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Renewables Across the Country

It may seem like the west coast and the New England states are the only parts of the US paying any attention to the need to shift to renewable sources of electricity. It's an understandable assumption; after all, some of the country's most aggressive proposals to combat greenhouse gas emissions and move away from fossil fuels are coming from these regions. Fortunately, that perception, while understandable, is wrong. Renewable projects and proposals can be found across America. Some are small, some are big, but all move us in the right direction.

Some examples, pulled from today's stories at Renewable Energy Access:

  • The governor of Illinois has proposed a new Sustainable Energy Plan (PDF) requiring that electric utilities generate at least 8 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2012, the equivalent of about 4,000 megawatts of power. Three-quarters of that would come from wind. The plan would also increase efficiency standards. Given that both environmental groups and the regional power utilities support the governor's proposal, it appears to have a good chance of implementation.

  • Eight percent by 2012 is a cautious plan, but is probably the right approach. As technology improves and renewable energy prices continue to fall (and fossil fuel costs rise), more reliance on renewable power will be an obvious step, not something needing a government mandate. A modest proposal, for now, serves as a wake-up call, alerting industry and consumers alike to the problem and the possible ways of solving it.

  • One of the biggest photovoltaic systems in New York state will be installed at the Albany County Hockey Facility, and used to keep the facility cool. Over 62,000 kilowatt-hours of conventional energy generation will be offset by the rooftop array; 40,300 kWh will come from the pv system itself, while another 22,000 kWh will come from the system's shading effect and reduction of radiated heat. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is providing $240,000 for the project.

  • A 91.5 megawatt wind farm is now up and running in Nolan County, Texas. The "Sweetwater 2" farm uses 61 turbines, and is a follow-on to the 37.5 megawatt Sweetwater 1, which opened in December of 2003. According to a chart (PDF) available at the Texas Renewable Energy Industry Association website, with the Sweetwater 2 project, Texas now produces 1,389.14 megawatts of wind power, state-wide, from 19 different wind farms.

    While none of these are individually revolutionary, they underscore a larger point: regardless of the choices made by the national government, corporations and state governments can make a difference. Small projects, like the hockey arena pv system, can serve as functional examples of making renewable power work; bigger programs, like the Illinois Sustainable Energy Plan, help to seed the ground for investment and innovation. And in a way, the lack of an aggressive federal push to move to renewables might in the end prove useful. As the various projects, programs and approaches succeed or fail, we have an opportunity to learn what works, what needs work, and how to tell our story.

  • Comments (3)

    I believe Texas, my lovely state of Minnesota, and our neighbors, the state of Iowa, are number two, three, and four in wind power production -- led by Cali.


    Jamais Cascio:

    Great link, Joseph -- thanks!

    In Canada's federal budget released yesterday, the government plans for 4000 additional megawatts of wind-power installations in the next years.

    The government of the province of Quebec has also invested in about 2000 megawatts of wind-power in the next few years (and most of our electricity already comes from hydro).

    But despite all that, Canada isn't doing nearly enough yet to respect its Kyoto goals.


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