Site Assessments: The Alternative Energy Potential of Homesteads

An in-depth look at the alternative energy potential of homesteads, including site assessments of renewable energy on land such as solar, wind, natural factors and harvesting advice.

| November/December 1985

Learn about site assessments for the alternative energy potential of homesteads, including renewable energy areas of solar, wind, natural factors and advice on harvesting. 

Whether you already own property or are simply in the market for it, the alternative-energy potential of a particular piece of turf ought to be as much a part of your thoughts as are access, flooding, septic-field percolation, the soil's bearing capacity, and the view. Good solar or wind potential can return thousands of dollars per year in energy savings—or even in income from power sold to your area utility—and can offer your family security in a future of uncertain energy availability.

In the simplest sense, an energy site assessment to evaluate the alternative energy potential of homesteads is just a matter of figuring out how much, when, and where. As you'll see over the next few pages, the first part of the question is a straightforward matter of measurement, whether you perform it yourself or consult tables prepared by someone else. Determining at any given instant the amount of power available isn't difficult, when compared to figuring "when" and "where."

Predicting performance at some point in the future ("when") is much more difficult because solar energy—and wind is essentially a solar-driven phenomenon—is by its nature variable.

Likewise, "where" can introduce large uncertainties into the estimation of energy potential, particularly with the more ephemeral sources, solar and wind.

Thus a useful alternative-energy site assessment should be composed about equally of' careful measurement and an understanding of the limitations on accuracy. Do your best, but don't overestimate the reliability of your best. And when you use the numbers, err on the side that will keep your lights lit and your house warm (or cool).

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