CleanTechnica is the #1 cleantech-focused
website
 in the world. Subscribe today!


Clean Power Department of Energy announces new wind, solar initiatives to achieve price parity with fossil fuels

Published on February 9th, 2011 | by Tina Casey

27

Department of Energy Foresees Solar, Wind Power as Cheap as Fossil Fuels

Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

February 9th, 2011 by
 
Department of Energy announces new wind, solar initiatives to achieve price parity with fossil fuelsThe Department of Energy has just rolled out a new ten-year plan aimed at making cost-competitive solar and wind power a reality. The initiative includes $27 million for nine solar tech projects, and up to $50.5 million to support offshore wind development. It can’t be a coincidence that the announcement took place just one day after President Obama spoke before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization that pumped millions of dollars into the last election cycle in opposition to his energy policies (among other things), so let’s pick apart just what is going on around here.

The SunShot Initiative and Solar Energy

The solar component of the initiative is dubbed “SunShot,” echoing the President’s call for a “Sputnik moment” to stimulate American innovation as the foundation for economic revival. According to DOE, the U.S. once had 43 percent of the global solar market, and now has only 6 percent. To get back up there, the installed cost of solar energy has to be on par with fossil fuels, which means it has to drop by about 75 percent. The Administration’s solution is to pump more public funds into transformative renewable energy research, and also to take a new approach: reducing permitting expenses, which are a significant factor in the overall cost of installed solar. One way to do this is by establishing national performance standards and codes, and also by digitizing and streamlining local processes.

President Obama and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

That little item about reducing permitting costs sheds some new light on comments that the President has made about the need to reform government regulations. When he spoke before the Chamber of Commerce this week, he wasn’t trying to be conciliatory. He was laying it on the line: the job of the government is to regulate, get used to it. If regulations are sensible and appropriate, then they benefit economic growth, stimulate innovation, and provide needed protections for the general welfare. Apply that argument to renewable energy, and it’s pretty obvious that the President was laying out the ground rules for long term, robust growth in the private sector. By way of contrast, the virtually unregulated housing boom nutured by the last administration quickly disintegrated into a historic bust that continues to devastate millions of U.S. households.

A Renewable Energy Economy

The President’s Chamber speech made it clear that one of the functions of a government is to redistribute private funds for the general welfare. Aside from the huge chunk that goes to national defense and law enforcement, that means promoting the ability of U.S. citizens to do business: building roads and bridges, funding public research institutions, ensuring a skilled, educated workforce, and modernizing the communications infrastructure. In return, Obama basically told his audience to get off their butts and start hiring some workers and making some new investments with all that cash they’ve been squirreling away.

Preaching to the Renewable Energy Choir

Partly because the Chamber has staunchly opposed the Obama administration’s energy policies, it has lost a significant amount of support from the business community. Major players like Microsoft, Nike, Apple, and others either dropped their membership or clearly distanced themselves from the Chamber’s denialist position on climate change, and local chapters have backed away, too. Meanwhile, Obama has just named the head of clean energy-transitioning GE, Jeffrey Immelt, to head up his new economic advisory council. Obama’s Chamber speech gave part of the business community a veiled dressing-down, while sending a clear message of federal support for the growing renewable energy industry.

Image: Solar and wind power by Nick Branhall on flickr.com.

Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

Print Friendly

Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

Tags: ,


About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Pingback: San Diego Loves Green – Germany to give Greece a Solar powered answer to their Debt crises

  • Pingback: Solar Power Almost as Cheap as Natural Gas in Six States | CleanTechnica » TckTckTck | the Global Campaign for Climate Action

  • Pingback: New “Plug ‘n’ Play” Solar Module Fits Almost Any Roof | CleanTechnica

  • Pingback: Solar Power for Vampires: MIT Team Invents 24-Hour Solar System | CleanTechnica

  • Pingback: Pinhead-Sized Solar Cell Will Create Hundreds of New Green Jobs | CleanTechnica

  • Pingback: Why Big Solar is a Colossally Bad Idea (10 Reasons Decentralized Solar is Much Better) – CleanTechnica: Cleantech innovation news and views

  • http://wvoutpost.com WV Treehugger

    John,
    One is on my website wvoutpost.com on the last page.

    The story I did on my site isn’t the county with the ski resort wind farm. This is another county(Grant)

    The county and town is Randolph county, Elkins wv. Here is the website for the ski resort wind farm. fsrengineering.com/sector_energy.htm

    You can also check out these sites.

    windpoweringamercia.gov

    wvcommerce.org/energy

    When I did a search on wind energy in my state my site keeps popping up lol. So I did a little digging to find these. Wind farms and renewable energy are dirty words in my state. :)
    I looked at your town, it is very pretty. I would buy property and vacation there. I think the wind farms make it even more beautiful. I bet the air and water is much cleaner also. No coal fire power plants in the back ground dumping black dust all over your property and ruining the water. I’m jealous now. :(

    • Tina Casey

      John and WV Treehugger, thanks so much for filling out the conversation. I’m from western PA and my folks lived in Wetzel County WV for 30 years so I’m really close to this topic. I think between the two of you, you’re really getting down to the essential point, which is that energy in any form is a public issue that has to coexist with, and benefit, the local communities that host energy generating/harvesting facilities.

  • by

    Wind and solar energy production,are still too expensive and will be for the forseeable future,the cost is only sustabinable with large amounts of public taxs dollars, and the jobs created will only be in China where labor is inexpensive to make these unrelable ,expensive, power sources.

    • Tina Casey

      to byronascott: thanks for checking in. You’re right – renewable energy in general is not cost-competitive with fossil fuels currently, but that is partly due to the fact that fossil fuels are heavily subsidized by public funds. That doesn’t just include federal tax breaks and other subsidies, it also includes the free ride that fossil fuels are getting on public health impacts. Given a level playing field in terms of public subsidiies, shipping costs and other related factors could give domestic manufacturers an edge when it comes to creating green manufacturing jobs here in the U.S., regardless of where the corporate headquarters are located.

  • http://wvoutpost.com WV Treehugger

    I found these stories on the wind project.

    http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20110114/NEWS05/301149971

    http://www.thousandislandslife.com/BackIssues/Archive/tabid/393/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/236/Wolfe-Island-Wind-Turbines.aspx

    Think I did the links right lol.
    Sounds little bit like WV, we get stuff forced on us also. :)

    • John

      WVtreehugger,

      Yes — you found some good links. My home is on Wolfe Island where there are 86 turbines up and running. About 2000 people live on this beautiful once quiet island. A few farmers are happy with their new wind lease income. Everyone else is pretty much miserable about it. Deals were struck with the farmers before the rest of the townspeople even knew what was happening.

      Other wind projects are being fiercely fought over in small towns right now in other communites along the St. Lawrence River. Is this how energy policy should be imposed on rural Americans?

      But I am not clear on what you meant to say by your statement in your last comment: “Sounds little bit like WV, we get stuff forced on us also.” Does that mean that we should all expect and accept “stuff” being forced on us?

      And please give me some info on the wind farm near where your niece lives in WV. I would like to study more about that one. If she is seeing a reduction in her electric rates that could be a saving grace. But that is sure not the case where I live. Just the opposite.

      Thanks.

      • http://wvoutpost.com WV Treehugger

        I can see where your area of 48 square miles and a population of 1400 containing this many wind turbines could hurt your economy. Seems to be alot of wind turbines for such a small area. I also watched the video on your tourism about the golf course, corn maze, bakery and beach. (googled it)

        The location of the WV wind farms are spread out alot more. The area also has hiking, Mtn biking, cross country sking, snowmobiling, trout fishing, the NRAO, hunting and tons of other things.

        In the summer months the area can have several hundred thousand visitors. Winter months the area is like a big city. You have to make reservations months in advance.

        This may be the biggest reason people don’t complain about the wind farm. It’s a much larger area.

        And no sir you should not “accept” anything you don’t beleive in. This is a free country you fight for what you think is right, no matter the outcome.

        The funny thing about my niece is that her husband is a mine owner. He has made millions in the fossil fuel industry and wind energy powers his home. Anyway I wish you the best of luck on wolfe Island, very pretty place. :)

  • John

    WV Treehugger,

    The wind farm that has come to be the dominant physical feature of my town (86 turbines!) is not a community-based wind project that is going to feed power to the local community. This is a utility scale wind project that will provide its power to the regional power grid. Consumers are going to pay more for their electricity because of this project and others like it – – due to the premium feed in tariffs that subsidize renewably generated power. This doesn’t mean that I would prefer my power to come from burning coal. I am only pointing out that it is anything but a consumer cost saver as the example you cited near a ski area in West Virginia.

    Also, my community lies on the shore of the St. Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands Region between New York State and Canada. Our area is a flat coastal plain along the water. The turbines in my town can be seen in all directions for many miles. The red blinking lights atop the turbines are particularly unsightly at night – – against a sky that was previously pristine and undisturbed by ground light.

    The arrival of the wind farm has significantly harmed the summer home based recreational economy in our particular part of the Thousand Islands region. Summer homes that previously sold for very handsome prices are suddenly not selling at all. This does not come as just an unfortunate circumstance for the affluent. The much broader economy is dependent in many ways on this seasonal recreational economy. The tax base of my community and nearby communities is largely supported by this seasonal recreational economy.

    When developers working together with a handful of large landowners have chosen to completely ignore the implications for the broader economy of the community. The wind developer wanted to get the turbines up and get out of town. That’s exactly what they did and they have left behind A community who social fabric has been ripped apart.

    • http://wvoutpost.com WV Treehugger

      John I’m sorry that your community has been ripped apart from the wind industry. I know how that feels, my whole state has been destroyed by the fossil fuel industry. But in our case we have no mountains or clean drinking water left. Cancer and poverty have taken over our coal communities.

      The location of this wind farm is in the middle of our biggest tourism community. These people rely on tourism to make a living. These homes sell from basic $210,000 up to $3.4 million. This part of WV that is going with renewable energy has the lowest unemployment rate in our state and the fastest growth. (low crime rate also) The fact that there are jobs and low crime have a huge impact on the area too.

      I think my biggest arguement is that the fossil fuel industry has ruined our planet. Green house gasses are killing our planet and everything on it. Fossil fuels bring nothing but death and destruction, to any and all in its path.

      The only ones I have heard complain about the wind farms in my state are the Coal and gas companies. Some think it’s ok to blow a Mtn to heck and shoot gallons of chemicals in to the ground by fracking. But when a wind turbine is installed some have a mental breakdown, because it hurts there wallets.

      Anyway I wish you and your community the best of luck. :)

      • Tina Casey

        Thank you all for your comments. I think we can agree that the key issue is appropriate siting for any energy harvesting operation (though in the case of mountaintop mining, there is no such thing as appropriate siting!). Renewable energy is a good thing but that doesn’t guarantee that all renewable energy developers will act in good faith, and it certainly doesn’t justify bad planning.

      • John

        WVtreehugger,

        I would like to learn more about this WV wind farm that has resulted in an experience and community response that is exactly opposite than that experienced by my community.

        Can you tell me the name of it and the town/county where it is located? How amny turbines are in the wind farm?

        Thanks.

  • http://www.zacharyshahan.com Zach

    nice piece, Tina! interesting topic and good coverage and commentary.(of course, all your pieces are good :D but this one pulled me in more than normal) :D

  • John

    Is this a further indication that future government support for wind power will be focused “offshore” where it belongs — and not by imposing wind farms in and around rural communities where wind development devastates the quality of life for the people living in those communities (property value degadation, scenic degradation, noise, shadow flicker, etc.)?

    • http://www.zacharyshahan.com Zachary Shahan

      might be. however, from what i have read, wind turbines have no negative effect on property values and, in fact, many rural communities are happy to have them as they bring in a decent bit of money very easily. they are also apparently beneficial for the crops, the only study on this matter has found.

      • John

        Zachary,

        You need to spend some time in a community like the one where I live. Nobody can sell a house. Nobody will even look at a house for sale. 86 huge wind turbines are looming over the town. Only a handful of large landowners are deriving any income. The rest of us have seen our home prices tank. Waterfront cottages are not even selling — cottages that used to cammand very high prices. Our tax base has taken a beating.

        Many of us live with shadow flicker coming through our windows every day. The low frequency noise is ofern very intrusive.

        Big wind farms just don’t belong tucked up close to settled villages and towns here in the northeast. West Texas, Iowa, North Dakota — maybe. But here in the northeast thay are completely out of scale to the relatively high population densities — even in our rural townships.

        • http://wvoutpost.com WV Treehugger

          John,
          West Virginia has a windfarm near a very upscale town with a ski resort. The property is being bought up like crazy. Houses are being sold faster than they can build them.

          My neice bought a home about 1/2 mile from one, (windfarm) I haven’t heard any complaints from her. In a state like mine that has been trashed from Mtr. mining, windfarms are a God send.

          My power bill was $635.87 this month from fossil fuel power hers was $87.00. The air where she lives is so much clearer than where I live. The skies here are orange, there they are blue.

          The fact that houses in your area are not being bought or sold may be the area itself. Or our wonderful economy. :)

          • Tina Casey

            Readers – I think a valid point has been raised. There is plenty of room for wind farms in the U.S., and with the development of a modern electrical grid there is no need to site a wind farm where it might have a significant negative impact on an existing community. As for the particular example cited by one of our commenters – if anyone out there has seen any reporting on the topic, please send a link. Here’s one example of a utility-scale wind farm that seems to be appropriately sited: http://cleantechnica.com/2010/06/20/new-146-megawatt-wind-farm-in-missouri-reveals-the-future-beyond-fossil-fuels/.

        • Shawn

          I hate to break it to you but everyone is having trouble selling their homes. Everywhere in the US. Not just in places with Wind Farms. I live by the beach in a really nice Southern California town. Every house on my street has a beautiful ocean view. I can’t think of a single NIMBY factor for my neighborhood. Meanwhile about 20% of the homes on my street have been listed for sale for the past 8 months.

          I wouldn’t blame wind when we are all in exactly the same situation

      • Richard

        Those studies that claim Wind Turbines do not effect property values are bogus. Read here:

        http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2965724

    • John Sullivan

      Many rural communities benefit financially from wind farms when a community wind farm is structured. In addition, landowners find very little disruption, for example with livestock, while gaining another source of income.

      I suspect offshore technology is seeing investment because land based installations are already nearly or fully at par with fossil fuel plants. Meaning, they are able to compete on a cost front for the most part.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Department of Energy Foresees Solar, Wind Power as Cheap as Fossil Fuels – CleanTechnica: Cleantech innovation news and views -- Topsy.com

Back to Top ↑