fluorescent lights. Though initially more expensive, these are 3 times as efficient as incandescant lights, and last many times longer.

  • Solar - Thermal

    Any direct use of the sun's heat is called "Solar Thermal".

    Solar pool heating
    Solar heating of swimming pool water utilizes inexpensive plastic-mat collectors to heat pool water directly. This is a very cost-effective technology.
    Domestic Hot Water
    Solar water heating works well, and is popular many parts of the world. Considering cost alone, it has a fairly short payback time compared to electric heating, though it is hard to justify compared to natural gas.
    Building Heating - Active
    Generally, the "high tech" solutions for solar house heating (collectors, tanks, pumps, etc) have given way to the more "passive" solutions, for reasons of cost, effectiveness, and reliability.
    Building Heating - Passive
    The passive solar house of today is not the solar house of the 70s, looking much more like an ordinary house, probably incorporating a number of the following features:
    • Extremely efficient - well insulated and with controlled infiltration
    • Properly sited, with southern exposure and vegetation on north, east and west
    • More windows on south, with properly sized overhangs
    • Strategic use of thermal mass
    • Properly designed ventilation
    • Features that control summer heat gain (eg. ventilated metal roof)
    A well designed building can work with the environment to significantly decrease both heating and cooling requirements. Texas houses are being built that require little or no auxiliary heating or cooling energy.
    Solar Cooking
    An effective solar cooker can be homemade in a couple of hours from cardboard, aluminum foil, and plastic oven bags. High-performance solar cookers are commercially available. In some parts of the world, solar cooking provides an effective alternative to burning manure or scarce firewood.
    Electric power generation
    Although not a technology for the homeowner, concentrated solar energy has been used to power commercial power plants, several of which are currently in operation.
    Water Distillation
    Like solar cooking, this technology can be very simple and quite effective.

    Solar - Photovoltaic

    Photovoltaic (PV) technology produces electricity directly from sunlight. The cost of this technology has dropped dramatically and is still falling, and it is a cost effective energy source in may portable and remote applications, though it still cannot compete with the electric utility if the electric grid is nearby (however if you have some spare cash and want to be the first on your block to generate your own electricity, it's not prohibitively expensive). In some cases, tax considerations can make it more attractive

    In rural areas, an increasingly popular use of PV is for pumping water.


    Although wind power isn't a personal option for most city dwellers, electric companies are increasingly using wind power from large commercial wind farms. If you buy electricity from the City of Austin or the LCRA, you are using some wind-generated energy. You can help by letting your utility know that you feel they should use renewable energy sources.

    If you live in a windy rural area, wind energy may well be a practical personal energy source.


    In the simplest form, burning wood is using biomass. These days, it is possible to convert various crops into fuel that can be used in place of fossil fuel. Energy in sunlight is stored as chemical energy in plants.


    • El Paso Solar Energy Association (EPSEA) - P.O. Box 26384 El Paso, Texas 79926
    • American Wind Energy Association - - 122 C Street, NW, Fourth Floor, Washington, DC 20001 (202) 383-2500, FAX (202) 383-2505
    • American Solar Energy Society - - 2400 Central Avenue, G-1, Boulder, CO 80301, (303) 443-3130, FAX (303) 443-3212
    • Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association - - P.O. Box 16469, Austin, TX 78761-6469, (512) 345-5446, FAX (512) 345-6831
    • - Southern Sol-Air PowerAustin Area suppplier of PV, Cookers, & other energy products - - P.O. Box 2096, Cedar Park, Tx. 78630, (512) 250-5414
    • Texas Solar Power Company - Austin Area Supplier of PV equipment and systems -, (512) 459-9494
    • Northern Arizona Wind & Sun - Excellent PV background -, PO Box 125, Tolleson, AZ 85353, 800 964-8881
    • The City of Austin Solar Explorer Program - provides Austin residents an opportunity to invest in grid-attached photovoltaic electric generation -
    • Texas Solar Energy Society -, P.O. Box 82022, Austin, TX 78708-2022, (512) 451-7207, FAX (512) 452-9007
    • The Infinite Power of Texas - Renewable Energy News, information and education -
    • Home Energy Magazine - Deals with home energy conservation - - (510) 524-5405
    • Home Power Magazine - Deals with personal renewable energy systems - - (800) 707-6585
    • Jade Mountain - Major supplier of Renewable Energy and Conservation products - - P.O. Box 4616, Boulder, CO 80306, 800-442-1972, 303-449-8266 FAX
    • Real Goods - Major supplier of Renewable Energy and Conservation products - - 555 Leslie St.. Ukiah, CA, 95482-5576, 800-919-2400
    • Sun Trapper Solar Systems, Inc. - Solar water heating - - 12118 Radium St.,San Antonio, TX 78216, (210) 341-2001 (210) 341-2652 FAX
    • Texas Wind Power - Small wind systems - 115 Industrial Blvd., Austin, Texas 78745-1203, (512) 440-0305, (512) 440-0277 FAX
    • Virtus Energy Research Associates - Renewable Energy consulting - Virtus Energy Research Associates - - 906-1/2 Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78701, (512) 476-9899 (512) 476-9896 FAX
    • Texas Public Utility Commision -
    • Barley-Pfeiffer Architects - Energy Efficient Residential and Commercial Buildings - 1800 W 6th St., Austin, Tx, (512) 476-8580
    • Holder & Associates - Energy Efficient Residential and Commercial Buildings - 4200 Spicewood Springs, Austin, Tx., (512) 345-8817
    • Solar Cooking Archive-

    Disclaimer: Listing here of any business, individual, or organization does not constitute endorsement by the Texas Solar Energy Society.