According to Lester R., a new energy economy is emerging in the United States as fossil fuel prices increase, oil insecurity deepens, and climate change casts doubts over coal’s future. The Earth Policy Institute released its report on a “New Energy Economy Emerging in the United States” in a recent release. Wind, solar, and geothermal energy are replacing the old oil, coal, and natural gas energy economy. In addition to being the top oil-producing state, Texas is also the leading wind-powered energy generator, having surpassed California in wind power generation.
The transition is happening at a pace and scale we couldn’t have imagined even a year ago. Nearly 6 million megawatts of wind power are online in Texas, while 39,000 megawatts are being constructed and planned. After all of these projects are completed, Texas will be able to supply electricity to nearby states, which will enable it to meet the residential needs of its 24 million people. Another state is emerging as a wind superpower. Clipper Windpower and BP are teaming up in eastern South Dakota to build the world’s largest wind farm, the Titan wind farm at 5,050-megawatts. With Titan, the state will generate five times as much electricity as it currently does.
A transmission line will be built across Iowa along an abandoned rail line, feeding electricity to Illinois and the industrial heartland of the country. (See more examples.) Maine plans to build 3,000 megawatts of wind power in the east, a much greater amount than the 1.3 million people need to power the state. In Delaware, up to 600 megawatts of offshore wind farms could satisfy half of the state’s electricity needs, according to plans. The state of New York has 700 megawatts of wind capacity, and it is planning to add 8,000 megawatts shortly.
The Columbia River Gorge will soon be home to a 900-megawatt wind farm, nearly doubling Oregon’s wind capacity. Solar power is also growing rapidly. In order to convert sunlight into electricity, photovoltaic cells and solar thermal power plants are both being used to harvest the nation’s abundance of solar energy. Solar cells are installed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to the extent of 14 megawatts, but commercial photovoltaic electricity is on its way. A total capacity of 800 megawatts will be reached by these two solar cells, which will have an output comparable to coal-fired power plants. PG&E; has entered into two solar cell power contracts.
It has suddenly become extremely attractive to use mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a vessel containing a fluid. Currently, 10 large solar thermal power plants are being built or are in development in the United States, each with a capacity of 180 megawatts to 550 megawatts. It is expected that the United States will have solar thermal generating capacity increase from 420 megawatts to approximately 3,500 megawatts in the next three years.
In 2008, geothermal energy in the United States generated nearly 3,000 megawatts of energy. But suddenly things are changing. U.S. geothermal generating capacity will be doubled by 96 geothermal power plants currently under development. (See additional data) The future development of geothermal energy is looking bright with California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah leading the way.
One key area of national leadership is building a strong national grid in order to ensure that this shift continues at a rapid pace. The full potential of renewable energy wealth needs to be realized in a carefully planned national grid, even though private investors are investing in long-distance high-voltage transmission lines.
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