Renewable Energy Gaining Momentum – 2/4/16

In renewable energy news, 2016 is shaping up to be another record breaking year for green power’s share of all newly installed production capacity.

The extension of the wind energy Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit (ITC), those involved in the industry have reason to be optimistic. The combination of the regulatory victory, advances in offshore wind farm projects, and an abundance of untapped sites will allow US wind energy to continue its hypo 40% installation capacity growth rate. Conservative estimates in the US DoE Wind Vision report predicted that wind may be able to meet 10% of US electricity needs by 2020. According to FERC’s monthly Energy Infrastructure Update report, wind accounted for 48.39% of all new capacity for 2015. Over the last five years, wind jumped from 3.4% of generation capacity to 6.3%.

Although China was Asia’s main source of gains in renewable energy capacity, Vietnam, Japan, and India have all announced plans for ambitious increases to clean energy output. Countries the world over are showing interest in wind energy as a means of meeting emissions reduction goals.

Solar’s current share of total electricity production may seem minuscule but it will expand exponentially. Almost all new capacity in the US comes from gas and wind plants leading to a shocking decline of coal from over 1/3 of production to about 1/4 in only a few years. And just as we’ve seen those resources rise, we’ll see solar grow exponentially for the near future. Solar capacity has gone from 0.01% to 1.2% of our power supply in just the last five years. Such small numbers hide explosive growth potential. If solar becomes cheaper at the same rate or faster than it is now – something entirely possible given that steady declines in module cost and the fact that more than half of system costs come from soft costs much easily reduced than technological constraints – then it should be in striking distance of grid parity within the next ten years at most. Once it reaches the point where it is not only the smart environmental choice but also the smart financial one, solar should be unstoppable.

According to Bloomberg Business, “U.S. clean-energy investments rose to $56 billion last year, up 7.5 percent from 2014. The majority, $30.2 billion, went to solar. Investors pumped $11.6 billion into wind energy and $11.1 billion into technology to improve grids, boost efficiency, develop storage systems and other ways to better manage power usage.” The massive influx of capital to the clean energy as well as natural gas comes at the expense of coal which has seen new investment drop to practically nothing. The trend has been attributed to the falling costs of clean power systems and costs associated with new emissions standards.

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