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Summary:

We’ve been getting a little tired of comparing web-based carbon calculators — how many different ways can we feel guilty for driving too much? So we were interested to check out ChooseRenewable’s “MyWatts Renewables Estimator,” which offers a free service to evaluate whether — based on […]

We’ve been getting a little tired of comparing web-based carbon calculators — how many different ways can we feel guilty for driving too much? So we were interested to check out ChooseRenewable’s “MyWatts Renewables Estimator,” which offers a free service to evaluate whether — based on the location of your home– wind or solar are good options for you. This morning, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based ChooseRenewables implemented a few upgrades to its site, which it launched back in June.
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So with all of my eco ambitions and dreams of generating my own renewable energy, what was the feasibility that I could actually build wind or solar at my own home? For wind, it was slim to none. For solar, it was a little better, but not great. The site uses geographical wind data and tells me that while my area has “excellent” incentives for wind, alas, I live in a “poor, class 1″ wind zone. My area’s solar resources are 5.29 sun hours per day, so that’s considered good.

The service also estimates the costs of installing wind and solar. In my case is would cost $18,000 to install wind turbines, for which I could get $7,506 in state incentives. The annual energy estimate of wind is 1,185 kWh/yr, which would equal a payback period of 41 years. Um, I’ll pass on that. For solar, the cost is $27,000, for which I could get $7,506 in state incentives and $1,998 in federal incentives. The average energy estimate of solar is 4,169 kWh/yr, so it would take 19 years for a payback. So better, but not great.

The information is fun to play with (and again, it’s free) and gives you a vague if reasonable outlook on the basics. We would like to see more options on how to implement the services being considered. The company likely limits its data to just the basics, as it also rents and sells tools like an anemometer, and offers a full wind consultation (several hundred dollars), for more accurate detailed wind tests.

Overall, we’re not so sure of the company’s business model. The site sells eco products like high-efficiency shower heads and carbon offsets, and offers additional free energy management tools. CEO Michael Ford described the site to us as a combination of a Zillow and an Amazon for clean energy, but also says ChooseRenewables eventually hopes to move into the installation side of the business. The whole thing seems a little unfocused.

Though we do dig playing with the energy generator map! Ford also says the company is actively looking for venture funding in the range of $3 million to $6 million.

  1. got linked to this via CleanTech News and was happy to see this wonderful little tool. the program is fun, but the rest of the site is iffy. use the tool, but use caution with the rest of the site.

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