Introduction to Nonconventional Sources of Energy

Nonconventional sources of energy are those not based on fossil fuels. When nonconventional power plants harness the energy in sunlight, wind, water currents and even compost, it's easy for small business owners to plug in and enjoy a more sustainable footprint.

Can your small business still get its energy in an earth-friendly manner despite being far away from an alternative power plant? In many cases, the answer is yes. While you're at it, tell your conventional power plant that they're losing your business due to their energy sources. You might succeed in enacting greater change for your entire community by affecting the supply and demand.

Discover nonconventional sources of energy and what your small business needs in order to take advantage of them.

The Most Accessible Alternative Energy Sources

First, narrow the list of possible candidates for small business renewable energy sources, especially if plugging into a nonconventional power grid is not an option. Tidal, wave and hydroelectric power are typically inconvenient for small businesses since they require a moving body of water. Geothermal energy requires drilling deep into the earth in order to harness its heat, which requires specialized equipment and makes it more suitable for distribution via a power plant rather than individual use.

Solar, wind and biomass represent three alternative energy sources that most businesses can access and set up on their own. Finding the most suitable option means looking at your business's physical and financial resources.

Which Makes Sense for Your Business?

Narrow the field further by looking at the requirements for each type of alternative energy source and comparing them to the business's assets and location. For example, solar panels do well on south-facing roofs or mounted on the ground. Does your business have enough space to make solar panels efficient? Small-scale wind turbines can also be effective but only in areas that experience enough wind on a yearly basis.

The third potential option, biomass, has a lot of variations. In short, waste products from animals, crops or landfills can be burned in order to heat water, which powers a steam turbine and in turn a generator that produces electricity. If your business has adequate land or flat roof space, you can have your own turbine and generator. However, you'll need to pay for regular deliveries of animal or crop waste to burn.

Financing Nonconventional Energy Sources

Powering your small business with nonconventional energy sources can lead to low or nonexistent electric bills and greater energy security. However, the major hurdle to overcome in the beginning is financing the system. Over time, it will pay for itself, but you may need a loan or a grant in order to get your solar panels, wind turbine or biomass generator up and running.

Government grants may be available at both a state and federal level. To kick-start your research, you can visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, which also shows national programs.

Greening Your Vehicles

Electricity may not be the only way your business uses nonrenewable resources. If you have company-owned vehicles, you know that gasoline can eat into your budget while also polluting the air. Once you have a nonconventional energy source to generate your electricity, you can potentially make the switch to electric vehicles and enjoy a cost savings over time.

Another option is biofuel, which is the liquid byproduct of biomass and comes from the same source: animal or crop waste or landfills. Many vehicles can run on biofuel with little to no alterations, which means you don't have to replace your company cars.