Exploring Renewable Energy Technology – Shifting Stats and Shifting Expectations

By Vernon Trollinger, August 11, 2017, Energy Efficiency, Green, News

Welcome to Exploring Renewable Energy Technology from Bounce Energy! Because the ERCOT portion of Texas can be thought of as a “walled garden,” renewable energy sources in Texas now make up a significant portion of the energy supply mix. It’s also a dynamic technology with new innovations, discoveries, and issues arising every week. Each month, we will examine the latest news in the industry to better understand what (if any) changes might come to the Texas energy supply.

Exploring Renewable Energy Technology - Shifting Stats and Shifting Expectations | Bounce Energy Blog

Shifting Stats and Shifting Expectations

One way to better understand how renewable energy technology effects the energy mix, not just in Texas but all across the U.S., is to look at the statistics once in a while. Some recent news stories have been showing that in spite of being banished to the fringe provinces of environmentalist dreamers and science fiction in the late 1970s, renewable energy is now shouldering a consistently growing amount of the energy load, wind energy in particular.

In 2016, the U.S. added 8.2 gigawatts (GW) of new wind capacity, representing 27% of all new generation additions. All told, nine states added 15% or higher. Texas added the most by installing 2.611 GW. However, while Texas may have added the most, Iowa installed the highest percentage, thereby making a commitment to rely on wind power for nearly one third (around 707 MW) of its electricity (Iowa remains a regulated market). Iowa also has the most small wind turbine installations in the U.S. with 9.45 MW. By comparison, South Dakota, Kansas, and Oklahoma all generate 25% or better of their electricity with wind power.

In comparison with the whole U.S. generation capacity, wind accounts for 8% of the operating electric generating capacity for 2016, which is more than any other renewable source (though the actual amount generated is closer to 5% due to capacity factor) . Of that total, Texas wind power accounts for around 25%.

Two milestones to keep in mind:

Exploring Renewable Energy Technology - Shifting Stats and Shifting Expectations | Bounce Energy Blog

Renewable energy’s increasing role is also disrupting decades-old stereotyped expectations for being too weak, too expensive, and only for the few who could afford it. Time, power policy, and technology have since changed all that. Renewable energy technology is not only more powerful and cheap but practically everywhere. In fact, the novelty cachet of renewable energy appears to have worn off. A recent report put out by Environment America Research & Policy Center cites growth in renewable generation over the last decade and declines in clean energy costs that have brought renewable energy technologies into everyday life — all of which has helped reduce electricity consumption in the U.S.

In fact, renewable energy has now become so accepted, noncontroversial, and so unexciting that institutional investors, the stodgiest of the stodgy, are now eager to invest money into energy projects. According to a Reuters report, while investors wouldn’t have touched renewable energy projects with a ten foot pole a five or six years ago, they are now regarding it as “a key component of infrastructure investment.” Their chief attraction is that renewable energy projects, such as wind or solar farms, can make power purchase agreements directly with corporations committed to sustainability and make them want to buy green energy. These include companies like Siemens, Johnson & Johnson, Centrica, and L’Oreal.

Another milestone:

Recently JPMorgan Chase announced that it has “put a stake in the ground,” committing to sourcing renewable energy for 100% of its energy needs by 2020. As one of the oldest financial institutions in the U.S. with a pile of assets valued at $2.6 trillion, JPMorgan Chase is not only saying that renewable energy is a safe investment but that it also provides a sustainable, long term way for it to continue doing business.

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