Clean energy installation will almost triple to 290 gigawatts (GW) in 2030. This is because the cost of wind and solar power is becoming more affordable, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast. And it gets better. The cost of electricity from wind and solar is competitive against dirty traditional fuels, such as coal and clean natural gas (CNG). This means utilities are forced to diversify the number of places where they get electricity, and what that means is the need to look for more renewable energy and less fossil fuels in order to maintain competitiveness. Get it? If utilities want to stay competitive in the energy sector with affordable prices, they need to include more alternative energy. What a great turn of event.
How affordable is alternative energy?
A study from New Energy Finance found that the cost of solar panels has declined 62 percent since 2011. Wind turbines have also dropped down 12 percent, and according to RenewableEnergyWorld. Wind alone hovers around 3.7 cents a kilowatt-hour (kW/h) in parts of Texas, and that is without subsidies. In other words, alternative energy in certain parts of Texas is as cheap as fossil fuels. They also have an added incentive, they don’t spew toxic fumes into the atmosphere.
Chile is building a 70 megawatt (MW) solar farm competing against other dirty energy sources. Why talk about Texas, a state traditionally known for its petroleum industry and Chile? Texas is home to one of the U.S.’s greatest natural resource, no, not petroleum, but a wind corridor that runs all the way up to its northern state neighbors. As far as Chile, its northern high altitude Atacama desert is one of the sunniest place on Earth, making it ideal for solar energy.
Utilities, you NEED to change your business models!
Unfortunately, utilities’ business models haven’t changed much since Thomas Edison in the 1880s. It rests on the old tried and true centralized power plants distributing electricity to customers who pay, and pay, and pay, with no end in sight as to what they paying for and where this is all going. In the meantime, we sent men to the moon. We have more computers in our homes than human bodies, and our demand for energy keeps on increasing. We obviously cannot indefinitely burn more petroleum, coal or so called clean natural gas. Utilities haven’t updated the grid as much as they should in the past decades. This is catching up with them and could end up costing us, taxpayers and consumers, a lot of money. The focus was spent on shortsighted revenues. Unfortunately, sooner or later, and now is later, the grid needs to follow the same progression that happened in the telecommunication industry, to become a viable two-way communication system aimed at managing energy. It needs to become what they Internet has done.
The revolution starts at home
Gandhi was famous for having said the revolution starts at home, not at a street corner with banners. I always enjoy talking to people charging their electric vehicles (EV) from their solar panels or wind turbines. Still, I often hear the tried and old: “That’s only works in California!” I’m not sure anyone can defend this old retort anymore when most of the U.S. is blessed with abundant natural, clean renewable resources. It doesn’t take much to sit down with a calculator and figure out how to use your local renewable resource to power your daily locomotion and more.
If you have a stream or river running through your backyard, look into a hydro turbine for continuous power. If you are in an area where the sun shines constantly, go and talk to solar energy companies. And if you’re lucky enough to live along the U.S. wind corridor, install a wind turbine or two. Many newer homes built in the upper eastern part of the country now come with some sort of geo-thermal system, saving thousands of dollars in the long run. But that is the key to alternative energy so far, long term. Don’t get blind sighted by short term profits. They are not sustainable, in any stretch of the word. The feeling of freedom you get from natural energy in your backyard powering your life is something you can’t put a price on.