The Green Merchant Alliance program sounds great, but I don’t have a lot of time to devote to switching things over. How long will the conversion take, and how much time do I need to devote to it?
We only need about 20 minutes of your time to complete the application paperwork. After that, we handle all of the details to get your account switched over, including the re-programming of your credit card terminal(s). Most conversions are completed in about a week.
What is it going to cost me to switch my services to the Green Merchant Alliance program?
We do not charge you anything for your conversion.
Are there any hidden costs or fees to switch?
Your program will match my current rates, but are they guaranteed to stay there?
Yes, we guarantee in writing not to raise your rates.
How long will GMA continue to make donations on my behalf?
For as long as you continue to process with us.
How much will the donation be?
We will contribute 15% of our gross revenue from your account tosupport environmental non-profits on a quarterly ongoing basis.
What type of business can participate in the program?
Any business that takes credit cards or ACH (automatic withdrawal check services) as a form of payment from its customers.
Where does the money go?
See our Non-Profit Gallery for a complete list of organizations that we support.
What is renewable energy and why do you support REC's?'Renewable energy' is energy obtained from sources that essentially are inexhaustible, UNLIKE fossil fuels, for example, of which there are finite supplies. The non-profit Center for Resource Solutions, the main group responsible for auditing and oversight of the green power industry, considers the following types of electrical generation renewable energy: wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, and small hydroelectric (30 megawatts capacity or less).
Renewable energy (often called "green power") is energy that is produced in ways that are cleaner and less harmful to the environment. Green power comes from wind, solar, geothermal and low-impact hydro resources. These are natural forces that can be harvested without releasing pollutants into the air we breathe.
Other cleaner producing methods of generating electricity may also qualify as green power. Biomass facilities burn wood, agricultural wastes or methane gases from landfills instead of fossil fuel. This prevents the release of methane (CH4), a greenhouse gas even more destructive than CO2.
When green power displaces traditional sources of power, there is a shift that occurs in the energy mix or energy pool. As this pool becomes more "green," less fossil fuel is being burned and fewer pollutants are released, which is beneficial to everyone.
Why is renewable energy important?Renewable energy plays a vital role in facilitating the transition away from fossil fuels, which negatively impact our environment and are a leading cause of global warming and other environmental and health concerns. Today, only 2% of the country's electricity supply is generated by renewable energy sources. The growth of renewable energy is partly driven by voluntary purchases of green power.
What are the environmental benefits of renewable energy?Conventional electricity, on average, causes the emission of more than 1,300 pounds of Carbon Dioxide per MWh, a leading cause of global warming, as well as other harmful pollutants such as Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide, and Mercury. Energy from renewable sources, such as wind, dramatically reduces or even eliminates such emissions.
What are the pollutants to be concerned about?Electricity is the leading industrial cause of air pollution in the United States. Traditional power sources like coal create serious air pollutants including carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxides (SO2), which cause acid rain, and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which cause smog. Renewable energy facilities do not generate any of these pollutants.
When a renewable energy facility sends electricity to the grid, less electricity needs to be generated from fossil fuel plants. Those plants then burn less fuel. The obvious result ought to be that less pollution overall is generated. This is true nationally for CO2 emissions, for example. At least in the western United States, it is also true for many other pollutants such as NOx, mercury, and carbon monoxide. (Additional information is provided in "How are CO2 and other emissions affected when I buy Green Tags?")
Why are renewable energy credits (RECs) sold separately from the power?Renewable energy projects are often located in regions where there are not enough people nearby who are willing to pay the premium price that the project needs – the price that reflects the environmental value of its power. In addition, transmitting its power a longer distance to markets where people are willing to pay that premium adds even more cost (and in fact, it wouldn’t even get there – if you transmit power from one grid to another, the power that actually moves is the power that happens to be closest to the “bridge” at the time). Splitting the project’s output into two separate commodities – the power itself, and the environmental attributes of that power (the RECs) – enables the project to sell its power locally at market rates as “regular” or “generic” power, and recover its premium cost by selling the RECs to buyers in other markets or regions who are willing to pay the premium to support renewable energy.
This system adds flexibility and efficiency to the renewable energy market. In addition, it simply recognizes that because all electricity is physically identical, it doesn’t matter what electricity is “called” renewable, as long as you only “call” renewable the amount that actually is from a renewable source. Ownership of RECs gives you the right to “call” a certain amount of electricity renewable (however many kilowatt hours of RECs you bought).
How does renewable energy reduce CO2 pollution?This is a simple matter of federal law, efficient grid operation and physics. Under federal law, renewable generators can force utilities to buy their power. For efficient grid operation, if the utility has to buy the project’s power, it is going to use it. As a matter of physics, if the utility uses the renewable project’s power, it must, for any given level of demand, use less from other sources – the electricity grid cannot have more electricity flowing into it than is being used at a time, so when a renewable generator generates power, the grid operators turn down other generators to compensate (or when demand is rising, they turn the others up less than they would have without the renewable power). For efficient grid operation, they turn down (or turn up less) those generators that have the highest fuel costs – fossil fuel plants. The result is that for every kWh generated by a renewable generator, one kWh less is generated by fossil fuel plants. Renewable power directly reduces emissions from burning fossil fuels.
Are these credits just permissions to pollute?Pollution credits, or "allowances," are legal permissions to pollute. For CO2, they don’t exist yet – there are no restrictions yet on CO2 pollution in the US, although California and the Northeast are moving in that direction. Theoretically, if you bought a pollution allowance you would take away a polluter's ability to emit that amount of pollution, although if too many were bought and the market got too tight, polluters might choose to pay fines and keep polluting, or the government might issue more allowances.
RECs, on the other hand, are a financial instrument that supports and rewards renewable energy generation. For every kilowatt-hour of renewable energy generated, a REC is created. So while we want fewer pollution allowances to be issued, we want as many RECs as possible to be generated. Buying RECs can help stimulate demand for renewable energy and can incentivize increased renewable energy and REC production. Do wind turbines kill birds? Wind turbines initially got a bad reputation for killing birds because a very few early projects were poorly sited in migratory paths and raptor feeding grounds. The old lattice-type towers were great for nesting, and the smaller, faster turning blades were a real danger. Wind turbines now use a tubular fiberglass tower, and the bigger blades rotate at lower revolutions per minute. Also, it is standard practice now to conduct environmental assessment studies to minimize impacts on wildlife.
According to a review of available research, data collected outside California indicate an average of just under two avian fatalities per turbine per year.*
By comparison, this review states that utility transmission and distribution lines, the backbone of our electrical power system, are responsible for 130 to 174 million bird deaths a year in the U.S., and cars and trucks kill 60 to 80 million birds per year. Free ranging housecats? The best estimate is 39 million per year – in Wisconsin.**
*Avian Collisions with Wind Turbines: A Summary of Existing Studies and Comparisons to Other Sources of Avian Collision Mortality in the United States; National Wind Coordinating Committee; West, Inc.; August, 2001.
** Cats and Wildlife: A Conservation Dilemma, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Are wind farms a realistic source of electricity? (back to top)
Absolutely. There’s enough wind energy potential in the Great Plains to power the entire country, and then some.
Where can I get more information on global climate change?For more information on global climate change issues, we suggest that you visit the following web sites:
Climate Neutral Network: www.climateneutral.com
Climate Solutions: www.climatesolutions.org
Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/globalwarming
Pew Center on Global Climate Change: www.pewclimate.org