Some green technologies are a waste of green

Green technologies like hybrid cars and small wind turbines might seem like a good idea, but they are very costly. Photo Credit: Glogger/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Going green, or relying on environmentally friendly or less wasteful technologies is a good thing, especially if it saves money. However, some green home improvements just throw green from the wallet into the compost heap.

Break like the wind

Wind power, one of the most popular methods of renewable energy generation, is capable of generating sufficient power for cities with a large enough wind farm. Some people have taken to installing rooftop and backyard wind turbines.

One model of turbine detailed in the New York Times, the Swift wind turbine, can cost up to $12,000 to purchase and install. In gusty conditions, it can generate up to 1.5 kilowatts of electricity. According to USA Today, the average home requires a turbine capable of generating about 10 kilowatts of power. A turbine capable of generating that much power costs about $35,000.

Also, according to Minnesota Public Radio, a lot of home-use wind turbines don’t produce as much power as advertised. The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources tested 19 home wind turbines in 2009 and found the best delivered only 60 percent of capacity. The worst delivered 2 percent.

solar so good

Solar panels also seem to be a great idea. Jimmy Carter had some installed on the White House. Now there’s a political brouhaha over solar power company Solyndra, a company that received federal loans but went belly up.

Solar panels, or photovoltaic cells, are expensive. According to SolarPowerAuthority, a website devoted to solar power news and research, a solar panel system capable of generating about 8 kilowatts could cost more than $70,000 for the panels and installation, before any tax or energy company subsidies. A solar panel system that costs $18,000 would take 20 years to pay itself off through savings.

If it takes 10 kilowatts to power a home, a person would still need to rely on the power company for the remainder. It also doesn’t help that some areas in the United States get only three hours per day of usable sunlight.

Hybrid Hype

Hybrid cars, which use a combination of an electric motor and a gasoline motor, purport to save the planet while saving the driver on the cost of gas.

According to a 2005 interview on NPR and a 2010 article on U.S. News and World Report, gas savings on a hybrid can be completely negated by the increased sticker price. If a hybrid costs several thousand dollars more than a non-hybrid model, a person has to save enough money on gas over the lifetime of the car to make up for it, and that is often not the case.

Also, according to, the manufacturing process for hybrid cars was found in a Department of Energy study to create more pollution than manufacturing traditional cars.


USA Today

New York Times

Minnesota Public Radio



US News and World Report


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