Some of the news buzzing around this week concerns China’s progress in the clean energy marketplace, but a couple of new developments in the U.S. show that the race for clean energy is just starting to heat up. First, the Department of Energy has just announced that a massive solar array is moving forward in Arizona with a $976 million federal loan guarantee. And second, a new wind power study suggests a way to boost the cost-effectiveness of America’s wind resources in the near term.
A New Boost for Wind Power Efficiency
Let’s get to that wind power study first, because it demonstrates that there is an enormous potential for significant improvements in the cost effectiveness of renewable energy over the short run, while next-generation technology develops over the long run. The study indicates that the efficiency of wind farms can be increased significantly simply by siting the turbines farther apart than is the current norm. The research team found that wind farms depend more on strong winds pulled down from higher altitudes, than on winds closer to the surface. When spaced farther apart, the turbines create additional turbulence that helps draw more wind from higher up.
Green Jobs and Wind Power
Partly due to the large scale of their components, wind turbines lend themselves to domestic production, and the U.S. wind power industry has joined forces with labor unions and environmental groups to push for more green jobs in wind turbine manufacturing. The new Atlantic Wind Consortium is poised to plan new wind farms all along the Atlantic coast, and massive new inland wind farms are already demonstrating that large scale clean energy projects can coexist with and even enhance local communities. Meanwhile, the U.S. EPA is working with DOE to identify wind power and other clean energy prospects for 14 million acres of brownfields and other abandoned industrial sites, so the potential for growth looks good.
Solar Power and Green Jobs
Meanwhile, a 290-megawatt solar power facility is in the works for Yuma County, Arizona. The project, sponsored by NRG Solar, will use thin film solar panels from FirstSolar, Inc. FirstSolar has facilities overseas as well as in the U.S., and it has been adding more green jobs in the U.S. over the past couple of years. As for the future, DOE’s latest loan guarantee shows just how serious the Obama administration is about promoting clean energy. However, the new Congress is not exactly sold on clean energy and there is stiff opposition from non-clean energy quarters, so despite the potential out there, it will take a lot of pushing and pulling to keep the U.S. clean energy sector growing.
Image: Wind turbine by amandabhslater on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.