Cogeneration has been common at large factories for decades. It’s basically a way of squeezing more work out of fossil fuels. Also known as combined heat and power (CHP) generation systems, these mechanical wonders put the waste heat generated by a home furnace or boiler to work making electricity. By some estimates, they achieve 90 percent efficiency, compared with 30 to 40 percent from your local power station. If you’re already replacing or installing a new boiler or furnace, why not take it to another level and try cogeneration?
Small-scale wind turbines that create electricity have always been a fairly specialized form of power generation—most valuable in mountainous and coastal regions. The challenge has been to build a turbine that produces adequate electricity, even in low wind, to make it worth the cost. We’re getting much closer. For example, the Skystream turbines begin producing power in winds of just 8 miles per hour.
The advantage of wind power over PV? The wind often blows when it’s dark outside. But before you buy, take a look at the national wind map published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). You’ll see that not every area of the United States is well suited for wind-powered living. In fact, if you live in any of the Southeast states—and you don’t have a place right on the water—wind is a long shot. You will make a lot more power with a good solar PV setup.