Cutting Oil From Your Diet and Going Green Has Never Been Easier

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Living without carbon based fuels, like oil and coal, has been nearly impossible since the turn of the 20th century. Automobiles are dependent on gasoline for fuel, natural gas and coal power most of the electric grid, and even most of our heating fuel is natural gas. But there are finally alternatives to carbon based energy sources and it's more realistic than ever to lower your personal CO2 emissions and go green today.

In fact, it may save you money to go green. Here's how you can go green and the companies who are making it possible.

Going solar pays
The cost of solar power has come down so far it's now being offered to residential customers for $0 down in many parts of the country. SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY  ) is by far the largest residential solar installer and will install a small solar plant on your roof for $0 down and even save you money on your electricity bill. If you choose to build a big enough installation, the power generated can more than offset your entire electricity bill.

A residential solar installation using SunPower panels. Image courtesy of SunPower.

This is becoming big business and the competition is growing and becoming more competitive. SolarCity leads the way but SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR  ) has similar offers to install its high efficiency panels and Sunrun and Clean Power Finance are offering leases through partners as well.

Net metering of solar power, or selling excess during the day when the sun is out and offsetting it with power usage at night, drives the residential solar market but it's becoming increasingly viable to store energy and use it when you array isn't generating power.

Storage is the future of energy
For solar or any other renewable power source to truly allow people to remove themselves from the grid, energy storage will have to play a big role. That's where there's been major progress in the past year.

SolarCity's battery and inverter unit, powered by Tesla Motors batteries. Image courtesy of SolarCity.

SolarCity recently began offering a battery system to commercial partners who want to save some of their solar energy to offset peak demand. SunPower is also testing a number of battery systems and Solar Grid Storage is entering the market in areas with demand response and other revenue streams.

Today, you can generate enough solar power on your rooftop to have no net energy purchased from the grid, but energy storage will expand the opportunities to cut reliance on the grid without net metering. That'll be key to renewable energy long-term. 

Replacing the gas pump
Where most of us notice our reliance on fossil fuels is at the pump. Gasoline made personal transportation ubiquitous and the world has become reliant on the fuel source. But technology has made all-electric vehicles a real option for consumers.

Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) is leading the EV revolution, offering more performance and better range than anyone else in the industry. The Model S gets an EPA estimated 265 miles per charge and has performance in line with a BMW or Porche.

Tesla Motors Model S, Motortrend's 2012 Car of the Year.

Nissan's Leaf and Toyota Rav4 EV are also all-electric and for those not ready to be bound to the range of their vehicles Ford and General Motors make hybrid electric vehicles. Before long, going with and electric vehicle will be a serious option for millions of people around the world.

This is big business
Going green has long been the dream of environmentalists, but it's capitalism that's driving the green revolution today. SunPower, SolarCity, and Tesla Motors have over $4 billion in combined revenue over the past year and that figure is growing by leaps and bounds.

SPWR Revenue (TTM) Chart

SPWR Revenue (TTM) data by YCharts

As costs come down and technology improves going green is a serious option to consider. It's only a matter of time before fossil fuels are a thing of the past.

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Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 11:35 AM, Solarexpert wrote:

    Solar lease and PPAs are two of the most expensive ways to add solar to your home or business. Pricing for name brand solar systems have dropped to such a low level today, that with a $0 down solar lease, over the 20 year term, you'll typically pay up to triple what it would have cost you, had you kept the 30% federal tax credit and purchased your system instead.

    And although SunPower® does make a great product, Hyper X solar has released a new solar module that offers a better real world PTC to STC ratio than over 100 of SunPower®'s solar panel models at nearly half the cost. It's great to go green, but despite all of the hype, going green today no longer has to cost you a lot of green.

    These are indeed exciting times. Just don't get caught up in all the excitement. Always get at least three bids for your solar system. And when comparing a leasing or PPA bid to a purchase, never get a bid for a purchase from a leasing company. Make sure that the purchase bid is coming from a company that does not offer leases.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 6:20 PM, toomuchgas wrote:

    Why would I waste time and money on solar systems when gas and oil are cheaper and more efficient? Where I live the sun is only out a few hours a day at best. No one has solar where I live but a few bought windmills though I don't see any that are recent.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 7:48 PM, jferristx wrote:

    Solar isn't efficient in every part of the country, but that is NOT what this article is about. Believe it or not, it isn't about your roof. It's about the fact that in the solar sun belt, solar is nearly the same cost as fossil fuels, and it is unlike that the cost of fossil will remain the same over the next 20 years, while the cost of your solar installation will. That's at a personal level. As an investor (rather than worrying about my personal use of solar) as the cost difference between solar production and fossil fuel production narrows, it means even if you don't use solar personally...others, especially businesses (particularly datacenters) do.

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 9:36 PM, damilkman wrote:

    Until Green Energy is viable in all states it is just a plaything. I live in a rust belt state. I have been looking into solar even if it is not cost effective. But it was so expensive I just good not justify it even for my conscience. I live behind a hill. So wind is out of the question. I looked into geothermal. But in order to support I would have to rip all the registers in my house at the cost of tens of thousands because the diameter is too narrow for geothermal. I looked into fuel cell off of natural gas but the companies only sell products on the coasts.

    This is telling me that we are still working the technology out. Based on the advances I have observed in the last 10 years, I am guessing we need 10-15 years more of development. For those who have money to burn great for them to be visionaries and show concepts. Until the price points go down a bit more Joe Public is not going to buy in.

  • Report this Comment On January 14, 2014, at 2:44 PM, jeffhre wrote:

    "Ford and General Motors make hybrid electric vehicles."

    The key differentiator here is that F and GM (Toyota), all make plug in hybrids that allow drivers to offset expensive gas with much cheaper power from their household's electric outlets.

  • Report this Comment On January 14, 2014, at 2:50 PM, jeffhre wrote:

    "It's about the fact that in the solar sun belt, solar is nearly the same cost as fossil fuels, and it is unlike that the cost of fossil will remain the same over the next 20 years, while the cost of your solar installation will" - jferristx - for peak hours, which occur when the sun shines, and in the sun belt, solar is cheaper than fossil fuels. Solar costs went down another 13% last year.

    Balance of system costs are so much lower in Germany, that they are installing solar for half the costs in the US - permitting, marketing, financing labor costs etc are pushing costs up in the US, while the costs of the actual systems are tumbling.

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Travis Hoium

Travis Hoium has been writing for since July 2010 and covers the solar industry, renewable energy, and gaming stocks among other things.

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