The value of renewable energy is being reaffirmed with a constant flow of new developments that underscore the energy security, economic benefits and environmental enhancements that the sector offers. The projects, policies and research that are coming to light on a weekly basis give notice that as this country looks to its future for solutions to its energy challenges, clean, renewable energy is an answer that holds a top priority.
These developments are not only benefiting the country as a whole. We are seeing the direct impacts to states and local communities from renewable energy investments as well. For example, the University of Minnesota recently found that planned additions of wind and solar projects in the state will result in more than $7 billion in direct investment, at least 5,000 jobs in rural Minnesota related to construction alone, and nearly 4,000 megawatts of newly installed energy capacity.
It’s not hard to extrapolate from the Minnesota job and economic numbers for renewable energy development to recognize the huge impact these clean energy projects are having on dozens of other states, and that when put together, the cumulative figures help us to grasp the broad range of the sector’s effect throughout the United States.
If you need a recent indication of how corporate America views the impact of renewable energy on the bottom line, look to Virginia. There, 18 big corporations – Microsoft, Walmart, Best Buy, Ikea, Staples and Mars Inc., among them – have written state legislators and the Virginia State Corporation Commission calling for “an explicit legal framework” to expand access to renewable energy from utilities and third-party sellers. A key to their demand, the companies say, is the reliability renewables bring in supplying the power needed to sustain and build their businesses.
Also on the corporate front, Microsoft announced its largest purchase of wind energy to date with the signing of two agreements representing 237 megawatts of wind energy for its data center in Wyoming, bringing the multinational technology company’s total investment in wind energy projects in the United States to more than 500 megawatts.
Looking to the skies, a single airline flight has had huge ramifications for the growth of renewable fuels. Alaska Airlines recently flew the first commercial flight – from Seattle to Washington, D.C. – powered in part by a new, 20-percent blend of biofuel made from the limbs and branches that remained after the harvesting of sustainably managed forests in Washington state, Oregon and Montana. To mark the significance of the event, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was among many officials and policy makers on hand at Reagan National Airport in Washington to greet the cross-country flight.
Elsewhere in the biofuels arena, NASCAR has kicked off the celebration of the expected attainment by the end of the 2016 season of 10 million competition miles powered by E15 – a biofuel blended with 15 percent American-made ethanol. Six years ago, NASCAR entered into a groundbreaking partnership with Sunoco and American Ethanol to launch its long-term biofuels program to reduce emissions across its three national race series.
Now into the laboratory, where scientists with the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory earlier this month publisher a paper showing solar cells made from perovskite, an inexpensive and increasingly popular material, can more efficiently turn sunlight into electricity using a new technique to sandwich two types of perovskite into a single photovoltaic cell. The researchers say that devices made from the material can be made more easily and cheaply than silicon. The first perovskite solar cells, all with a range of efficiency equivalent to those made from traditional, more expensive materials, could be available to the market as soon as next year.
This Thanksgiving, we urge all 25x’25 champions to give thanks and help spread the good news about renewable energy developments in their towns, cities, counties, states – even at the national level. We should all be especially grateful of the economic, environmental, national security and public health benefits that these burgeoning biofuel, bioenergy, solar, wind, geothermal and small scale hydro industries are providing to our communities. Raising awareness is a valuable tool for helping people understand that the 25x’25 national energy goal is readily achievable.