In the wake of the earthquake in Japan and the resulting threat of nuclear disaster in that country, right-wing media have attacked renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, arguing that it's a waste of time to pursue these sources as possible alternatives to fossil fuels and nuclear power. However, studies show that the use of wind and solar energy is increasing at a record pace, and continuing investment in wind and solar will yield significant economic benefits.
Conservative Media Dismiss Wind, Solar As Viable Energy Sources
Fox's Bolling Bashes Renewables By Pointing To Birds, People "Killed By Wind Turbines" And Installing Solar Panels. On his Fox Business show, discussing the nuclear crisis in Japan, Eric Bolling turned to what he said "the left wants to talk about -- a wind turbine," and showed footage of a hawk flying into a spinning wind turbine and being knocked to the ground. He then followed with footage of what appeared to be a crime scene: barrier tape in front of a solar panel sitting on the ground next to a house, and the chalk outline of a body on the ground. Bolling stated:
BOLLING: Here's Japan with an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and it survived -- not a death. You can't say that about some of the other things that the left wants to talk about. They want to talk about a wind turbine. Take a look at this. Oh!
BOLLING: All right, a wind turbine versus a beautiful hawk, innocent hawk spinning away in the sky -- wham! No more hawk. Even experts in the renewable energy point out that dozens, dozens of people have been killed by wind turbines, including one poor woman who parachuted into one. And workers have been killed falling off roofs while installing solar panels.
BOLLING: Here's the point. The point is everything comes with dangers. And Leslie, all of them. All forms of power come with danger.
LESLIE MARSHALL: They all do.
BOLLING: However, there's never been a death directly associated with a radiation leak ever in the history of North American power generated from nuclear. [Fox Business, Follow the Money, 3/11/11]
Limbaugh: "Wind And Solar Aren't Capable of Producing Anything -- They're Just Dreams Of The Environmentalist Wackos." On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh stated:
LIMBAUGH: What is U.S. energy policy? U.S. energy policy is to shut down -- you know, the -- here's something fascinating. You know, this -- folks, things do have a tendency to work out in strange ways. Would it be a safe bet that since wind and solar really aren't capable of producing anything -- they're just dreams of the environmentalist wackos. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 3/14/11]
Limbaugh: Solar And Wind Are "Just Not Practical." Citing the work of his "official climatologist" Roy Spencer, a scientist with the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Limbaugh further stated on his radio show:
LIMBAUGH: Practical energy sources -- see this is the thing. Practical, it's such an important word and it is so absent. Practicality takes a long vacation during an event like this.
LIMBAUGH: As Dr. Spencer, our official climatologist, Dr. Roy Spencer, University of Alabama-Huntsville, points out, practical energy sources are inherently risky. There is risk associated with virtually everything, particularly in energy production. And the reason is, is that we need so much of it. There's no way to provide it without using concentrated forms of it. Petroleum, natural gas, coal, nuclear -- those are all -- think of concentrated frozen orange juice in your can, and the way you make it is you dump that into a pitcher of water and you stir it.
Our energy sources, before we refine them and prepare them for practical use, are really concentrated in their power -- a barrel of oil, natural gas, coal, what have you. Solar and wind never compete because they produce so little energy when you look at it, say, per acre of land required. It's just not practical. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 3/14/11]
Limbaugh: "The Wind Will Stop Blowing. The Sun Will Be Obscured By The Clouds." Limbaugh also said:
LIMBAUGH: We get less than 1 percent of our nation's energy from solar and wind, even now. Thirty percent in this country comes from nuclear. The rest, sorry to tell you, fossil -- all natural gas and all the derivatives. And we have an appetite for it. And we better be producing it to meet our demand and grow, otherwise our economy is going to stagnate. We cannot have a growing economy and stagnating energy production at the same time -- cannot happen. We cannot grow an economy with wind energy or solar. It isn't practical. There is no concentrated form of it.
You can't even guarantee it. The wind will stop blowing. The sun will be obscured by the clouds. So all of our energy sources, all of our options have dangers, have risks inherent to their existence. Look at the deaths due to coal mine disasters. That's all in the name of fulfilling our energy needs. Natural gas explosions. Even the occasional oil rig explosion, the occasional oil tanker springing a leak. And in the context of all this, nuclear really is our safest option in the long term, especially with newer technologies. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 3/14/11]
Fox's Varney Dismisses Renewable Energy: "It's Not An Answer For The Whole Country." Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney hosted Bob Deans, director of Federal Communications for the Natural Resources Defense Council, to discuss the nuclear energy crisis in Japan and what it might mean for the United States. Varney subsequently dismissed renewable energy, saying, "It's not an answer for the whole country." From the show:
VARNEY: You want to extend the time frame for getting new nuclear plants online. We're probably gonna be shutting some of these coal-fired electricity plants -- and you really don't like oil. Where do we get the juice from?
VARNEY: Now, demand's gonna go up. We all know that. Demand is going -- you've got a flat-screen TV. I'm sure you do. Demand is going up and you want to reduce the -- what we get from nuclear power. You want to reduce what we get from coal power. Come on, where do you get the extra supply of juice from? Tell me.
DEANS: We need to do two things, Stuart. We need to invest in efficiency gains in this country so that we're doing more with less.
VARNEY: That's not going to do it, Bob. That's not gonna do it.
DEANS: Our economy grows. It won't get us all the way there, but what can help us, too --
VARNEY: It won't. Nowhere near. Nowhere near.
DEANS: -- are renewables. Stuart, you know, in Texas, you've been there lately, 8 percent of Texas electricity -- Texas, the oil capital of the world -- 8 percent of its electricity is now coming from wind turbines on ranches, on farms. They're helping to keep these family ranchers and farmers viable and intact, and preserve --
VARNEY: It's not an answer for the whole country, though, is it? By the way, did you bike to work today?
DEANS: Stuart, I've been fighting a cold but, normally, I do bike to work and I've been doing it for about 10 years, and I would -- I tell you, I've got a tandem and the next time you're in Washington, I'll swing by and pick you up. We can ride in together.
VARNEY: Nicely done, young man. [Fox Business, Varney & Company, 3/17/11]
Fox's LaJeunesse: Nuclear Power "Cannot Be Replaced By Wind And Solar, Which Are Subject To The Weather." On Fox News' Fox & Friends, correspondent William LaJeunesse reported on how experts believe that in a "worst-case scenario," the Japanese nuclear crisis "could disable the [nuclear] industry for decades, creating a power shortage, driving up prices." He added: "You know, what's important about nuclear, like coal, it provides something called base-load power: It's reliable, it's constant, it's immediate and it cannot be replaced by wind and solar, which are subject to the weather." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/15/11]
Big Journalism Contributor Horner Calls Wind, Solar Energies "Stupid, Costly And Harmful." In a post on Andrew Breitbart's BigJournalism website, Christopher Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute wrote:
[T]here is also that long trail of aspirational comments, well beyond vowing to cause electricity prices to 'skyrocket', indicating this steady gas price hike is their objective, even if overseas developments are causing problems for them [helping the rise advance too quickly such that people pay attention, with these developments adding to the price hikes the admin have built in, with much more obviously undone but hopefully on the way]. As I detailed with many more admissions ten months ago in Power Grab.
Obviously, this is one of the items worrying Team Obama, along with their foreign policy fecklessness. And -- in lieu of gimmickry to redirect voters' gazes from policies that contribute to this, such as by releasing Strategic [NB: not 'Political'] Petroleum Reserve crude -- Obama cheerleaders (like Politico) note he could take the opportunity to push his "Clean Energy Standard".
That's one of the "other ways to skin the cat" after cap-and-trade failed legislatively. Of course, for one, that is an electricity standard, adding windmill and solar panel mandates that are superfluous to a GHG rationing scheme like EPA's backdoor cap-n-trade. Because we drive wind- and solar-powered cars. Or something.
But speaking of EPA's involvement in all of this, Speaker Boehner jabbed at it yesterday when co-incidentally rolling out the Republicans' energy arguments, "American Energy". This follows up Newt Gingrich's chosen talking point -- which of course draws no line to exclude stupid, costly and harmful 'American energy' like ethanol, windmills or solar panels, any more than that previous stab of "All of the Above". Sigh. Will someone please stand up and yell "Stop!"? [BigJournalism.com, 3/11/11]
Wind, Solar Energies Continue To Grow At Record Pace
Energy Information Administration: "Wind Power Has Been The Fastest-Growing Source Of New Electric Power Generation For Several Years." According to data from the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration (EIA), "[w]ind power has been the fastest-growing source of new electric power generation for several years." The EIA further stated:
In 2009, generation from wind power increased 33.5 percent over 2008, bringing the share of total generation to 1.9 percent. This followed year-over-year generation gains of 60.7 percent in 2008, 29.6 percent in 2007, and 49.3 percent in 2006 (See the "Electric Power Annual" Table ES.1). Wind capacity in 2009 totaled 34,296 megawatts (MW), as compared to 24,651 MW in 2008. [U.S. Energy Information Administration, January 2011]
- The EIA also included the following graphic showing the ascent of wind generation versus capacity:
[U.S. Energy Information Administration, January 2011]
Solar Energy Industries Association: "2010 Was A Banner Year For The Solar Energy Market In The United States." In its "US Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review 2010" report, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) found that "2010 was a banner year for the solar energy market in the United States." SEIA continued:
In contrast to U.S. GDP growth of 2.8%, the U.S. solar market grew 67% in value in 2010. Not only did the market expand greatly, but it showed substantial diversity across market segments, geography, and technologies. Solar is growing quickly across the U.S. at the residential, commercial, and utility scale levels. It is powering and heating buildings in all fifty states, and using a variety of technologies to do so. The rapid growth and unique diversity has made the U.S. market a focus of global industry attention for the first time in many years. In 2010, the U.S. solar market grew to reach $6.0 billion, up from $3.6 billion in 2009.
2011 will be a pivotal year for the U.S. PV market. While installations in the U.S. are likely to double the 2010 total, the global market will experience slower growth. As a result, much of the global PV industry is turning its eye toward the U.S. with great expectations. On the whole, the demand picture for the U.S. market appears strong. Project financing remains available at attractive terms for some projects, new markets are emerging and showing strength, and incumbent markets continue their rise. [Solar Energy Industries Association, "US Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review 2010," 3/10/11]
SEIA CEO: "This Remarkable  Growth Puts The Solar Industry's Goal Of Powering 2 Million Homes Annually By 2015 Within Reach." The day SEIA released its "Year-in-Review 2010" report, the organization's president and CEO, Rhone Resch, stated:
"This report shows that solar energy is now one of the fastest growing industries in the United States, creating new opportunities for both large and small businesses. Every day, Americans across the country are going to work at well-paying, stable jobs at solar companies, from small installers all the way up to Fortune 500 companies.
"This remarkable growth puts the solar industry's goal of powering 2 million homes annually by 2015 within reach. Achieving such amazing growth during the economic downturn shows that smart polices combined with American ingenuity adds up to a great return on investment for the public. The bottom line is that the solar energy industry is creating tens of thousands of new American jobs each year." [Solar Energy Industries Association, 3/10/11]
EIA: The U.S. Solar "Industry Hit A Record High In 2009." According to an EIA report released in January, "The U.S. photovoltaic (PV) industry hit a record high in 2009, shipping nearly 1.3 peak gigawatts of cells and modules. This represents a nearly 30-percent increase from 2008." The report further stated:
With overall shipments of 1,282,560 peak kilowatts of cells and modules in 2009, the PV industry saw increases in shipments from existing companies as well as new companies entering the PV market. The number of active PV manufacturers and/or importers that ship PV cells and modules increased 53 percent, from 66 companies in 2008 to 101 companies in 2009.
In addition, several manufacturers are planning to introduce new photovoltaic-related technical products in the next calendar year. [U.S. Energy Information Administration, January 2011]
Renewable Energy Research Shows Sector's Promising Future
Energy Department Study Concluded That Distribution Of Renewable Power Across Large Geographic Area Would "Mitigat[e] The Unpredictability Of Mother Nature." As The New York Times reported, a 2010 Department of Energy (DOE) study that focused on renewable power's "clearest drawback ... unreliability" concluded "that intermittency -- long considered a major shortcoming -- may have little impact on the potential for wind to power much of the electric grid in the western United States." The Times further reported:
The study, released in late May , found that the power grid for five western states -- Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming -- could operate on as much as 30 percent wind and 5 percent solar without the construction of extensive new infrastructure.
Wind power proponents have long faced skepticism that renewables could ever displace conventional power sources in a meaningful way, with critics asserting that large coal or nuclear plants would always need to stand ready to provide backup power whenever the wind ceased to blow or clouds blocked the sun.
The authors of the N.R.E.L. [National Renewable Energy Lab] study tackled this supposition head on and found it largely baseless. It concluded that in the West, the broad distribution of wind turbines and solar generation would essentially smooth out the supply of renewable power.
"When you coordinate the operations between utilities across a large geographic area, you decrease the effect of the variability of wind and solar energy sources, mitigating the unpredictability of Mother Nature," Dr. Lew said. [The New York Times, Green, 6/1/10]
DOE Study Further Found That "Large Amounts Of Wind And Solar Can Be Incorporated Onto The [Power] Grid." In its study, the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab also found that it would be "technically feasible" to "integrat[e] enough wind and solar energy capacity into the grid to produce 35 percent of its electricity by 2017," without the need for extensive additional infrastructure. In a statement, Dr. Debra Lew, the study's project manager, said: "If key changes can be made to standard operating procedures, our research shows that large amounts of wind and solar can be incorporated onto the grid without a lot of backup generation." From the study:
Though wind and solar output vary over time, the technical analysis performed in this study shows that it is operationally possible to accommodate 30 percent wind and 5 percent solar energy penetration. To accomplish such an increase, utilities will have to substantially increase their coordination of operations over wider geographic areas and schedule their generation deliveries, or sales, on a more frequent basis. Currently generators provide a schedule for a specific amount of power they will provide in the next hour. More frequent scheduling would allow generators to adjust that amount of power based on changes in system conditions such as increases or decreases in wind or solar generation.
The study also finds that if utilities generate 27 percent of their electricity from wind and solar energy across the Western Interconnection grid, it would lower carbon emissions by 25 to 45 percent, depending on the future price of natural gas. It would also decrease fuel and emissions costs by 40 percent. [Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Lab, "How Do Levels Of Wind and Solar Impact the Grid? The Western Wind and Solar Integration Study," 5/20/10]
DOE Report Found Considerable Advantages To Having 20 Percent Wind Contribution To U.S. Electricity Supply By 2030. In a 2008 report, the Department of Energy found there would be considerable benefits if wind power was expanded to provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs by 2030. From the report:
To implement the 20% Wind Scenario, new wind power installations would increase to more than 16,000 MW per year by 2018, and continue at that rate through 2030, as shown in Figure A. Wind plant costs and performance are projected to improve modestly over the next two decades, but no technological breakthroughs are needed. In the 20% wind scenario, 46 states would experience significant wind power development.
Using more domestic wind power will diversify the nation's energy portfolio -- adding wind-generated electricity at stable prices not subject to market volatility -- and strengthening national energy security through reduced reliance on foreign sources of natural gas. The 20% Wind Scenario would alter U.S. electricity generation as shown in Figure B. In this scenario, wind would supply enough energy to displace about 50% of electric utility natural gas consumption by 2030. This amounts to an 11% reduction in natural gas across all industries. Also, coal consumption would be reduced by 18%. In addition, electric utilities are learning how to accommodate wind's variability while maintaining system reliability.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the principal GHG in the earth's atmosphere. Approximately 40% of total U.S. CO2 emissions come from power generation facilities. Since substantial amounts of coal and natural gas fuels would be displaced, the 20% Wind Scenario could reduce CO2 emissions in 2030 by 825 million metric tons -- 25% of the CO2 emissions from the nation's electric sector in the no-new-wind scenario. ... [T]his reduction could nearly level projected growth in CO2 emissions from electricity generation. [Department of Energy, "20% Wind Energy By 2030," May 2008]
Study: Pairing Natural Gas With Renewable Energy "Could Play A Major Role In Fueling A Clean-Energy Future." In its March 2011 study, "Clean Energy Trends 2011," Clean Edge, a "research and advisory firm devoted to the clean-tech sector," reported that pairing natural gas with renewable energy "could play a major role in fueling a clean energy future," writing, "If the pairing of gas with renewables proves successful, it could also play a major role in fueling a clean-energy future." Clean Edge further wrote:
The integration of natural gas and renewable energy offers an opportunity to transition smoothly away from dirty energy sources. One key trend in pairing natural gas with renewables has been the development of solar-gas hybrid systems, such as Florida Power & Light's Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center, which recently connected a 75 MW concentrated solar power (CSP) plant to the largest natural gas plant in the U.S. (3.8 GW). Other hybrid plants in development include an NV Energy project in Nevada and two separate projects in California led by Inland Energy. Along with tackling renewables' intermittency issues, hybrid plants are an enticing idea because the sharing of existing infrastructure, such as turbines and transmission lines, promises to reduce upfront capital costs.
Integrated solar combined cycle (ISCC) plants, which increase steam generation by adding solar heat to gas-turbine waste heat, are another example of the mixing of solar and gas.
Pairing wind with gas is also in the works. U.S.-based energy developer Altresco aims to combine wind and gas at the plant level by integrating wind turbines and gas generators in a micro-grid. PG&E's recently commissioned natural gas-fired Colusa Generating Station near Maxwell, California is designed to reduce power when renewables become available. And in North Dakota, the planned 2,000 MW Hartland Wind Farm will "firm" output with roughly 500 MW of natural gas capacity.
Despite the potential for clean tech to benefit from natural gas, environmental risks from gas drilling are a very real concern. Indeed, the threat of drinking water and soil contamination, blowouts, and other concerns have caused some to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, altogether. New York, rich in shale gas reserves, has issued a temporary moratorium on fracking until investigators comprehensively review the practice. Some environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Worldwatch Institute have cautiously supported the marriage of natural gas and renewables as a bridge to a clean-energy future, but only if it is done in an environmentally sensitive, responsible, and fully transparent way. [Clean Energy Trends 2011, March 2011]
Scientific American: There Is "Plenty Of Supply" For Renewables To Provide 100 Percent Of The World's Energy. Discussing its plan for wind, water, and solar technologies to provide 100 percent of the world's energy by 2030, Scientific American argued that there is "plenty of supply" to be able to do so. The magazine wrote:
Today the maximum power consumed worldwide at any given moment is about 12.5 trillion watts (terawatts, or TW), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The agency projects that in 2030 the world will require 16.9 TW of power as global population and living standards rise, with about 2.8 TW in the U.S. The mix of sources is similar to today's, heavily dependent on fossil fuels. If, however, the planet were powered entirely by WWS, with no fossil-fuel or biomass combustion, an intriguing savings would occur. Global power demand would be only 11.5 TW, and U.S. demand would be 1.8 TW. That decline occurs because, in most cases, electrification is a more efficient way to use energy. For example, only 17 to 20 percent of the energy in gasoline is used to move a vehicle (the rest is wasted as heat), whereas 75 to 86 percent of the electricity delivered to an electric vehicle goes into motion.
Even if demand did rise to 16.9 TW, WWS sources could provide far more power. Detailed studies by us and others indicate that energy from the wind, worldwide, is about 1,700 TW. Solar, alone, offers 6,500 TW. Of course, wind and sun out in the open seas, over high mountains and across protected regions would not be available. If we subtract these and low-wind areas not likely to be developed, we are still left with 40 to 85 TW for wind and 580 TW for solar, each far beyond future human demand. Yet currently we generate only 0.02 TW of wind power and 0.008 TW of solar. These sources hold an incredible amount of untapped potential. [Scientific American, 10/26/09]
Scientific American: "The Worldwide Footprint Of The 3.8 Million Turbines Would Be Less Than ... Manhattan." In its 100-percent renewable scenario, Scientific American estimated that wind energy would supply 51 percent of the demand, "provided by 3.8 million large wind turbines (each rated at five megawatts) worldwide." It stated:
Although that quantity may sound enormous, it is interesting to note that the world manufactures 73 million cars and light trucks every year. Another 40 percent of the power comes from photovoltaics and concentrated solar plants, with about 30 percent of the photovoltaic output from rooftop panels on homes and commercial buildings. About 89,000 photovoltaic and concentrated solar power plants, averaging 300 megawatts apiece, would be needed. Our mix also includes 900 hydroelectric stations worldwide, 70 percent of which are already in place.
Only about 0.8 percent of the wind base is installed today. The worldwide footprint of the 3.8 million turbines would be less than 50 square kilometers (smaller than Manhattan). When the needed spacing between them is figured, they would occupy about 1 percent of the earth's land, but the empty space among turbines could be used for agriculture or ranching or as open land or ocean. The nonrooftop photovoltaics and concentrated solar plants would occupy about 0.33 percent of the planet's land. Building such an extensive infrastructure will take time. But so did the current power plant network. And remember that if we stick with fossil fuels, demand by 2030 will rise to 16.9 TW, requiring about 13,000 large new coal plants, which themselves would occupy a lot more land, as would the mining to supply them. [Scientific American, 10/26/09]
Scientific American Predicts Renewables To Be Less Costly In The Long Run. In answering the question of how affordable renewables would be in its 2030 scenario, the magazine wrote:
For each technology, we calculated how much it would cost a producer to generate power and transmit it across the grid. We included the annualized cost of capital, land, operations, maintenance, energy storage to help offset intermittent supply, and transmission. Today the cost of wind, geothermal and hydroelectric are all less than seven cents a kilowatt-hour (¢/kWh); wave and solar are higher. But by 2020 and beyond wind, wave and hydro are expected to be 4¢/kWh or less.
For comparison, the average cost in the U.S. in 2007 of conventional power generation and transmission was about 7¢/kWh, and it is projected to be 8¢/kWh in 2020. Power from wind turbines, for example, already costs about the same or less than it does from a new coal or natural gas plant, and in the future wind power is expected to be the least costly of all options. The competitive cost of wind has made it the second-largest source of new electric power generation in the U.S. for the past three years, behind natural gas and ahead of coal.
Solar power is relatively expensive now but should be competitive as early as 2020. A careful analysis by Vasilis Fthenakis of Brookhaven National Laboratory indicates that within 10 years, photovoltaic system costs could drop to about 10¢/kWh, including long-distance transmission and the cost of compressed-air storage of power for use at night. The same analysis estimates that concentrated solar power systems with enough thermal storage to generate electricity 24 hours a day in spring, summer and fall could deliver electricity at 10¢/kWh or less. [Scientific American, 10/26/09]
Hydropower Supplies Nearly 40 Percent Of Norway's Total Energy
International Energy Agency Review Of Norway's Energy Policies Found Country Is Well-Placed To Make Necessary Investments For A Low-Carbon Future." In its review of Norway's energy policies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded that "Norway is pursuing ambitious, forward-thinking energy policies, but could go further in its efforts to become a low-carbon economy." The IEA added:
Norway 2011 Review says that it will be challenging for Norway to meet its 2020 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% compared with 1990 levels, because both the country's electricity supply and its energy use in buildings are already essentially carbon-free due to hydropower use.
The authors add, however, that because of the large revenue generated from oil and gas exports, Norway is particularly well-placed to invest in developing new solutions to achieve the desired low-carbon future. These solutions include new measures to promote greater energy efficiency and use of renewable energy.
"Norway's climate and energy policies stand out as a positive example for other countries," said Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the IEA, at the launch of the review in Oslo, on 15 March. "But Norway must now invest in developing new measures in order to continue moving forward towards its ultimate goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050."
Norway's total primary energy supply was 26.5 million tonnes of oil equivalent in 2009. Its energy mix is dominated by hydropower, which accounts for nearly 40% of its total primary energy supply, followed by oil (34%) and natural gas (20%), biomass and waste (5%) and coal (2%). [International Energy Agency, 3/15/11]
Economic Opportunities Abound In Wind, Solar Technologies
Study: "Clean Tech Has Proven To Be A Significant Business Opportunity." In its March 2011 study, "Clean Energy Trends 2011," Clean Edge found that over the past decade, "clean tech has proven to be a significant business opportunity, and its growth rates now rival that of earlier technology revolutions like telephony, computers, and the Internet." Clean Edge further reported:
According to Clean Edge research, the global market for solar photovoltaics (PV) has expanded from just $2.5 billion in 2000 to $71.2 billion in 2010, for example, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39.8 percent. The global market for wind power, which like solar PV we have tracked every year for the past decade, has similarly expanded from a global market worth $4.5 billion in 2000 to more than $60.5 billion today, for a CAGR of 29.7 percent. And these growth rates are not limited to solar and wind. Other clean-tech sectors, such as hybrid electric vehicles, green buildings, and smart grid, have seen similarly spectacular growth rates.
This overall trend for clean-tech markets continued to be one of growth and expansion in 2010. Combined global revenue for solar PV, wind power, and biofuels surged by 35.2 percent over the prior year, growing from $139.1 billion to $188.1 billion. The bulk of this expansion came from a more than doubling in global solar PV installations. For the first time since we began tracking the wind sector, however, we witnessed a slight year-over-year decline in market size. [Clean Energy Trends 2011, March 2011]
Study: Wind Power "Is Projected To Expand From $60.5 Billion In 2010 To $122.9 Billion In 2020." Clean Edge further reported in its Clean Energy Trends study:
Wind power (new installation capital costs) is projected to expand from $60.5 billion in 2010 to $122.9 billion in 2020. Last year's global wind power installations declined slightly to 35.2 GW, down from a record 37.5 GW the prior year. China, the global leader in new installations for the third year in a row, continued to see an increase with total installations of more than 16 GW. The U.S. continued to see significant declines in the face of a tight project finance market, uncertainty around project grants until late in 2010, and the lack of a federal RPS, among other challenges, adding only half as much capacity as the prior year with just 5 GW installed in 2010. Against this backdrop, China surpassed the U.S. for the title of global leader in total cumulative installs for wind power, with a capacity of more than 42 GW.
Solar photovoltaics (including modules, system components, and installation) are projected to grow from a $71.2 billion industry in 2010 to $113.6 billion by 2020. New installations reached more than 15.6 GW worldwide in 2010, a more than doubling from 7.1 GW in 2009. The level of growth and expansion in solar PV was a direct result of PV prices dropping by more than 30 percent in 2009 followed by an additional 10 percent drop in 2010. [Clean Energy Trends 2011, March 2011]
Study: "In 2010, U.S.-Based Venture Capital Investments In Clean Technologies Increased ... 45.7 Percent." According to data obtained by Clean Edge, "In 2010, U.S.-based venture capital investments in clean technologies increased from $3.5 billion in 2009 to $5.1 billion in 2010, an increase of 45.7 percent, according to data provided by the Cleantech Group." The group continued:
While falling short of 2008's record-breaking $6.1 billion total, 2010's more than $5 billion represented nearly a quarter of all VC activity in the country last year, a new record. In addition, the more than 370 deals in 2010 represents the largest number of financings recorded in a one-year period. Of the 10 largest clean-tech venture deals in 2010, five were for solar, two were for EVs, two were for bio-based materials, and one was for geothermal. [Clean Energy Trends 2011, March 2011]
Bloomberg New Energy Finance: "The Largest Investment Asset Class In 2010 Was ... Asset Finance Of Utility-Scale Projects Such As Wind Farms, Solar Parks And Biofuel Plants." According to a press release from Bloomberg New Energy Finance:
New investment in clean energy smashed through previous levels to reach $243bn in 2010, according to the latest figures from research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance. This is up 30% from a revised figure of $186.5bn in 2009, and makes 2010 easily the strongest year so far for investment in clean energy -- double the figure recorded in 2006 and nearly five times that from 2004.
The authoritative Bloomberg New Energy Finance time series shows total investment growing from $51.7bn in 2004, to $76.3bn in 2005, $112.9bn in 2006, $150.8bn in 2007, $180.1bn in 2008 and $186.5bn in 20091. The main drivers of the rapid growth in investment in 2010 were China, European offshore wind, European rooftop solar and research & development.
Investment in small-scale, distributed generation projects surged by 91% last year to $59.6bn, with the dominant element rooftop and other small-scale solar projects, notably in Germany but also in the US, the Czech Republic, Italy and elsewhere.
Venture capital and private equity investment had a strong year, up 28% from the 2009 total to reach $8.8bn, though failing to match 2008's record figure of $11.8bn. Among the private equity deals of 2010 were a $400m financing for US wind project developer Pattern Energy Group, and $350m for Better Place, the US-based electric vehicle charging network specialist.
The largest investment asset class in 2010 was, as usual, asset finance of utility-scale projects such as wind farms, solar parks and biofuel plants. This rose 19% to $127.8bn last year. [Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 1/11/11]
Bloomberg New Energy Finance CEO: Investment Record "Flies In The Face Of Scepticism About The Clean Energy Sector." In a press release, Bloomberg New Energy Finance CEO Michael Liebreich stated:
"This is a spectacular result, beating previous record investment levels by a clear margin of more than $50bn. It flies in the face of scepticism about the clean energy sector among public market investors, who have been concerned about the sustainability of subsidy programmes in Europe, the failure of the Obama administration to deliver a climate or an energy deal, and the crescendo of ill-informed doubts about climate change.
"We have been saying for some time that the world needs to reach a figure of $500bn per annum investment in clean energy if we are to see carbon emissions peak by 2020. What we are seeing in these figures for the first time is that we are half-way there, and it is very good news."
"2011 will have to be a very strong year to beat 2010. At this stage, the signs are encouraging, with further cost improvements likely in both solar panels and wind turbines, and the supply of private sector debt and equity finance improving from its low point during and after the banking crisis. We are watching what happens to distributed generation particularly keenly -- the extraordinary growth surprised us last year, and we will have to wait and see what happens as Germany reduces its solar tariffs." [Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Press Release, 1/11/11]
EIA: Solar Industry Added "More Than 28 Percent" Employment In 2009. According to the EIA, "Corresponding to the strong growth in PV shipments, employment in PV-related activities increased more than 28 percent, from 11,245 person-years in 2008 to 14,443 person-years in 2009. ... Of the 101 companies, 70 had 90 percent or more of their total company-wide revenues in PV-related activities, 10 had 50 to 89 percent, 8 had 10 to 49 percent, and 13 had less than 10 percent." The EIA further reported:
Total revenue of photovoltaic cell and module shipments grew nearly 3 percent from $3.34 billion in 2008 to $3.43 billion in 2009. ... Revenue includes charges for cooperative advertising and warranties, but does not include excise taxes and the cost of freight or transportation.
The average price for modules (dollars per peak watt) decreased 20 percent, from $3.49 in 2008 to $2.79 in 2009. For cells, the average price decreased more than 34 percent, from $1.94 in 2008 to $1.27 in 2009. [U.S. Energy Information Administration, January 2011]
DOE Report Found Considerable Economic Impacts Of Wind Power. From the 2008 Department of Energy study titled, "20% Wind Energy By 2030":
The report finds that, during the decade preceding 2030, the U.S. wind industry could:
support roughly 500,000 jobs in the U.S., with an annual average of more than 150,000 workers directly employed by the wind industry;
support more than 100,000 jobs in associated industries (e.g., accountants, lawyers, steel workers, and electrical manufacturing);
support more than 200,000 jobs through economic expansion based on local spending;
increase annual property tax revenues to more than $1.5 billion by 2030; and
increase annual payments to rural landowners to more than $600 million in 2030. [Department of Energy, "20% Wind Energy By 2030," May 2008]
Polling Shows Majority Of Americans Approve Of Renewables
Pollster Su Midghall: In Pacific Northwest, "An Overwhelming Percentage ... Support Wind Farms Being Developed Within Sight Of Their Homes." As NPR reported, a recent poll asking residents of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington "how they would feel if the enormous turbines were erected near their homes" found that "[a]n overwhelming percentage -- 80% actually of residents of rural areas of the Northwest -- support wind farms being developed within sight of their homes," in the words of Su Midghall, a pollster with DHM Research. Midghall added: "What's more interesting is that 50% strongly -- not just somewhat -- but strongly support this." From NPR:
- DHM Research surveyed 1,200 adults in the Pacific Northwest states of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, between December 17, 2010 and January 3, 2011 using an online questionnaire. The study found that 79 percent of rural/small town respondents in "support wind farms being erected within sight of [their] home[s]," while 14 percent oppose them. Among suburb/city respondents, 87 percent "support wind farms being erected in the rural areas near the city [they] live in," while 8 percent said they would be opposed. [DHM Research, 1/7/11]
Gallup Poll Found Similar Support Nationwide For Renewable Energy. In a poll conducted in January, Gallup found that "[o]f eight actions Congress could take this year, Americans most favor an energy bill that provides incentives for using alternative energy." The poll found that 83 percent of Americans, from both political parties, favor "passing an energy bill that provides incentives for using solar and other alternative energy sources." Gallup stated: "[T]he alternative energy bill and tax code overhaul ideas show the greatest bipartisan agreement, with 74% or more of each party group favoring these." [Gallup, 2/2/11]