Powered Up (Wind & Solar Style) in 2013!

Putting renewable energy sources into your home is easier and cheaper than ever. Just look at the cost of solar panels, which has decreased at least 80 percent in the past five years, according to The Star-Telegram. If you're wondering what types of renewable energy trends would work for your home, looking to global developments provides homeowners with better ways to prioritize. Changes in technology, public awareness and government interest all affect the progress in discovering and adopting new renewable energy options.

Solar Gets Cheaper

There are currently many manufacturers of solar panels around the planet, which has driven the cost per kilowatt down. This is good for consumers, but the solar panel makers are now struggling. Some manufacturers have dropped out of the game, while others are working to differentiate their products with new technology to compete with very low-end panels.

One such technology, reported on by American Society of Mechanical Engineers, is thin-film solar with peel-and-stick capability. This technology allows solar cells to be printed onto flexible material which can be attached to surfaces that aren't perfectly flat. Any place where the consumer could attach these solar sheets can become electricity-generating areas around the house.

The Winds Blow Again

Wind energy companies experienced management challenges that caused the consolidation of that industry down to a handful of companies. These more efficiently run companies are building credibility again within their particular renewable energy niche.

According to tax and financial consultants CBIZ, the renewable energy credits that expired in 2011 were reinstated through 2013. Consumers now have more incentive to move on their home wind energy projects. A stronger, more competitive wind energy market, combined with consumer incentives, may boost that energy option, especially at the individual homeowner level.

More Individual Participation

There are small groups of people who manage "microgrids," small power systems that are separate from larger regional power companies. Consumers can purchase power from these small grids in some parts of the company. There is even discussion around the large power companies buying power from microgrids and reselling it to businesses and consumers. The microgrids are unique in that they are entirely based on wind or solar power sources.

Power from Unique Sources

Crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo help entrepreneurs raise funds for important projects that may otherwise sit in someone's desk drawer forever. One such project, as reported on by Saveonenergy.com, is the Instep Nanopower shoe. This shoe generates electricity when the wearer walks and stores it in a battery. When the wearer rests, a cable can be attached to the shoe to power, or recharge, other electronic devices.

Renewable Energy as an Investment

According to Renewable Energy World, large investors are getting into the renewable energy market in big ways. Warren Buffet acquired the Antelope Valley Solar Projects, located in Southern California, for $2 billion. Google has invested $200 million in a wind farm in Texas, and Avis has announced the intention to purchase ZipCar for $500 million.

This type of high-stakes investing in green companies brings visibility to the potentials there. The large investment dollars fuel more innovations. Consumers watch these types of investments as their confidence in this industry increases.

Renewable energy is becoming a fact in many people's lives. There are more ways for individuals to become involved as the price goes down and new technology improves efficiency.

In what ways do you use renewable energy? Tell us below!

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