Wind developers set a new record for installatins in 2012, with 44,000 megawatts of new wind capacity worldwide. This brings total capacity to 280,000 megawatts, with expectations that the total will exceed 300,000 by the end of 2013. According to the Earth Policy Insitute, at the European level of consumption, the world's operating wind turbines oucl satisfy the residential electricity needs of 450 million people.
The Renewable Energy Renaissance
The real Renaissance is in renewable energy whose sources could meet 25% of the nation's energy needs by 2025. Renewable technologies can help restore political and economic stability as well as save money…and the planet.
Solar panel installations last year rose by 76 percent in the United States compared with 2011, and the cost of the associated equipment continued to drop, according to an annual report by a solar trade group.
The panels installed last year are capable of generating 3,313 megawatts of peak electricity, according to the report from the Solar Energy Industries Association. That electricity is about the same amount produced by a medium-sized coal plant and is enough to supply 400,000 U.S. homes.
Abundant financing programs and a 27 percent drop last year in the average cost of solar panel systems helped spur the growth.
The solar industry expects installations will continue rising in 2013, but at a slower pace. SEIA and GTM Research predict installations will rise 29 percent to 4,300 MW this year.
Solar energy accounts for 0.1 percent of the nation's total electric power generation, according to the Energy Department (Jonathan Fahey, AP/Albany Times Union, March 14)
In a recent National Geographic blog post, David Bergman refers to a number of sources that show the world's energy needs can be met entirely with renewables.
"I was referring, in part, to several sources, including a 2009 article in Scientific American titled “A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables,” as well as this study, this report and other promising work suggesting that renewables do, in fact, have the potential to meet our energy demand. (See related story: “Going ‘All the Way’ With Renewable Energy?“) A recent Climate Progress post offered an indicator that we might even be headed in the right direction, noting that, according to government numbers, wind and solar made up 100 percent of new U.S. electricity capacity in September. And earlier reports in 2011 (see here and here) showed renewables outpacing conventional energy sources in both investment dollars and capacity growth." (Photo: View of the PS10 concentrating solar thermal power plant in Spain. Photograph by Greens MPs).
On the one hand, it is Christopher Crane, Chief Executive of the Chicago –based nuclear giant Exelon Nuclear Corporation, who is quoted, “What worries me is if we continue to build an excessive amount of wind and subsidize wind, the unintended consequence could be that it leads to shutting down (nuclear) plants.” And on the other, it is also Crane who told Exelon shareholders, "When the balance sheet is tight like it is right now, you would want to make investments that have a short investment period. Wind and other smaller assets really do fit that profile. Within a year, you're getting a return.”
In fact, Beyond Nuclear argues it is an intended consequence to invest in the “environmental balance” sheet for a 21st Century energy policy that phases out and replaces environment damaging conventional generators with an abundance of wind and solar power.
Precisely such winds of change are finally blowing in states like Maryland, where Governor O”Malley and the State Senate and House supporters of renewable energy have refused to be deterred, are set to approve a bill for concurrence to kick start development for offshore wind and a statewide supply line.
Three times is likely the charm for Maryland governor, Martin O'Malley who on February 13 told the Senate Finance Committee that Maryland’s geography makes it a prime candidate to utilize wind energy. Beyond Nuclear staff (holding our banner at left) joined other environmental supporters of offshore wind in Annapolis that day to support O'Malley's offshore wind energy bill. His bill proposes to put wind turbines off the coast of Ocean City. Offshore wind will provide clean energy, create local jobs, improve health, establish long-term electric price stability and keep air and water clean.
Environment Maryland, an advocacy group, showed in a spring 2012 report, What Offshore Wind Means for Maryland, that deploying wind farms along Maryland’s coast could create thousands of jobs for nearly 900 companies that can supply iron, steel, bolts and cables for turbines.
A January 2012 study by the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment, showed that Maryland's waters are suitable for 7,800 turbines, with an annual output of 14,000 megawatts—or nearly double the state's current electrical load.
Recognizing the potential to convert sometimes moribund maritime industries and idled ports for the purpose of wind energy manufacture and installation, AC Wind announced in March 2012 that it would “spend up to $10 million to convert a former boat plant in Salisbury (MD) to mold 130-foot long turbine blades” and employ upwards of 200 people by 2014.
Environment America identifies the city of Baltimore as a prime candidate to benefit from the creation of a wind energy industry in Maryland. “As investment in the offshore wind sector increases, Baltimore is well-positioned to compete for the shipping and manufacturing activity that will result. With good port facilities, an industrial facility that could be repurposed to serve the primary needs of the growing offshore industry, and a location right in the heart of the eastern seaboard, the city has every chance to become a major hub for offshore wind construction up and down the Atlantic coast.”
The Maryland Energy Administration found in a December 2011 report — Analysis of Maryland Steel Facilities for Sufficiency to Support Offshore Wind Energy Deployment — that the state could create as many as 5,000 jobs in the region and add $650 million to the economy by expanding its steel production and upgrading the Port of Baltimore to accommodate more turbine manufacturing.