New Energy Economy Emerging in the United States
“As fossil fuel prices rise, as oil insecurity deepens, and as concerns about climate change cast a shadow over the future of coal, a new energy economy is emerging in the United States,”Ě says Lester R. Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, in a recent release,¬†“New Energy Economy Emerging in the United States”Ě . “The old energy economy, fueled by oil, coal, and natural gas, is being replaced by one powered by wind, solar, and geothermal energy. The transition is moving at a pace and on a scale that we could not have imagined even a year ago.”Ě
Long the leading oil-producing state, Texas is also the leading generator of electricity from wind, having overtaken California. Texas has nearly 6,000 megawatts of wind-generating capacity online and a staggering 39,000 megawatts in the construction and planning stages. When all this is completed, Texas will more than satisfy the residential needs of the state’s 24 million people, enabling Texas to feed electricity to nearby states.
Other states are emerging as wind superpowers. Clipper Windpower and BP are teaming up to build the 5,050-megawatt Titan wind farm, the world’s largest, in eastern South Dakota. Titan will generate five times as much electricity as the state’s 780,000 residents currently use. This project includes building a transmission line along an abandoned rail line across Iowa, feeding electricity into Illinois and the country’s industrial heartland.See more examples.
In the east, Maine is planning to develop 3,000 megawatts of wind-generating capacity, far more than the state’s 1.3 million residents need. Further south, Delaware is planning an offshore wind farm of up to 600 megawatts, which could satisfy half of the state’s residential electricity needs. New York State, which has 700 megawatts of wind-generating capacity, plans to add another 8,000 megawatts. Soon Oregon will nearly double its wind generating capacity with a 900-megawatt wind farm in the wind-rich Columbia River Gorge.
Solar power is also expanding at a breakneck pace. The nation’s wealth of solar energy is being harnessed by using both photovoltaic cells and solar thermal power plants to convert sunlight into electricity. The largest U.S. solar cell installation today is a 14-megawatt array at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, but photovoltaic electricity at the commercial level is about to go big time. PG&E has entered into two solar cell power contracts with a combined capacity of 800 megawatts. Together, these plants will have a peak output comparable to that of a large coal-fired power plant.
Solar thermal plants that use mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a vessel containing a fluid have suddenly become an enormously attractive technology. There are now 10 large solar thermal power plants under construction or in development in the United States, ranging in size from 180 megawatts to 550 megawatts. Within the next three years, the United States will likely go from 420 megawatts of solar thermal generating capacity to close to 3,500 megawatts.
Geothermal energy is also developing at an explosive rate. As of 2008 the United States has nearly 3,000 megawatts of geothermal generating capacity. Suddenly this too is changing. Some 96 geothermal power plants now under development are expected to double U.S. geothermal generating capacity. With California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah leading the way, the stage is set for the massive future development of geothermal energy. (See¬†additional data.)
To ensure that this shift continues at a rapid rate, national leadership is needed in one key area—building a strong national grid. Although private investors are investing in long-distance high-voltage transmission lines, these need to be incorporated into a carefully planned national grid in order to unleash the full potential of renewable energy wealth.
For full report go to http://www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2008/Update77.htm