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Contributing Windpower - Living Lightly
A year of living slightly differently
Contributing Windpower
I just thought I mention to people in this community here, the green/alternative-energy company known as Renewable Choice Energy.


They're based out of Colorado and they've been expanding their wind farms due to increasing business.

My Fiance and I participate in their program for just 15 dollars a month.

Let me explain to you how it works:
If you sign up with them, or a business signs up with them...
You work out how many kilowatt hours of power you use in your home (or in your business)
Or how much pollution in general is generated by you (via powering your home, and your car)
Then you are essentially purchasing "energy certificates/credits", buying into wind power, contributing wind power to the grid...
which means it is offsetting the non-green energy of the grid with green energy supplied by their wind farms. When you purchase wind power from Renewable Choice Energy, your electric bill won't change and so you still pay your utility company to supply electricity to your home. The flow of electricity usually follows the path of least resistance to the nearest demand, so an individual green power customer is probably not really receiving an appreciable amount of wind energy at his or her house. The electricity system operates like a large pool of water, with many power plants adding electricity and many customers withdrawing it. When customers buy green power, instead of actually getting it at their home or business, they are helping to change the mix of generating plants that put electricity into the "pool." The more customers who buy green power, the cleaner the mix of the grid becomes. What you get is the comfort in knowing a specific amount of electricity being consumed is replaced on the national grid with clean, carbon-free electricity. So all of this means your home personally may not be getting supplied directly with wind power... Obviously if you don't live in or around Colorado and where all the company's wind farms are supplying to local grids you're not getting it personally. But someone who lives in the area IS getting it... meaning that is one less person using non-green supplied energy. Meaning there is that much more renewable energy being used in the world period. That is why its called "offsetting" your electric, you're not necessarily directly changing your electric use in your own home, but you're offsetting its effect on the environment by providing green/renewable energy to a grid SOMEWHERE for SOMEONE which still translates to one less home (or business) having to rely on UNrenewable energy.
Pretty cool huh?

This company has really taken off recently... The big U.S. natural foods store chain Whole Foods Market recently signed a multi-billion dollar contract with them to offset the electricity usage of ALL of their offices, warehouses AND grocery stores!

Because the business has been growing the price of purchasing the energy credit certificates has gotten cheaper even just since my Fiance signed up with them 2 1/2 years ago...

Here are the current average prices:
$15 monthly will purchase/offset for 9,000 kilowatt hours per year which is the U.S. family-home average consumption.
It's Impact: 12,528 pounds of carbon dioxide are avoided
Which is equivalent to: 13,677 miles not driven, 165 trees planted

To purchase it on an individual's consumption rate average basis it comes out to:
$5 monthly to offset for 3,000 kilowatt hours used per year of the average U.S. individual.
It's Impact: 4,176 pounds of carbon dioxide avoided
Which is equivalent to: 4,559 miles not driven, 55 trees planted

Currently my household (a small one bedroom apartment with two vegan, green-minded, energy saving people, doesn't produce national averages ourselves. And yet we still pay 15 dollars monthly into American wind... so essentially we're offsetting more than just our own usage, which is fine by us. The more renewable energy the merrier.

The neat thing is now though they have partnerships with various businesses where if you signed up for a year's plan of wind power then you get a "free gift"... something they didn't offer back when my Fianace originally signed us up. It's too bad too, because agreeing to pay 15 dollars a month now will get you a 50 dollar gift certificate/card to Whole Foods Market or from one of 3 other companies!

Anyway, just thought people in a community such as this would find something like this interesting.
9 comments or Leave a comment
caliantrias From: caliantrias Date: February 28th, 2007 06:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
As much as this is a nifty idea, I have to take issue with it. It is another example of environmentalists being willing to give away both their money and their potentials on short-sighted environmental corrections.

An economy is every bit like an ecology except that it survives on the exchange of money instead of energy. When you "buy" offsets in this form, you are essentially paying for a warm, fuzzy feeling. Have you or are you going to go and inspect their wind farms to ensure that they are doing what you are paying for? No, you probably aren't.

But this isn't a non-profit organization. It's a business. It has investor, opportunities to invest. (investorinfo@renewablechoice.com), and an opprtunity to make you rmoney back. So why are they "selling offsets" when they could be offering a share of stock for each $15 you give them?

But why would I do that?

Let's look at the ecology/economy of the energy business. There are several companies, most of which are focused on fossil fuels. They need to go but they are big and powerful. A multi-billion multi-national liek Exxon is a Tyrranosaurus Rex compared to the rodent sized mammal of Renewable Choice.

You keep giving RC your money. They get big. They get profitable. Exxon buys them out (i.e. eats them). RC continues to exist in name but you are now giving your money to Exxon and they are paying their execs obscene amounts of money.

Now, let's say you are "investing" instead. You are infusing the company with capital and spreading out ownership. If your investment fails to grow, you have to wonder what RC is doing wrong. If a buyout is attempted, you will be notified. If you lose, you sell you stock, takeyour capital gains and reinvest in a different RC that is still independent.

Of course, that assumes that investors actually pay attention to the companies they own. 99% don't.

However, if your investment helps RC grow, other investors will join in JUST BECAUSE RC is growing. This means they may be taking their money AWAY from Exxon, making it weaker. Maybe, just maybe, RC will be the one to start eating pieces of Exxon and converting those resources into resources developing renewable energy resources instead of the other way around.

Read "Ecological Economics" By Daly & Farley. It may change your view of economics. Hopefully, it will change the view of classical economists, too.
soulcatcher318 From: soulcatcher318 Date: March 1st, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
First of all, I'd have to say that putting money towards renewable energy is not, in my opinion, a "short-sighted environmental correction". It is but one step in a huge path of steps that can and need to be taken to help clean up our world. I currently have to play the common society "game" of working to save money to attend school and work and save towards my ultimate goals.
My goal which I am working towards in my life, is the ability to purchase some land, on which I fully intend to build an Earthbag green home, and use some sort of alternative power, be it solar, water generated, or a personal wind turbine generated source... or even live off-grid/power-free completely. To live as lightly on the earth as possible. And then open my home, my land, and my knowledge up to others in sharing and teaching and helping others to be able to accomplish the same - living lighter on the earth as well.
In the mean time, living as I currently have means to, I'm in an apartment complex in a city. I live as eco-friendly as I can manage under such circumstances and I'm always trying to find more that I can feasibly accomplish as such. I can't go installing solar panels and the like on my apartment building... so why not offset the energy at least?

I browsed Renewable Choice's website again looking for answers for you in regards to some of the questions you pose. I'm not sure whether they'll be specific enough for you, in which case I'm letting you know I'm also e-mailing them your comment here with the though provoking questions you've raised to see what they might have to say about it directly.

But here is what I found on their site so far at least:
Have you or are you going to go and inspect their wind farms to ensure that they are doing what you are paying for?
From their website:
Q: How do I know I will get what I paid for?
A: Renewable Choice's wind power product, "American Wind" is Green-e certified, which verifies that each kilowatt-hour (kWh) purchased will be produced through a 100% new wind farm (built after January 1999). For more information about Green-e, visit www.green-e.org

* Green-e certification ensures that: Renewable Energy Certificate purchases support new renewable energy generation.
* Renewable Choice Energy meets stringent environmental and consumer protection standards.
* Renewable Choice Energy is audited annually to ensure that customers receive promised benefits.

---It is also worth noting that such major businesses as Whole Foods Market, Sprint, Warner Brothers, American Institute of Architects, and Building Industry Coalition and Regulator of LEED Certification... (just to name a few) probably wouldn't go buying the wind power energy credits from them, signing multi-billion dollar contracts, if it was just going to be throwing their money away for warm fuzzy feelings. They are not just investors, they too are purchasing the RECs (renewable energy credits).

soulcatcher318 From: soulcatcher318 Date: March 1st, 2007 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)


More from the website:
Q:What do I get when I buy wind power?
A:Buying wind power is an easy way to pay the premium to produce renewable energy these days, to help build a cleaner energy system for tomorrow, and to offset your carbon footprint today.

Every time a renewable energy producer adds electricity to the national electric grid, it also generates a renewable energy credit. A REC represents the additional cost and value of a specific amount of renewable energy that is generated. These credits are also the industry standard method of accounting for renewable energy production and they are audited and guaranteed by an independent third-party Green-e program run by the Center for Resource Solutions in San Francisco.
Renewable Choice sells these RECs on behalf of our renewable energy producing partners to people and businesses who want to support renewable energy.

The added amount you pay for cleaner, better energy goes directly to the wind farm and ensures that you are offsetting the impacts of the electricity you use from the grid by replacing it to the grid with clean, sustainable wind energy.

(i.e. power/electricity production is like a loop, a circuit. For every bit used there obviously needs to be more going back into the grid to replace it in order that all people's homes and businesses can continuously get supplied with power. The "fuel" in this case, that is the wind, is free, but it still costs to erect the wind farms and get them up and running and contributing to the grid — which makes the current price for wind [for city municipalities/utility companies etc... to purchase] a bit more expensive than continuing to burn fossil fuels in plants that were built a while ago and are paid off already. In purchasing wind energy credits/certificates you are supporting/encouraging and helping the wind farm/wind-power business grow. Should I not support the business and its growth, encouraging wind farms to be built, just because it is a business, and just because theres a possibility that someday down the road power-heads like Exxon might decide to try and buy them out later on?)

soulcatcher318 From: soulcatcher318 Date: March 1st, 2007 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: continued: (And one more since it wouldn't let me put it all together in one post)

More from their website:
In 2001, we founded Renewable Choice Energy after making a simple observation. Generating electricity from renewable energy costs more than burning fossil fuels even though the latter carried huge hidden social costs. We wanted to connect wind farms and other renewable energy producers with businesses and people who wanted to support renewable energy development. We took to the streets to sell wind power, door to door.
In the past few years, we’ve come a long way. We've worked with individuals, municipalities and companies of all sizes. We've helped craft the industry standards that govern renewable energy purchases and we've helped create what is now a booming industry. At last year's Renewable Energy Marketing Conference sponsored by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, Renewable Choice Energy shared the Beacon Award with our client Whole Foods Market for our pioneering efforts on behalf of wind power.

Here is how they describe the role their business plays in it all:

Wind farms have a crucial role to play in cleaning up the energy pool. With only 2% of the nation’s energy currently supplied by renewable energy like wind, we can all agree that there is a lot of work to do to. Getting a wind farm online [i.e. up and running] takes an incredible amount of focus and support. There are the meteorological studies, dealing with zoning issues, building and maintaining wind turbines, getting the electrons to the power grid and last, but not least, there are selling the renewable energy credits to make it all possible. That’s where we come in.
Partnering with wind farms across the country, Renewable Choice Energy makes it possible for businesses, communities and individuals to purchase renewable energy credits. Without these credits, wind power production would be a task far too daunting and costly for many wind “farmers”. The competition is extreme in the energy market where pricing is based on the cheapest, dirtiest fuel source, coal. Voluntary purchases of renewable energy credits by customers like ours has made wind power a viable option for today’s movement to clean up the way we relate to our world and leave a better tomorrow.
Renewable Choice Energy holds a unique role in energy-production innovation. We focus on education and cutting-edge solutions while maintaining a commitment to exceptional customer service. In 2006, we were named Winner of the 2006 Green Power Beacon Award for “pioneering efforts on behalf of wind power”

That book sounds interesting though. I'll try to find it. Thanks for the recommendation.
caliantrias From: caliantrias Date: March 1st, 2007 04:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, putting money toward renewable energy is a good thing. But why buy or spend when you can invest?

I'm not saying this company is bad. However, collusion between the for-profit and non-profit sector is well established. It is common for for-profit companies to create non-profit organizations to "certify" their work and create a positive public image on their behalf. If I were intent on pursuing the question, I would be puling the articles of incorporation for both companies, checkign their public records and finding out if there are any common directors. Obfuscation and misdirection are easy.

And, no, Whole Foods is not buying warm fuzzies. All those companies are buying good Public Relations. There may be good intentions behind their decision, but how would you feel if Exxon started buy energy offsets? Would you think that Exxon has suddenly cleaned up their act or would you think they are cynically trying to fool the public.

But let me go back to the original point.

You don't buy a house or land. You invest in it. When you rent, you are buying space. When you leave, you get nothing back. You are out the money you spent.

When you invest in a home you are going to take care of it. If you invest in land, you are going to take care of it. In both cases your investment in money & energy over time, will result in positive economic and physical return.

If you die, the land and home passes to your heirs. You have left something of value to them. If you sell it, you recover at least some of the money you expended on the property and you pass soemthing of physical and economic value to the next owner.

In the latter case, you can buy another plot of land and build another green home. Now you've established two low-footprint environments that you can make available to others who lack the expertise, skill, time or drive necessary to do the same thing.

Let's go back to renewable choice. if you buy energy offsets, you are spending money that you will not recover. If you get stock in return then, when you are ready to move you can sell that stock and use the returns to purchase the land you want and create the home you want.

Environmentalists and economists have been acting like we have to choose between a good economy or a good environment. But the two systems are inherently interlinked.

It doesn't make sense to be environmentally frugal and economically spendthrift than it does to be fiscally frugal and environmentally spendthrift.
soulcatcher318 From: soulcatcher318 Date: March 1st, 2007 05:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Environmentalists and economists have been acting like we have to choose between a good economy or a good environment. But the two systems are inherently interlinked.
I totally agree.
All the people that get scared thinking green friendly living and products and business would kill economy and basically mean going into a cave and forsaking everything else, don't seem to realize that green can be "the next big thing" the thing that pulls economy (not just environment) back from the brink.

Anyway, I more clearly see what you're saying now.

Looking into investing would/could be worthwhile. Just depends on what it takes to invest, get involved, start it up, to buy a share/stock or what have you. I'm not exactly in a position made of money to go investing much.
From: beginnermind Date: February 28th, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Don't they make money selling energy to the grid, already? They sell energy to the grid, and then you pay them for selling energy to the grid? It seems like something likely to end up giving wind power a bad rep. But I dunno a lot about it. They get money from sales, money from investors, and money from people who pay offsets. Okay, that's good business, but, can't wind yet turn a profit just from contributing to the grid?

I've looked into solar, personal solar. Can't afford the investment. In the end, from what I hear, you stay hooked up to the grid (here, anyways), and your bill subtracts the energy your panel contributes. So, there's savings. I don't really know a lot about it, I stopped looking into it because I couldn't afford the investment even if it was actually feasible and useful.

While I'm here, and we're talking about energy, how do you feel about wood power? I'm just curious. It is renewable, and part of a less-deep carbon chain from what I hear. In any case, it's a lot cheaper than oil, which is the only real alternative where I live (or electric which is largely generator driven esp. in the winter) so I try to do all our heating with wood, and that's not likely to change. Just wondered if you'd think that I can feel good about it or not.*grin*
soulcatcher318 From: soulcatcher318 Date: March 1st, 2007 04:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wood energy isn't a viable long-term option for humanity.

If everyone switched to wood power we'd run out of trees faster than we already are, for one. Faster than we could replant them and give them adequate time to grow.

Not to mention woodsmoke is still pollutive to the air...
So just imagine if EVERYONE who had powder had their power supplied from burning wood.

And then there's the somewhat minor, yet still crucial consideration of individual risks from burning something for energy... As opposed to the fact that wind, water, and solar power do not require things to burn in order to generate the power -which makes such energy deriving means safer on a personal level if you ask me.

Small tribes here and there, or handfuls of individuals living on their own land out in the boonies and opting for wood to power a small stove to cook on and such is one thing. But as a long term or large scale energy source, again I say, doesn't seem viable.

I kept firewood around for the wood stove in my apartment due to the fact we got hit with a lot of major ice storms this winter that kept knocking people's power out. I could've just bundled up and stayed in bed under the blankets all day... but the fact is I've got cats and I didn't want them to freeze to death so lighting a fire to heat the apartment (or at least the living room) and provide light if the power went out, was reasonable to me. More reasonable than what most people were doing, which was packing up and going to stay in hotels in surrounding areas that still had retained their power.

Anyway, as far as opting to use it as your main heating option regardless... I'm not sure how heating your individual home with wood as opposed to community provided electricity or gas compares on the pollutant level. Something worth looking in to. I'll probably go try to research some info up about that now and see what I can find.
I suppose its probably more economical at least, if you can get by with just using wood and not having to pay a utility heating bill.
savagefreedom From: savagefreedom Date: March 3rd, 2007 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
The money seems to be used to pay for start-up costs, and maybe most importantly to make the wind power that goes into the grid cheap (because it's being paid for in part, I suppose) and a favorable option compared to coal and other non-renewables. The biggest drawback to wind energy is that it was always really expensive, but as the industry has grown, the cost has significantly dropped. Maybe in part due to the REC programs.

But generally, on the individual customer level, the idea isn't that you giving them money will pay them for their putting energy into in the grid, the idea is that you giving them money in exchange for REC's is assurance that some wind power will be allowed into the grid. Certain states have government regulated quotas set up that they have to meet, a certain percentage of renewable energy mixed in with the non-renewable. I don't know if my state is one of them, but then again, when you buy REC's, you don't even know what plant your money is paying to produce energy. It's frustrating, and I know the flaws pretty well as a buyer of REC's.

(I'm kind of responding to two people at once here...)

I've had my doubts and suspicions, and have researched it heavily. I still have doubts. I don't even think investing would solve the problem and investing is not as easy as saying "don't buy, just invest!" I'm not one to buy into "quick fixes" and I don't believe wind is the only answer or even the best answer, but in modern societies we are intentionally given only a small handful of solutions to choose from, and it's hard to know who to believe. I cannot find any proof one way or another that my contribution is guaranteed to do anything, but I DO see wind power growing into a larger power. I know Renewable Choice is a business and that like any business, the goal is mainly profit and not world change. If Exxon Mobil bought Renewable Choice, I'd see it as what it is, an exchange of ownership. It's hard to know whether I trust Renewable Choice any more than I trust Exxon Mobil. One day Renewable Choice might just be as big as Exxon Mobil, and I'm against massive corporations controlling important things like energy in the first place. People should have control over that (which is where I see the point of investment comes in, but I'm thinking more along the lines of coops... user ownership, city ownership, etcetera. Renewable Choice in their own words is "a national leader in corporate and residential wind energy credit marketing", not a wind farm. I know I'm not buying anything but a piece of paper saying that I bought it.

Do I get warm fuzzies? No. Do I find the suggestion that that's why I'm doing it? Sure. Because with that $12 a month and a piece of paper saying "Thanks" I get little more than a grim reminder that the world needs change, and that REC's aren't the best answer. At the time, I'm just at a bit of a loss as to what to do. Building my own turbine, now there's something that makes a difference I can actually see and believe. But that's a ways off.

When I said that I don't think wind power is the best answer, that doesn't mean I think solar is better, hydroelectric is better, nuclear is better, or anything like that. I think putting a halt on the ridiculous levels of consumption and finding more energy-efficient means of doing the things we do now is the best option. Then we wouldn't need a million wind farms to handle our energy flow, and we wouldn't need companies like Renewable Choice to act as a a middleman in the process of using that energy.

And that's more important to me than REC's. I pay close attention to my electric bill. I know what my Kw/H consumption level is compared to the average American's, and I seek to lower it in any way I can. Because I'm not in the green movement for warm fuzzies, I'm in it for change and betterment.
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