Pick the right alternative energy option for you and your property

Want to go green or live off the grid? Generating your own electricity through renewable sources is an environmentally-friendly option that gives you control over your energy source and how much you produce. Plus, with all that extra electricity you’re generating, you might even be able to make a profit. Check out the options we’ve listed below to see if any of these alternative energy sources would be right for you and your home.

Things You Should Know

  • Choose solar panels if your area gets at least 4 hours of sunlight per day. You can install solar panels yourself or have a professional install them for you.
  • Try a wind turbine if you live in a flat area with few tall buildings around. Buy a turbine online or from a local company to help with installation.
  • Choose a biomass or biogas system if you produce a lot of waste, like wood chips, paper, or sewage.
  • Go for a micro-hydro system if you have a stream on your property. Have your property surveyed to make sure this option is right for you.
Section 1 of 5:

Solar Panels

  1. Peak sunlight hours occur when the sun is the highest in the sky, and locations closer to the Equator get more peak sun hours than those further away. Look online for a peak sunlight hours map to see how many peak hours your area has. Then, check your property for places that aren’t covered by shade during the day, since solar panels can’t generate electricity if they aren’t exposed to sunlight.[1]
    • Look for solar power companies near you and schedule a consultation. Solar power companies can look at your home and property to determine how efficient solar panels would be.[2]
    • Solar power companies will examine the slope of your roof and the direction that it faces, whether it's north, south, east, or west. These are all variables that will determine how much energy that solar panels could theoretically produce for your home.[3]
  2. It’s important to choose the right solar panels for your home. The 3 main types of solar panels are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film. Monocrystalline panels are the most recognizable types and have about 20% efficiency. They take up the least amount of space, but they are the most expensive. Polycrystalline panels are more affordable, but they only have about 16% efficiency and don’t work well in higher temperatures since they have a low heat tolerance. Thin film panels are flexible and the cheapest option, but they are the least efficient at 7-13% and they take up the most space.[4]
    • See if there are any financing options for the solar panels so you can pay them off over a set period of time rather than spending a lot up-front.
    • You can install single solar panels at a time if you can’t afford to buy multiple panels.
    • Sometimes, electric companies offer certain rebates or incentives if you install solar panels. Contact your electric provider and ask them if they offer grants or discounts for solar panel installation.
  3. Once you have your solar panels picked out, you can install the mounting system on your roof or on the ground. Then, attach inverters to the panels to convert the electricity and power your home.[5]
  4. The cost of your solar panels will depend on the size of your property and how much wattage it takes to power your home. On average, though, you can expect to spend around $20,000 upfront.[8] You may be able to work out a payment plan with either the solar panel company or your electric company, so look into your options before paying in full.
    • Any extra electricity you generate can usually be sold back to your electric company, so you may be able to make some extra money over time.
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Section 2 of 5:

Small Wind System

  1. Since wind systems are tall, you may not be able to install the system in a residential area depending on your zoning requirements. Check with local building inspectors or your city’s homeowner’s association to see if you’re eligible for building a turbine. If zoning isn’t an issue, then you can build a turbine on your property.[9]
    • Many zoning ordinances have a height limit of about 35 feet (11 m), and many wind systems need to be 30 feet (9.1 m) higher than the tallest structure within 500 feet (150 m).
  2. Look online for wind speed maps or airport wind speed data to see what the average wind speed is in your area. If the average wind speeds are around 14 miles per hour (23 km/h), then a turbine might be an efficient way to generate electricity to power your home. If the wind speed is slower, then you may not get the turbine’s full effectiveness.[10]
    • Wind speeds increase the higher above ground you are. Many airports measure their wind speed from about 30 feet (9.1 m) above ground, which is similar to the height of a residential turbine.
    • Hire a professional who installs wind turbines to check the efficiency and wind speed of your property for you if you have trouble determining it yourself.
  3. Check with your electric company to find out how many kilowatt-hours your home used in the past year. Use the formula AEO = (0.01328)D2V3, where AEO is your annual energy output in kilowatt-hours per year, D is the diameter of the rotor in feet, and V is the annual average wind speed in miles per hour. Solve the formula for D and buy a turbine system with the correct size rotors.[11]
    • For example, if you use 11,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and the average annual wind speed is 20 miles per hour, your formula would be 11,000 = (0.01328)D2(15)3. If you solve for D, the diameter you need for your system is about 10 feet (3.0 m).
    • Once you know what size turbine you need, purchase one from a local supplier. This company may also be able to supply you with other crucial parts (like the tower) and/or complete the installation.
    • You can also find wind turbines online.
  4. The cost of installing a small wind system depends on the size and the structure you’re going for. However, most people spend about $5,000 for every kilowatt they need to power their home.[12]
    • You can ask a local supplier to provide an estimate for you before you buy.
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Section 3 of 5:

Biomass or Biogas

  1. When we say “waste,” we’re not talking about garbage: for biomass, things like wood chips, timber offcuts, paper products, old crops, sewage, and animal manure are ideal. Biogas is useful if you’re on a farm that produces a lot of animal waste.[13]
    • Burning these waste materials creates methane and carbon dioxide, which can be used for heating, cooling, and cooking.
    • While methane and carbon dioxide are both greenhouse gasses, burning the methane in a biogas system is better than releasing it into the atmosphere.
    • Typically, it’s more efficient to burn biomass than it is to compost it.
  2. Burning biomass and biogas is one thing, but harnessing the energy from it is another. To use the methane and carbon dioxide that these waste materials produce, look into a biomass or biogas system for your property. Typically, biomass and biogas systems are partially underground. They collect the waste and then burn the off-gas to generate power. The size and installation process depends a lot on the size of your land and where it is, so it’s best to have a professional come take a look and give you an estimate.[14]
  3. The cost of installation varies greatly depending on the size of your property and the amount of power you need to generate. Fortunately, the upfront cost is typically the most expensive, and maintenance costs are relatively low.[15]
    • Biogas systems are typically slightly more expensive, but they are still around the same range.
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Section 4 of 5:

Micro-Hydro System

  1. A micro-hydro system is suitable for properties with an existing stream and water flow. In order to see if your stream is right for a micro-hydro system, hire someone from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture to come and take a look at your property. They will measure the “head” (the vertical distance that the water falls) and the “flow” (the quantity of water falling).[16]
    • If you’ve already had surveys done or the previous owner of the property has had them done, contact your local county records office to access those surveys.
    • There are ways to take these measurements yourself; however, they are very complicated and often take multiple seasons to complete. It’s usually much easier just to hire someone to survey your property.
  2. Depending on where you live, you will likely need a permit from your local county’s office to install a micro-hydro dam. You will also need to look into your water rights (who owns the stream that is on your property) and whether or not you can disrupt it with a micro-hydro system.[17]
    • Each state controls their own water rights, and they can vary from state to state.
    • You will also need to factor in the environmental impact of your micro-hydro system. If you have any native species on your property, for instance, that would be impacted by a micro-hydro system, it may not be feasible.
  3. Micro-hydro systems come in different sizes, and you can purchase one that fits your home and your energy output. Ask your electric company how many watts you use in a month, then look for a system that generates slightly more than that.[18]
    • Micro-hydro systems are typically expensive upfront, but they can last for decades and often require little to no maintenance.
  4. The bigger your micro-hydro system is, the more expensive it is to install. Fortunately, the upfront cost is typically the largest expense—micro-hydro systems usually require very little maintenance over the years.[19]
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Section 5 of 5:


  1. While a generator shouldn’t be your main source of power, they’re very handy to have in case your main home power generation system fails. You can use a portable generator to keep costs low, or you can install a permanent generator for a long-term solution. Keep a diesel generator or biodiesel generator on the property to use in case of an emergency.[20]
    • Generators are fairly simple machines, and they’re easy to maintain. However, they tend to get noisy, and diesel or biodiesel fuel costs can add up.
  2. A portable generator is the cheapest option, and these are easy to pick up at any hardware store. Installing a permanent generator typically costs a few thousand dollars, depending on how large it is and the size of your home.[21]
    • Diesel generators are slightly more expensive than gas-powered generators. However, diesel generators are more fuel-efficient, so they’re worth the extra cost.
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Community Q&A

  • Question
    What is the cheapest way to buy solar panels and windmills that produce plenty amount of energy?
    Nicholas Newman
    Nicholas Newman
    Community Answer
    You first need to know your energy needs/kilowatt hours. The Department of Energy and other sources can give you typical household energy needs based on family and home size. Once you know that, you can search for individual brands for solar panels or windmills and they will tell what their energy outputs are.
  • Question
    How do solar panels works?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    Solar panels work by gathering solar rays from the sun. These rays are then converted into electricity by silicons and photons.
  • Question
    How can I save energy living in an apartment?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    You can save it by switching off the electronic items you are not using them.


  • Hire professional contractors and electricians if you don’t feel comfortable installing alternate energy systems on your own.
  • Always check local zoning laws to see if you’re able to install alternate energy solutions on your home.


  1. https://www.costofsolar.com/best-direction-to-face-solar-panels-south-or-west/#
  2. Guy Gabay. Solar Energy Contractor. Expert Interview. 4 August 2020.
  3. Guy Gabay. Solar Energy Contractor. Expert Interview. 4 August 2020.
  4. http://www.altenergy.org/renewables/solar/common-types-of-solar-cells.html
  5. https://www.costofsolar.com/best-direction-to-face-solar-panels-south-or-west/#
  6. Guy Gabay. Solar Energy Contractor. Expert Interview. 4 August 2020.
  7. Guy Gabay. Solar Energy Contractor. Expert Interview. 4 August 2020.
  8. https://www.thisoldhouse.com/solar-alternative-energy/reviews/solar-panel-cost
  9. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/planning-small-wind-electric-system

About This Article

Guy Gabay
Co-authored by:
Solar Energy Contractor
This article was co-authored by Guy Gabay and by wikiHow staff writer, Hannah Madden. Guy Gabay is a Solar Energy Contractor and the CEO of AmeriGreen Builders, a full-service solar energy, roofing, HVAC and window installation company based in the greater Los Angeles, California region. With over eight years of experience in the construction industry, Guy leads the AmeriGreen team focusing on bringing an educational approach to energy efficient home upgrades. Guy holds a B.S. in Marketing from California State University - Northridge. This article has been viewed 1,472,721 times.
15 votes - 89%
Co-authors: 102
Updated: August 12, 2023
Views: 1,472,721
Article SummaryX

One of the best ways to make your own electricity is through solar energy. Start by investing in 2-3 solar panels and have them mounted in a sunny area, such as a rooftop. Consult a professional about installation for the panels, and create a thorough budget that will help you maintain the system. Be sure to check your local, state, and federal laws for monetary incentives when you install alternative energy sources! You might also consider combining solar with other types of independent energy, such as wind turbines or micro-hydro generators. To learn more about wind systems, read on!

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