This Guy Found a Free Way to Get Clean Power Without Pricy Solar Panels

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Eric Hanson is an avid backpacker, skier and kayaker — a Sierra Club kind of guy. He loves the great outdoors and believes in protecting the environment.

He wished he could power his home using clean, green, sustainable energy sources like wind and solar, but that didn’t seem to be an option for him. The power company serving his part of Maine produces its electricity with a mix of nuclear reactors and oil-fired power plants, among other sources.

“We don’t have an ‘a la carte’ option for different sources of power,” says Hanson, 33, an assistant high school principal near Portland, who started his career as a science teacher.

So much for that idea, right?

Then, one day, Hanson clicked on an online ad for Arcadia Power. It proposed to let him power his house with renewable energy sources, no matter where he lived. It offered to sell him clean energy without installing solar panels or wind turbines on his property.

That piqued his interest.

How would that work? Hanson wondered. How can I be an Arcadia Power customer when the poles and lines that connect to my house are owned by my local power company?

No Matter How It’s Generated, All Electricity Looks the Same

Here’s what he found out:

Arcadia Power is an energy marketplace that would allow him to buy into wind farms and solar panels installed elsewhere.

Here’s the thing about electricity: It can be generated by burning coal or by uranium in a nuclear reactor, by river water flowing through a hydroelectric dam or by sunlight shining on a solar panel. But no matter where it comes from, all electricity looks the same once it flows into our national energy grid

(In the U.S., most electricity comes from “dirty,” non-renewable sources like coal, natural gas or nuclear plants. Only about 13% of our electricity comes from renewable sources.)

Arcadia Power buys energy from renewable sources like wind farms. As it does this, it collects Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), which certify that a unit of electricity was produced with green energy sources. (Here’s a video that explains RECs.)

Arcadia  Power sells its customers RECs. This would normally be complicated for the average person, but Arcadia Power has simplified the process.

To be perfectly clear: If you’re an Arcadia Power customer, your home will still be powered by the same energy sources that your local utility uses. But by buying your power through Arcadia Power, you can offset the environmental impact of buying carbon-emitting “dirty” energy from your local utility.

For customers like Hanson, the bottom line is that Arcadia Power offers him a way to drive the demand for sustainably sourced electricity. It makes the overall energy mix in the grid cleaner. This way, he can financially support green energy even if there are no sustainable energy options in his neck of the woods.

How Arcadia Power Works For One Customer

Hanson signed on with Arcadia Power three years ago, not long after the company was founded in 2013. He’s glad he did.

“They essentially take over your account,” he says. Hanson pays for his electricity through Arcadia Power, not his local utility.

Full disclosure: It costs him a bit extra. Arcadia Power adds 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour to his regular electric bill, collects payments from him, and uses the money to pay his regular power company.

But he feels it’s worth it.

“We’re talking about five bucks a month difference,” says Hanson, who owns a four-bedroom home.

(Arcadia Power also has a free version that will source 50% of your electricity to renewable energy sources at no extra charge.)

One bonus: Arcadia Power equips customers with an online “dashboard” that Hanson uses to track his home’s power usage throughout the day and night.

“They have a really functional, user-friendly dashboard that lets you see hour-by-hour consumption,” he said. “I can see behavioral trends.”

He has learned money-saving tips like setting his dishwasher on a time delay so it runs at night, when power is cheaper. He has changed up when he runs his dehumidifier.

“I’ve changed my behavior,” he said. “In the long term, it has saved me some money.”

The big picture: He feels it’s totally worth it to support renewable energy. He believes the environmental cost of “dirty” energy still gets overlooked. And installing solar panels on the roof isn’t financially feasible for most people.

“On a fundamental level, the power that I use in my house is coming from renewable sources,” he says. “By providing financial support for renewable energy sites, I can disrupt the market. I’m willing to support green growth.”

If offsetting dirty power is a cause you want to get on board with, Arcadia Power is offering new customers a $25 Visa® Prepaid Card for signing up.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. His home is powered by natural gas and nuclear plants, and he is powered by caffeine and pure force of will.

*The Visa Prepaid Card is issued by The Bancorp Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and can be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted in the U.S.