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When it comes to powering your home, there are all sorts of alternative, renewable energy options — solar, wind, biomass and others. But is plugging in to alternative power sources for your home a good way to cut expenses and save money on utility bills? Often, yes; North Carolina offers some significant incentives for thinking outside the norm. “Net metering,” for instance, is a program that offers energy credits to utility company customers who produce certain types of their own power. Ask your tax advisor about potential state and federal tax credits. But even with incentives and credits, living green may or may not work for you economically — there’s a lot to know about putting these energy sources in place.

Here are some quick facts to help you learn more:

Solar energy solutions

Solar energy offers many advantages for your powering your home — it’s abundant, renewable, low-maintenance and environmentally friendly. It’s also a resource that’s highly sustainable because it does not take away from future generations. It can be used to heat your home and water, run fans, and help reduce utility bills.

Though the cost of solar panels has decreased over the years, this option can be a big investment of both time and money. But, in addition to those previously mentioned government incentives and credits, the solar industry has come up with some creative financing options such as leasing solar panels or spreading out payments. This is an energy source that might just fit your bill.

Wind power options

Another viable renewable option is wind energy, which is available in several parts of North Carolina. With advantages such as protection from power outages, a lack of pollution and sustainability (because the wind is based on the energy of the sun), it’s no wonder this renewable resource has seen 25 percent growth over the past four years.

The disadvantages? Wind energy can easily fluctuate, so for ongoing use, the energy needs to be captured and stored, which means an additional expense. Some people dislike the noise and look associated with this power source, as well. But overall wind energy is now more affordable, efficient and accessible than ever before, so you might find it to be a very attractive option.

Generate electricity with biomass 

The organic matter that comes from plants and animals such as crops, manure and even garbage is called “biomass.” Biomass can be used to generate electricity, create biofuels, and produce heat. This is a resource that’s clean, sustainable (we’ll probably always have crops and animals), and inexpensive when compared to traditional fossil fuels, not to mention relatively abundant. (Think “compost,” but on a much bigger scale.)

There are some disadvantages to biomass — it can sometimes be expensive to extract and harvest; plus, you’ll need space for storage, which adds to overall costs. However, biomass is quickly growing in popularity and it’s yet another option that might appeal on many levels.

The next generation

As a whole, alternative, renewable energy options — those included and many others — are fast becoming not-so-alternative. Some of the choices available will help save the earth, some will help your budget, and many will do both. Researching the plusses and minuses of the options that best suit your home and family is time well-spent. Your wallet (and your planet) will thank you for it.

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