“I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean-energy sources,” President Obama said in his 2011 State of the Union address. Although it’s great to hear the President express his support, this “challenge” isn’t exactly a substitute for the solid legislation the renewable-energy industry was hoping for. The U.S. needs a firm and stated policy in a world that will face more energy challenges.
One bit of significant news this year was the world’s population hit 7 billion. This means there will be increased demand across a variety of spectrums for food, housing, and especially energy.
However even without a national renewable-energy policy, many states are proving the critics of clean energy wrong. Because of their own advances, the U.S. wind and solar markets are making great strides. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reports that the nation’s wind industry now boasts of 43,461 MW of cumulative capacity (as of September 2011). A good portion (35%) of that new generating capacity was added in the last four years, which is second only to natural gas, and more than nuclear and coal combined. The nation’s wind-power capacity actually represents more than 20% of the world’s installed wind power, which is certainly something to be proud of. What’s more, turbine OEMs and their supply chains are working to get the cost of wind generated power lower than that from natural gas.
The solar industry also has something to brag about. The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) reports that solar grew 69% in the last year, now exceeding 3,100 MW. Since the start of 2010, the price of solar panels dropped by 30%, making it more cost-effective than ever. Solar is the fastest growing energy sector in the U.S. and will likely be the largest source of new electric capacity in America and the world’s largest solar market by 2014.
Not only does clean energy fulfill energy demand and reduce global warming, it also may be just what the nation needs to pull out of this recession. For instance, the wind industry represents a growing market for American manufacturing. AWEA reports more than 400 manufacturing facilities across the U.S. make turbine components. Likewise, the solar industry employs more than 100,000 American workers, double the number from 2009, working at over 5,000 companies, some in every state—most small businesses.
Clean energy growth means energy security and independence. Renewables are important environmentally and economically. As the nation continues to realize that, the future of the economy and climate will begin to look a little greener. WPE
Filed Under: Policy