Amid rising concern about the role of fossil fuels in climate change, there was an unprecedented boom in renewables across the globe in 2014, suggesting that countries are already shifting toward more low-carbon energy as the cost to build solar and wind farms falls quickly.
In 2011, a record $279 billion in global renewables investments built wind and solar farms that were able to generate 70 gigawatts of renewable energy. Three years later, $270 billion built 95 gigawatts of solar and wind power generation worldwide — more than ever had been built before as costs fell.
All told, all forms of renewable energy, excluding large hydroelectric plants, contributed to 9.1 percent of global electric power generating capacity in 2014, up from 8.5 percent the year before, according to a new report by the United Nations and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
“The numbers seem to be telling a story of an energy paradigm shift well underway,” said Eric Usher, head of the UN Environment Program finance initiative. “There is a climate story: Renewables definitely seem to be contributing to the stabilization of CO2 emissions.”
Read the full article at Climate Central and the UN-Bloomberg report here.
Sunny Side East: Solar Takes Off in Eastern U.S.
Though the Southeast is a tad bit less sunny than Southern California, the bullseye of solar power development in the U.S., utilities in the South are scrambling to capture their own rays of sunshine. In fact, North Carolina is leaping ahead of California for the amount of new utility-scale solar farms currently under development, a new SNL Energy report released Wednesday shows.
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“The adoption of solar is spreading quickly nationwide — and nowhere is that more evident than in states like Texas, as well as Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Georgia,” Ken Johnson, vice-president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said.
Read the full article at Climate Central and the SNL Energy report here.
Wind, Solar Energy Driving Electricity Storage Technology
One of the biggest challenges facing utilities as they find more climate-friendly ways to produce electricity and integrate greenhouse gas-free solar and wind energy into the electric power grid is finding a way to keep the stream of electricity flowing when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining.
Last year, California became the first state to require utilities to store energy as a way to facilitate renewable energy production, mandating enough storage capacity — 1,325 megawatts — to power about 1 million homes by the end of the decade.
In addition to helping provide stability to the power grid, energy storage has another advantage: There’s a huge interest in how batteries can help cities and regions with resiliency, he said.
Resiliency is a term many cities are using to describe their efforts to withstand weather extremes that could be brought about or made worse by climate change, including hurricanes as severe as Hurricane Sandy, which knocked out power to millions in the New York City area in 2012.
Read the full article at Climate Central.
Wind, Solar Boosting Investment in Power Lines
Many of the new transmission lines are serving wind farms and solar power plants built in the past decade, providing a route for renewable energy to get onto the power grid.
Wind and solar power, in addition to population shifts in cities in the West and South, are helping to drive major new investment in electric power transmission lines in the U.S., according to a new U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) report.
After a three-decade decline, the U.S. saw a fivefold increase in investments in electric power transmission lines between 1997 and 2012, the report says. Investments increased to $14.1 billion by 2012 from $2.7 billion in 1997.
Renewables such as wind and solar are being developed partly as climate-friendly alternatives to coal-fired power plants, which are among the most significant emitters of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
All the new wind farms in the U.S. required new transmission lines mainly because most of the solar and wind farms exist far from where people use the electricity generated there, according to the EIA.
Read the full article at Climate Central and the EIA report here.
Time to get serious about renewable energy
Maple Ridge Wind Farm, at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, can serve as model for Western New York
Bill Burke, a fifth-generation dairy farmer who has wind towers on his property, offered a tour last summer of Maple Ridge from its visitor center kiosk. Discussion of the wind farm proposal started in 1999, he said, and there was very little opposition. He compared it to his grandfather’s times, when electricity came to the county and a few holdouts weren’t sure they wanted to give up kerosene lanterns for posts and wires along the roads.
After community hearings and discussion, 92 landowners in the Lowville area (pronounced to rhyme, aptly, with “Cowville”) leased portions of their land to the project, and by 2006, 195 wind towers were up and running, making Maple Ridge the largest wind farm in New York State and the second-largest east of the Mississippi.
Each tower has a footprint of less than half an acre, and Burke pointed out that the landowners operate their farm equipment right up and around the towers, much as they do with trees. Cows graze calmly around them, and whatever sound comes from the blades is drowned out by the wind itself.
Read the excellent article by Ellen Banks at BuffaloNews.com
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