There are now more than 45,000 wind turbines in operation in the U.S., and the installed capacity continues to grow quickly. The wind energy industry is, however, experiencing logistical issues that impact the bottom line and wind energy deployment. Although policy uncertainty continues to plague the renewable energy industry, overcoming transportation issues are a tangible way to help bolster wind energy growth by lowering costs and reducing delays.
Former Gov. George W. Bush laid the groundwork for Texas’ rapid wind energy growth. He signed a bill in 1999 that ultimately deregulated the electric sector — a mammoth undertaking that Perry would oversee — and established a renewable-energy requirement that kick-started wind development. Perry added to that in 2005 by signing legislation that required Texas to increase its renewable-energy capacity to 5,880 megawatts by 2015. The state has shattered that goal.
Here’s a look at 2014’s winners and losers in the energy sector. These factors and others are shaking up the landscape for energy and the environment this year. Here are some of the big winners and losers this year from those and other major themes.
The successful projects include a site in Alamosa, Colorado, that is the world’s largest generator of high concentration photovalic energy, which is a type of solar power. The operator, power company Cogentrix, has 10 permanent operations positions in addition to supply line jobs. Overall, the Department of Energy claims the program has created or saved roughly 35,000 permanent jobs.
More than five dozen giant turbines erected on a remote mesa in western New Mexico began churning out power for the state’s largest electric provider on New Year’s Day. Tapping into the multimillion-dollar Red Mesa Wind Energy Center marks the latest effort by utility PNM to add more renewable energy resources to its portfolio. From New Mexico and Texas to Montana and New York, PNM and other investor-owned utilities are facing higher renewable energy standards starting this year as numerous states and the federal government push for a reduction in the use of fossil fuels for generating electricity.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency account for half of the building blocks EPA has suggested to states as ways to achieve their emissions reduction goals. As of now, Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) are the highest-profile way states have encouraged renewable growth. Approximately 30 states have RPS laws in place. And while the percentages and timelines differ, the bulk of states with standards require utilities to purchase somewhere in the range of 15 to 25 percent of their energy from alternative sources within the next decade or so.
In the face of this widespread support, opponents such as the billionaire Koch brothers, who have significant financial interests in fossil fuels, have had to manufacture opposition. They have created a series of groups all with different names, but one common denominator: funding from the Koch brothers.And yet wind energy supporters include hundreds of other U.S. businesses. They know how wind energy can invigorate local economies with affordable power and manufacturing jobs.
In an unusual competition in California, proposals for energy storage systems beat out hundreds of bids to construct new power plants as a way to meet peak power needs. Southern California Edison has retired its San Onofre nuclear reactors and is planning to retire natural gas units with environmentally troublesome cooling systems. So it invited proposals for storage — including conventional batteries and giant ice packs — and new gas-fired power plants. To the surprise of the utility and even the storage companies, in many cases storage won. Demand response, or agreements with customers who volunteer to be unplugged at certain times, also did well.
Natural gas is the Rorschach test of energy policy. Depending on one’s point of view, it can be either an essential tool for meeting the challenge of climate change or another dirty fossil fuel that will speed the planet down the path to calamitous warming.
While the purchase of Kansas wind may perhaps save some money for LES customers, the National Renewable Energy Lab has calculated that a 100-megawatt wind project would bring between $87 million and $186 million in economic development to Nebraska. When added to the wind purchase from Oklahoma announced earlier this year, this is a total of $174 million to $372 million in economic benefit that went out of state instead of into Nebraska’s economy.