I just came across two very cool tools for calculating the potential energy savings for implementing solar and wind power.
The first one is the In My Back Yard from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). This tool allows you to calculate potential energy savings through solar and wind power. The savings is based on where your property is located and the information you specify for either the windmill(s) to be used (type, height, etc.) or the information for the solar panels (size, slope of roof, orientation, etc.). The output for the wind power is a little difficult for me to decipher, but for solar power the information is very easy to understand and provides data on incentives available for purchasing the technology. As for the payback, the NREL tool seems to compare the cost of the system with the utility rate you’re paying. It doesn’t seem to account that adding the solar panels in the first place should increase the value of your home.
The second tool is from RoofRay, and it calculates savings for using only solar power. The information is inputted the same as the NREL website. Apparently the site does not have information relating to the utility company used in Colorado so the data pertaining to my house through RoofRay is incomplete.
Both are somewhat intuitive in their interface, and they provide a great ballpark number for figuring out what you could potentially expect in energy savings based on the values you enter. This is great for anyone thinking about purchasing one of these systems and enables a better understanding of the value associated with these systems. Both also provide a great design tool for architects to better maximize the orientation of a building to better utilize solar panels and windmills.