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Can we generate our own energy from renewable sources?

Yes, energy from renewable sources can be generated at almost any location. However, it's not always cost effective to do so.

Photo of a wind turbine located in a remote area.

The National Renewable Energy
Laboratory supplied this photo of
a wind turbine that provides
power to a remote cabin.

Renewable energy or "green power" is energy from sources that are continuously replenished or rapidly renewable and whose generation has little environmental impact. These systems include:

It is seldom cost effective to add renewable energy systems to existing buildings unless energy costs are very high, renewable energy resources are abundant at a site, or there are grants or incentives (Web site available only to FS and BLM employees) available. The Renewable Energy Atlas of the West provides fairly detailed information about the level of renewable resources available in 11 Western States. Renewable energy systems are more likely to be cost effective when they are incorporated into new buildings or sites, because the entire development can be designed to maximize the effectiveness of the energy system, as explained in Is sustainability affordable?.

Some utilities offer the option to purchase power from renewable energy sources for a small cost premium. Renewable energy credits can be purchased even if your local utility doesn't offer renewable energy for direct purchase. Renewable energy credits basically pay the extra cost of generating energy from renewable sources and adding it to the nation's electric supply system. Buying the certificate doesn't mean you're using renewable energy, but because you have made the production of that energy possible, somebody will use it.

Use of renewable energy, whether generated on site, purchased directly, or purchased as renewable energy credits, is required by USDA Departmental Regulation 5500-001, Facilities Energy and Water Conservation and Utilities Management (DR-5500-001). USDA's Guidance on Renewable Energy provides an overview of renewable energy, discusses strategies for purchasing green power and renewable energy credits, and explains requirements for USDA agencies to report their progress in complying with Section 203 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and Section 8(2) of USDA DR-5500-001.