I have found that many of my friends, family, neighbors and other community members know very little about renewable energy and how it can truly benefit all of us. With the cost of utilities rapidly rising and air quality decreasing, there is an increased amount of concern, and more of us want to learn how we can make changes to improve these issues. Besides simple lifestyle changes, we can implement renewable-energy sources. The federal government has been studying and working on many programs and options for years, and here is what I have found on solar, wind and geothermal energy.

Solar technologies provide energy for heating, cooling, lighting and hot water without any direct emissions, thus having a great potential for improving our air quality.

The Department of Energy selected 13 cities to help lay the foundation for a solar-energy market that can serve as a model for cities around the nation. Salt Lake City was one of those chosen, and the goal of Solar Salt Lake is to develop a fully scoped city- and county-level implementation plan that will have the potential to significantly impact the development of solar energy in the state of Utah.

The DOE announced its plans to use wind energy to produce 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030, based on a feasibility study report it recently completed. Wind is the second-fastest growing source of energy, next to natural gas. In 2007, the nation's wind-energy capacity grew by more than 40 percent.

Geothermal is another great source that is underutilized mostly because of costs and installation barriers; however, it does serve its purpose well in many commercial applications and is becoming more popular in residential homes. Geothermal energy prevents the emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, helping to improve Utah's air quality.

A friend of mine, Danny Small of The Energy Store, says this: "Renewable energy technologies like geothermal, photovoltaics, solar hot water, wind and hydropower systems are an important and growing component of energy strategy for the built environment. Along with conservation and efficient use of energy, sustainable harvesting of energy through renewable sources completes the energy-management picture. Although these technologies have historically suffered from high cost and long payback periods, these aspects are improving rapidly, with the help of government incentives and market demand."

To learn more about renewable energy, there is a class being conducted by Build Green Utah on June 20 at the Salt Lake Main Library. Call Sarah at 435-645-9363 for more information.

Laurie Nadeau, an advocate of renewable energy, is an EcoBroker with Realtor Windermere Real Estate in Park City.