7 amazing facts about renewable energy

The Sustainable Energy Coalition is hosting a big energy expo in D.C. today, and they have assembled a nice collection of interesting factoids about renewable energy. Here are 7 facts about the renewable market you probably didn't know:
. . . that renewable energy sources provided nearly 10% of both domestic energy production and U.S. electrical generation in 2008 with non-hydro renewable electricity expanding by 17.6% over the previous year; renewable energy will account for about a third of new electricity capacity added to the U.S. grid over the next three years.
. . . . that U.S. wind power grew by 50% in 2008 and accounted for 42% of all new power generation in the United States last year; wind energy could supply at least 20% of U.S. electricity needs by 2030 while avoiding 7.6 cumulative gigatons of carbon dioxide.
. . . . that grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) capacity increased 58% in 2008 and solar water heating capacity increased 40%; the PV industry today is 10 times larger than 1998 and likely to grow by 50% annually in the coming years; solar thermal plants covering an area equal to 9% of Nevada could generate enough electricity to power the nation; solar power is on the verge of reaching cost parity with conventional energy sources.
. . . . that there may be more than 90,000 MW overall of untapped water potential in the United States; through new hydropower technologies, such as advanced turbines, and new applications, such as tidal, wave, ocean currents, and in-stream hydrokinetic approaches, the industry could double its output over the next 20 years.
. . . . that six million Americans are using geothermal energy in their homes – three million receive electricity from geothermal power plants and another three million use geothermal heat pumps to heat & cool their homes; more than 100 new geothermal power projects now under development in 13 states will more than double the county’s geothermal capacity over the next five years.
. . . . that total ethanol capacity expanded 34% and E85 stations exceeded 1,800 in 2008; the fuel now represents more than 7% of the nation’s gasoline supply and can be found in more than 70% of gasoline gallons sold in the U.S.; the 6.5 billion gallons of ethanol produced last year added $47.6 billion to the nation’s GDP; moreover, cellulosic ethanol requirements are projected to boom during the coming decade.
. . . . that biomass is presently the largest U.S. renewable energy source with more than 200 existing biopower plants now providing electricity for 1.5 million American homes; manure-to-energy biogas projects are expanding and could power up to 3% of North America’s electricity needs.

What's The Advantage Of Renewable Energy?

So you want to know what is the advantage of renewable energy?

Thank you for visiting this page where you will learn about some obvious, and some not so obvious advantages of renewable energy.

Well, when using energy from sources that are easily replaced, you are using renewable energy.Examples are the use of sunshine, wind, flowing water, biological- and geothermal processes. They are often described as clean and green forms of energy because of their minimal environmental impact compared to fossil fuels.

One advantage of renewable energy therefore is the more sustainable use of finite sources of energy.

You probably are aware of that advantage already. But of course there is more. And by the way, there is much that you can do yourself about using renewable energy.

And many ready-made solutions to applying renewable energy in your home exist. Click here to visit the Alternative Energy Store for discount prices on solar panels, wind turbines and renewable energy equipment for your home.

No carbon-based planet warming and polluting

The advantage of renewable resources includes their inability to produce carbon-based warming and polluting agents into the atmosphere. The financial cost of its applications is not always cheap but if the environmental costs of using fossil fuels are accounted for, renewable energy wins hands-down. There are also indirect savings on health and its costs as there are no harmful emissions.

The great advantages of renewable energy then are:

  • We can use it repeatedly without depleting it.
  • No contribution to global warming,
  • No polluting emissions
  • Low cost applications when counting all costs
  • Saving on health and its costs

But there is still more.

Scientists make solar energy breakthrough

Researchers at Canada's National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) and the University of Alberta say they have engineered an approach that is leading to improved performance of plastic solar cells (hybrid organic solar cells). The development of inexpensive, mass-produced plastic solar panels is a goal of intense interest for many of the world's scientists and engineers because of the high cost and shortage of the ultra-high purity silicon and other materials normally required.

Plastic solar cells are made up of layers of different materials, each with a specific function, called a sandwich structure. Jillian Buriak, a professor of chemistry at the U of A, NINT principal investigator and member of the research team, uses a simple analogy to describe the approach:

"Consider a clubhouse sandwich, with many different layers. One layer absorbs the light, another helps to generate the electricity, and others help to draw the electricity out of the device. Normally, the layers don't stick well, and so the electricity ends up stuck and never gets out, leading to inefficient devices. We are working on the mayonnaise, the mustard, the butter and other 'special sauces' that bring the sandwich together, and make each of the layers work together. That makes a better sandwich, and makes a better solar cell, in our case".

After two years of research, these U of A and NINT scientists have, by only working on one part of the sandwich, seen improvements of about 30 per cent in the efficiency of the working model.

Michael Brett, professor of electrical and computer engineering, NINT principal investigator and member of the research team is optimistic saying: "our team is so incredibly cross-disciplinary, with people from engineering, physics and chemistry backgrounds all working towards this common goal of cheap manufacturable solar cells. This collaboration is extremely productive because of the great team with such diverse backgrounds, [although] there is still so much more for us to do, which is exciting."

The team estimates it will be five to seven years before plastic solar panels will be mass produced but Buriak adds that when it happens solar energy will be available to everyone. She says the next generation of solar technology belongs to plastic.

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The Solar Energy Breakthrough Will Change the Energy Business Landscape

The cost of solar modules has fallen substantially over the past six months and is expected to fall still further. Photovoltaic solar energy is nearing its breakthrough point. This will happen once the cost of solar electricity equals the cost of electricity from the grid.

That point is referred to as "grid parity" and will vary from country to country depending on the market segment. In sunny California, the grid parity point for private households is near, as solar irradiation is high and consumers pay a high price for their electricity. In France– a little less sunny and with low electricity costs due to its cheaply available nuclear power– grid parity is a little further away.

Nevertheless, grid parity for solar PV will come to all countries eventually, because the cost of solar electricity will continue to fall, while the cost of electricity generated through fossil fuels will only increase. Solar modules and systems will become cheaper as a result of improvements in technology and the scaling up of manufacturing processes. The cost of electricity from the grid will become more expensive as a result of growing demand and the scarcity of fossil fuels. Increasing environmental concerns translating themselves into eco-taxes may raise the price as well. Grid parity could be reached in California and southern Italy in less than two years, while it may take a little longer in other countries, such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Other countries will soon follow suit. What can we then expect?

Once grid parity has been reached, consumers will be presented with a choice: (1) to buy all their electricity from traditional energy utilities or (2) to pay the same price and (partly) generate green renewable solar energy from their own roofs. Not only will the growing focus on green and sustainable development make solar power a preferential alternative, but even more important will be price stability. Following its installation, a solar energy power system will generate solar electricity at fixed cost for at least 25 years. Operation and maintenance costs are negligible. The cost of solar electricity will be determined by the depreciation schedule and the interest rate. Both of these can be forecast over a long period of time. Compare this to the annually changing cost of grid electricity. Is it likely that fossil fuel-based electricity prices will be stable over the next 25 years? This would seem to be an unlikely scenario when looking at growing concerns about climate change, Asia’s rapidly increasing energy demands, international political instability, and anticipated uncertainties about the easy exploration of oil reserves.

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