During Monday’s presidential campaign debate, Hillary Clinton predicted, “Some country is going to be the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.” The implication was clear: That country could be us. And a new federal report suggests that we’ve recently been making strides in getting there. The new report, released Wednesday by the Department of Energy, is the latest in an of annual series analyzing the progress of clean energy in the U.S. — specifically the growth in wind turbines, solar technology, electric vehicles and LEDs, and the reduction in their costs. And this year’s update is a rosy one: Costs are down, installations are up and emerging technologies like smart buildings and grid-connected batteries are moving up on the horizon.
The costs of five key clean energy technologies plunged by as much as 94 percent since President Obama took office, according to a report today from the Department of Energy. The annual “Revolution … Now” report assesses cost and deployment trends with wind turbines, utility-scale and rooftop solar, electric vehicles, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced the findings at a Washington, D.C., event yesterday..
Electric car makers may breath a sigh of relief from OPEC’s decision to curb oil output, which if it holds may help tilt the argument in favor of greener transport. Electric car sales stalled in the U.S. last year as gasoline prices fell 5.8 percent on average and demand for the motor fuel rose for the first time in six years. Rising oil prices, or even signs that the cost of gasoline won’t fall further, would help underpin the economic case for alternatives such as biofuels and electric cars, according to the International Energy Agency.
Although a long-term renewable energy tax credit policy is in place, a bipartisan group of 20 governors says that other policy and permitting issues still hinder wind and solar development. Expanding wind and solar energy production is one of the best ways to meet the nation’s energy needs, the Governors’ Wind & Solar Energy Coalition said in a recent letter to President Obama, but despite the renewable tax incentive the nation still has only one offshore wind project under construction, off the coast of Rhode Island.
Solar power in New York City may finally be having its moment. The number of residential projects across the five boroughs has risen to more than 5,300 this year from 186 in 2011, according to state officials, and there are another 1,900 in the pipeline. The solar boom has been prompted by a 70 percent drop in installation costs in recent years, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, along with the streamlining of government approvals and incentives.
Offshore wind energy is a mature, proven technology that has the potential to supply clean energy to millions of Americans, despite the mischaracterizations in Dan Ervin’s Sept. 23 commentary. While offshore wind in the U.S. may be in the early stages of development, in Europe it has been reliably generating emission-free electricity for decades. There are currently memorandum of understanding to further the development of offshore wind power. That sort of collaboration, combined with American ingenuity, often leads to better products at lower costs.
Right now, almost all offshore wind turbines require fixed platforms built into the seafloor. Floating turbines, with anchors, would mean new flexibility in where wind farms could be placed, with potentially less impact on marine life — and less opposition from the human neighbors on shore. More than half of the United States’ potentially capturable offshore wind capacity — more than what the entire nation can now produce — is in deeper waters, said José Zayas, who directs the Wind Energy Technologies Office at the federal Department of Energy. Mr. Zayas predicts that floating platforms may come to outnumber fixed-foundation installations. The use of floating technologies, proponents say, could help overcome some obstacles that have deterred offshore wind farms.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled yesterday that he’s open to extending expiring renewable energy tax credits during the lame-duck session of Congress. Asked if he was open to fixing what Democrats call a drafting error in last year’s end-of-the-year omnibus spending and tax deal, which extended the investment credit for solar but not other qualifying sources, McConnell responded “yes.”
The plan, advanced by an interim joint revenue committee, was to raise the state wind energy production tax – the only such tax in the nation – to help pay for important school construction projects. Yet instead of finding new revenue, lawmakers in the conservative state found controversy and, finally, rejection. Last week, after listening to five hours of testimony from wind companies, business groups and local communities opposed to the tax increase, the revenue committee voted overwhelmingly to kill the idea. By doing so, they pleased wind advocates but made it harder for Wyoming to balance its budget.