Analysis: Renewable energy’s potential

A skeptical story from the Energy Daily, via UPI, cannot wholly dampen enthusiasm for renewable energy: Faced with rising energy costs and growing demand, much of U.S. industry and government are turning to renewable energy as a solution, but for many citizens it’s unclear when and how well these technologies will work.

Given the approximately $2 billion allotted to renewable energy research and development in the recently signed Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, taxpayers may want to know what their money is going to support.

Many renewable energy technologies exist, and though different entities classify different technologies as renewable, most lists include wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, fuel cells and biomass. In 2006 renewable resources provided 7 percent of the nation’s electricity supply, according to the Energy Information Administration, the statistical agency for the U.S. Department of Energy.

…At 20 to 25 cents per kilowatt-hour, the price tag for solar energy stands significantly higher than that of coal at 3 to 7 cents per kwh. But many companies see solar as a smart investment, nonetheless.

On Jan. 14, Schott Solar, a leading solar equipment manufacturer, announced its plan to invest $100 million in a factory that will produce equipment for solar power plants. Over the next several years Schott plans to employ 1,500 people and spend a total of $500 million on the facility, based in Albuquerque. The company sees the facility as an investment in a growing market, said Brian Lynch, spokesman for Schott.

“We are anticipating continued, steady growth, which has been 50 percent over the past several years,” Lynch told UPI. “We see the United States as a sleeping giant for solar energy.”

…More than 23 states and the District of Columbia have passed Renewable Portfolio Standards, mandates that require utility companies to generate a certain amount of their electricity from renewable energy sources. In addition, the federal government provides incentives or subsidies for a variety of these technologies as well as research funding.

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