Local News

Energy of the Future Goes Back to the Basics

Posted November 8, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST

— Getting electricity to your home in the future may mean going back to the basics. Energy from the sun and the wind can be channeled to power your TV, and anything else you plug in.

A house in southern Wake County is already wired for the next century.

The wind and the sun provide the electricity that powers Jeff McDermott's house. It saves him money, and is environmentally friendly.

"I wanted to do it because it just felt like the right thing to do," says McDermott.

A windmill and solar panels convert the natural energy from the sun and wind and store it in batteries. A converter taps those batteries to send electricity throughout the house.

"So all of these sources fill those batteries with power when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing," explains Chris Carter of the Solar Village Institute.

Using the wind and the sun to power a home is nothing new. They are resources that have been used for thousands of years.

"There have been a lot of innovations," says Fred Stewart, Solar Consultants president. "While the technology has stayed pretty static, and kept working about the same, we've just learned better ways to use it."

Solar panels can do much more than just heat water. The electricity generated with this system can power anything you plug into the wall.

At night, in winter, and on cloudy days, the windmill compliments the solar panels.

"The automatic systems come on and heat your water like it always did. But in this area, he can depend on his solar energy for probably 70 to 75 percent of the year," says Stewart.

McDermott says his electric bills run about $15 a month. As our lights and appliances become more energy efficient, less power will be needed to run them. Our supply of sun and wind is endless.

There are 10,000 homes in the Triangle that use a system like this now, and have already seen what the future may hold.

"They are solar pioneers right now. You have to have a little bit of adventure in your blood to put one of these systems in because it's brand new technology, it's not very widespread," says Carter.

Installing a solar system can be expensive, but North Carolina offers a tax credit of up to $1,500 a year for five years. If you'd like to see how a home operates in person, N.C. State University has a solar house you can visit almost any time.