Renewable Energy Advances in the U.S. Despite Obstacles – NYTimes.com

11 Apr

The outlook on solar is good, for now:

Many business executives, policy analysts and investors say there is a robust future for domestic solar energy distributed in medium-size arrays and on commercial and residential rooftops, especially in markets with high electricity prices or strong mandates, like Hawaii, California and much of the Northeast.

The low cost of solar panels, whose average price dropped 50 percent last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, has helped. So have new financing methods that allow owners to lease systems long term, cutting their current electricity costs with little or no upfront investment. Last year, about 1,855 megawatts of new photovoltaic capacity was installed, according to a report by the association, more than double the 887 megawatts of the year before.

Despite having lost the program that allowed developers to recoup 30 percent of their costs as a cash grant, the solar industry is still eligible through 2016 for a tax credit to be taken over five years, making its future seem in some ways more solid than that of the wind power industry, even though it far outstrips solar already.

Wind is iffy:

Although wind has some of the same advantages, development faces a different set of challenges. Unlike solar power, which can operate efficiently on a small scale, wind projects often make economic sense only if they are huge, but they can end up generating electricity far from where it is needed, throwing up the political, logistical and parochial hurdles of streaming electrons across county and state lines.

Still, plans for enormous projects are beginning to move ahead. One such project, by Clean Line Energy, which develops high-voltage transmission lines, would create enough capacity to take 3,500 megawatts of wind power from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota to Illinois and states to the east.

via Renewable Energy Advances in the U.S. Despite Obstacles – NYTimes.com.

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