Even though the world is well stocked in a number of fossil fuels, the need for renewable energy is continuing to grow. Although this sector still has a relatively small overall market size right now, it is ever increasing and that is a good sign. The United States might have enough coal stockpiled for over 400 years, but global warming could end that need before the coal runs out.
Renewable Energy SubCategories
1. Wind energy
2. Solar energy
3. Geothermal energy
5. Biomass energy
6. Waste to energy conversions
There are strengths and weaknesses in the overall renewable energy market, so let’s examine some of these today and what it means for the future.
Wind Power Is Beginning to Dominate
In the United States, wind power generated 4% of the total grid energy that was produced in 2014. One of the biggest factors that is prohibiting even more power generation from wind is the cost to produce it. By the year 2030, it is believed that the costs to produce wind power will be reduced by over 40%. In return, a 20% increase in wind power on the grid is expected over the same time period.
Some states have made wind power a point of emphasis. Iowa has over 27% of their power needs created through wind energy. At the start of 2014, there were more wind power generation units under construction than in any other time in history. The future looks bright for renewable energy here.
Solar Energy Continues To Be Strong
The US market is expected to see a 26% growth in the solar market across all segments within the next year alone. What is fueling the strength of the solar industry so that new installations are 15x greater today than they were in 2008? There are three factors to consider.
1. Prices have fallen by an average of 15% for solar power installations since 2012.
2. More solar power has been generated in the past 18 months in the US than in the last 30 years.
3. 29% of all new electricity produced comes from solar sources.
People are transitioning to solar power in small, incremental ways and finding that it can save them money. More than 30,000 new solar panels will power water heaters and furnaces each year. As California continues to lead the way, accounting for 50% of the total US growth, the promises of thuis renewable energy source seem to finally be coming true.
Geothermal Energy Makes Gains
Indonesia had 57 geothermal projects in the works as of September 2013. The United States has 182 in development. Many of these projects are designed to provide local resources because the economic output of just one dollar into this renewable energy resource is $2.50. Indonesia might have just a third of the projects that the US is developing, but their power output is incredible. They are developing over 4,000 MW of energy from their 57 plants. The US is developing just 2,500 MW from their 182.
Hydropower Will Still Be #1
The Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State produces up to 6,800 MW of power. In the US alone, 100k MW of capacity is available and the industry employs up to 300,000 people at one time. Energy tax credits have helped to fuel project development and in the next decade, the US will increase hydropower outputs by an anticipated 65%.
What About Other Renewable Energy Sources?
Kinetic power, ethanol, and every other renewable energy source is expected to see gains in their sector over the next 10 years. Those gains are expected to continue on through at least 2030. Although the gains are quite impressive, the energy market is still dominated by the consumption of fossil fuels, especially within the transportation industry.
There is hope, however, because the US is consuming the least amount of oil per GDP today than in the last 40 years. US gasoline consumption is expected to contract in 2015 despite an influx of cheap oil. There are many reasons for this, but wind and solar energy is being consumed at twice the rate today as compared to the year 2000.
The renewable energy market is small, but it is strong. It’s future looks bright. As the world looks to become more efficient and reduce the need for fossil fuels, these sectors are our greatest hope for change and this information proves it.