Wind and solar power appear set for a record-breaking year in 2016 as a clean-energy construction boom gains momentum in spite of a global glut of cheap fossil fuels. Installations of wind turbines and solar panels soared in 2015 as utility companies went on a worldwide building binge, taking advantage of falling prices for clean technology as well as an improving regulatory and investment climate. Both industries have seen stock prices jump since Congress approved an extension of tax credits for renewables as part of last month’s $1.14 trillion budget deal.
Right before the holidays, Congress approved tax credits for clean energy. It was just a tiny part of a $1.8 trillion spending bill, but solar and wind power companies say it’s a Christmas present that will catapult their industry forward. Analysts are predicting a big boost in wind and solar projects over the next few years. Thanks to fracking, solar and wind power now have to compete with supercheap natural gas. So more than ever, if you run a solar or wind farm you want to squeeze every bit of power and efficiency you can out of it. And you can see that at SunEdison’s national control center in Boston.
As expected, President Obama has vetoed two resolutions aimed at killing U.S. EPA’s carbon rules for power plants. Congress passed the resolutions quashing the central piece of Obama’s climate change agenda in the hope of embarrassing the administration during the recent international negotiations in Paris. S.J. Res. 23 targeted EPA’s rule to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new and modified power plants, while S.J. Res. 24would eliminate the Clean Power Plan.
Last April, inside a hangar-size building tucked in a corner of the Quonset Business Park, workers with Specialty Diving Services were making parts of the massive steel foundations for the five wind turbines that Providence-based Deepwater Wind plans to install in ocean waters off Block Island. The work marked the start of construction in Rhode Island on a project that had been years in the making and will take another year to complete.
The many foes of U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan are preparing to attack the Obama administration on a host of legal fronts as the court battle over the embattled rule gets underway. States, industries and other groups challenging the rule to clamp down on power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions laid out their legal strategies in documents sent to a federal appeals court last week.
The U.S. wind power industry is celebrating after reaching a new milestone in November: 70 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity. “That’s enough to power about 19 million homes,” says Michael Goggin, senior director of research at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). There are more than 50,000 wind turbines operating across 40 states and Puerto Rico, according to the AWEA.
This is a project that checks all the right boxes: It’s privately financed, it involves clean energy, it will add capacity to the nation’s energy grid, it will create jobs in Oklahoma, it will foster new wind energy investments, and communities will benefit from new tax revenue. Here’s hoping the federal government soon gives the final thumbs up needed to get this project off the ground and underway.
Experts said the renewable energy provisions will result in billions of additional dollars in tax breaks for wind and solar power developers, something many Republicans were remiss to hand out. At the same time, the extenders should stimulate hundreds of billions of dollars in new renewable energy investment and help drive the nation’s transition away from traditional fossil fuels in favor of cleaner forms of energy, observers said.
Due partly to the intense opposition from local property owners, Missouri regulators have blocked the 780-mile-long Grain Belt Express power line from being built. In doing so, they have highlighted one of the toughest challenges facing the nation as it tries to shift toward a greater reliance on renewable energy. Converting the wind and sun into electricity is increasingly affordable, but it can be difficult to get that electricity from distant plains and deserts to the places where it’s needed. The reasons range from technical to regulatory. “Transmission is the biggest long-term barrier for wind energy development,” said Rob Gramlich, senior vice president of government and public affairs for the American Wind Energy Association. “That’s because the best wind resources are often in remote areas on farms and ranches that are far from population centers.”
olar energy is surging in the United States, but the biggest boost isn’t coming from better hardware. Instead, innovative business models and cutting red tape are the seeds that need to be planted for the solar energy sector to bloom. The technology behind solar power continues to ramp up in performance and drop in price. As it does so, the soft costs — permitting, financing, installation — are making up a bigger portion of the price tag for new projects.