Benefits of Purchasing Renewable Energy

According to the EIA, renewable energy, including hydropower and other renewables accounted for 8.8% of total U.S. energy generation in 2004. In recent years, however, there has been considerable growth in the use of renewable energy. Many state and local governments, for instance, have turned to renewable energy as a way to reduce local air pollution, reduce generation of greenhouse gases and/or stimulate the local economy. See below for more information.
Meet Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals
In lieu of the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by the United States, many public agencies and private businesses have voluntarily set greenhouse gas reduction goals. San Diego, for example, set a 15% GHG reduction goal in 2002 in partnership with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). As of February 2006, 208 mayors have signed onto The US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. These signatories have agreed to meet or exceed the Kyoto Protocol’s 7% GHG reduction goals (in comparison to 1990 levels) by 2012. For more information, go to the Pew Center on Global Change’s State and Local News page. Currently, 27 states have Climate Action Plans to reduce greenhouse gases1.

Industries and private businesses have taken initiative and partnered with the EPA Climate Leaders program to set emissions reduction goals and to monitor progress by reporting to the EPA.
Meet Air Quality Goals
Since 1990, the Federal Government, through the EPA, has set national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) designed to regulate exposure to a list of harmful criteria pollutants. Many jurisdictions are classified as in “non attainment” and have not met these goals. Shifting to renewable energy may significantly reduce sulfur and nitrogen oxides, particularly in areas surrounding or downwind of energy production facilities. For a list of non attainment areas, visit

In 2004 Montgomery County included its wind purchase as an air pollution reduction strategy in the region's air quality plan, making it the first time the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized wind power as a way of meeting federal air quality requirements2. For more information on this and other examples, see the EPA’s Green Power Partnership site.
Create Exportable Technology and Jobs
In the 1980’s, the US was a technological leader in solar and wind energy technology, but in the intervening years, other countries have taken the lead on many renewable technologies. A national commitment to renewable energy could allow the US to rapidly regain a position at the forefront3. Many believe that the development of domestic renewable resources could reinvigorate the local economy while helping the U.S. become more energy independent.

For example, a report published by faculty in the Energy and Resources Group and the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California Berkeley (Kammen et al. 2004 - ) that summarized 13 independent reports on job creation and renewable energy concluded that renewable energy generates more jobs than fossil-fuel energy for each unit of energy produced. Renewable energy operations have the potential to generate three to eleven times the number of jobs created by fossil-fuel operations, with solar and biomass exhibiting the highest potentials.

Rising oil prices makes renewable energy attractive

With fuel prices soaring, renewable energy is being promoted by the state government here.
The West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation Ltd (WBGEDC), a government agency floated for the development of green energy, is likely to come up with "renewable policy energy" framework by the end of this year

The focus areas of the policy would be to formulate certain concessions to be given to those using renewable energy, like rebate in municipal tax among other benefits, said S P Gon Chaudhuri, managing director of WBGEDCL, on the sidelines of a press conference to announce its tie-up with a Kolkata-based real estate developer to transfer green energy techniques, in Kolkata on Wednesday.

The tariff policy on the use of renewable energy was already in place in West Bengal, said Gon Chaudhuri. The policy would be divided into two parts, covering benefits to the people residing in buildings where renewable energy was being used, and independent power producers, he said. This apart, the policy will also promote the use of bio-fuels, by giving certain concessions to farmers undertaking Jatropha cultivation.

The corporation would assist the farmers in procuring Jatropha seeds and selling the end products in the market, he said. The states of Mizoram and Tripura, and union territory of Andaman and Nicobar, have also approached the WBGEDC for framing a similar policies.

"We would act as a consultant for preparing a renewable energy policy for states like like Mizoram and Tripura," he said.

The policy would be formulated with help from Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management (IISWBM), he added. It will be placed before the state cabinet by the end of this year.

Benefits of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy can supply a significant proportion of the United States' energy needs, creating many public benefits for the nation and for states and regions, including environmental improvement, increased fuel diversity and national security, and regional economic development benefits.

Environmental Benefits

Using fossil fuels -- coal, oil and natural gas -- to make electricity dirties the nation's air, consumes and pollutes water, hurts plants and animal life, creates toxic wastes, and causes global warming. Using nuclear fuels poses serious safety risks. Renewable energy resources can provide many immediate environmental benefits by avoiding these impacts and risks and can help conserve fossil resources for future generations. Of course, renewable energy also has environmental impacts. For example, biomass plants produce some emissions, and fuel can be harvested at unsustainable rates. Windfarms change the landscape, and some have harmed birds. Hydro projects, if their impacts are not mitigated, can greatly affect wildlife and ecosystems. However, these impacts -- which are discussed in Appendix A -- are generally much smaller and more localized than those of fossil and nuclear fuels. Care must nevertheless be taken to mitigate them.

Air Pollution

Clean air is essential to life and good health. Air pollution aggravates asthma, the number one children's health problem. Air pollution also causes disease and even premature death among vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, and people with lung disease. A 1996 analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council of studies by the American Cancer Society and Harvard Medical School suggests that small particles in the air may be responsible for as many as 64,000 deaths each year from heart and lung disease.[1] As the figure below shows, air pollution is responsible for more deaths than motor vehicle accidents, and ranks higher than many other serious health threats.[2] A few of the most important pollutants are discussed below.[3]

Numer of Deaths by Cause
Sulfur oxides

Sources of SOx Electricity production, primarily from burning coal, is the source of most emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx), as the figure shows. These chemicals are the main cause of acid rain, which can make lakes and rivers too acidic for plant and animal life. Acid rain also damages crops and buildings. National reductions in sulfur oxides required by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 may not be sufficient to end damage from acid rain in the northeastern United States.[4] SO2 is also a primary source of fine particles in the air.

Nitrogen oxides

Sources of NOx Burning fossil fuels either to produce electricity or to power transportation emits nitrogen oxides (NOx) into the air. In the presence of sunlight, nitrogen oxides combine with other chemicals to form ground-level ozone (smog). Both nitrogen oxides and ozone can irritate the lungs, cause bronchitis and pneumonia, and decrease resistance to respiratory infections. In addition, research shows that ozone may be harmful even at levels allowed by federal air standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a new rule reducing nitrogen oxide emissions from 0.12 parts per million to 0.08 parts per million. States have until 2003 to submit plans for meeting the new standard and up to 12 years to achieve it.[5]

Carbon dioxide

Sources of CO2 Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important of the greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming by trapping heat in the earth's atmosphere. Electricity generation is, as the figure shows, the largest industrial source of carbon dioxide emissions and a close second to the transportation sector.

Samples from air bubbles trapped deep in ice from Antarctica show that carbon dioxide and global temperature have been closely linked for 160,000 years. Over the last 150 years, burning fossil fuels has resulted in the highest levels of carbon dioxide ever recorded. In 1995, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- an authoritative international scientific body -- concluded that "the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate."[6] All 10 of the warmest years on record have occurred in the last 15 years. The 1990s have already been warmer than the 1980s -- the warmest previous decade on record, according to the Goddard Institute of Space Studies.[7]

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentrations and Temperature Changes

Without action, carbon dioxide levels would double in the next 50 to 100 years, increasing global temperatures by 1.8 to 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat trapped in the atmosphere would cause expansion of the ocean's volume as surface water warms and melt some glaciers. A two-foot rise in sea level could flood 5,000 square miles of dry land in the United States, and another 5,000 square miles of coastal wetlands, as the figure shows. From 17 to 43 percent of coastal wetland-prime fish and bird habitat-could be lost. Building dikes and barriers could reduce flooding of dry land, but would increase wetland loss. Impacts on island nations and low-lying countries, like Egypt and Bangladesh, would be much worse.

US Coastal Lands at Risk from Sea Level Rise

Altered weather patterns from changes in climate may result in more extreme weather events. Some areas will suffer more drought and others more flooding, putting crop production under great stress in some regions. The character of our forests could change dramatically. Other expected impacts include an increase in heat-related deaths, increased loss of animal and plant species, and the spread of pests and diseases into new regions with less resistance to them.[8]

In 1997, at a conference in Kyoto, Japan, the developed nations of the world agreed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The United States agreed to 7 percent reductions from 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. Senate ratification of this agreement remains uncertain, however.

SunPower increasing solar cell capacity by 150 percent in 2008

In announcing financial results for the first quarter of 2008, SunPower Corporation stated that it would be increasing solar cell capacity by 150 percent in 2008, compared to capacity levels in 2007. The company also said that nearly half of its cell production was its ‘Gen2’ solar cell technology that has a minimum conversion efficiency of 22 percent.

“Our proprietary technology delivers the highest output per unit area of any commercially available solar system and we intend to leverage this technology by aggressively expanding our solar cell production by more than 150 percent in 2008 compared to 2007,” commented Tom Werner, SunPower's CEO, in a financial statement. “This scale, combined with lower silicon costs, higher efficiencies, thinner wafers and on-going quality and cost improvements in our factories, will drive unit cost reduction. During the first quarter of 2008, we continued to meet or exceed our manufacturing targets across both of our fabs and our panel manufacturing facility.”

The company also noted that it has secured 100 percent of its required polysilicon supply through 2010 to meet its revised capacity expansion plans. Last year, SunPower projected that production would top 250MW in 2008. However, revised figures revealed by the company show that figure to be 255MW for 2008.

The same is true for 2009. SunPower previously stated that it would produce 430MW in 2009; that figure has been raised to 450MW-plus. For 2010, the company is still expecting production of 650MW-plus, but has not adjusted the baseline figure upwards.

SunPower also reiterated that its capacity ramp at Fab 2 remained on schedule and was expected to be completed by the end of 2009. Its fourth solar panel manufacturing line had also completed its production ramp allowing the company to produce more than half of its PV panels in-house.


Sun Power - the real power

SunPower, which makes solar cells and panels, says it has boosted the efficiency and size of its solar panels, yielding substantially more electricity than current panels.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company on Monday announced its second-generation, higher-power product at the Solar Power 2006 conference, and the panels are expected to be in mass production next year.

SunPower says it has managed to increase efficiency of the silicon cells from 20 percent to 22 percent. Further, the 5-foot by 3-and-a-half-foot panels will pack 96 individual cells within them, compared to the 72 contained in the company?s current product.

Overall, these changes result in a 43 percent increase in power, said Julie Blunden, vice president of external affairs at SunPower. Each panel can generate 315 watts of electricity and will have roughly the same cost per watt as the existing line, she said.

The theoretical limit of monocrystalline silicon cell efficiency is about 25 percent, Blunden said.

Other companies are developing solar photovoltaic manufacturing techniques around other materials, notably CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide).

But SunPower, which is owned by Cypress Semiconductor, intends to continue investing in higher solar efficiency and ways to lower the cost of installation, Blunden said.