Among the highlights for some was a speech by former President George W. Bush, who shared Texas’s recipe for wind energy success and a vision of a secure American energy future with wind energy “on the leading edge,” powering not only our homes and businesses but also our cars. An all-time record for wind power production in Texas also occurred at the opening of the conference on May 23, when wind power hit an all-time production high, with 6,721 megawatts (MW) produced at 5:16PM – meeting 14% of peak electricity demand in Texas on that hot afternoon.
Statistics revealed at the conference that Texas added more wind power in 2009 alone than California has added over the past 30 years! This, despite the fact that California featured more than 90% of the world’s capacity in 1986. The downside to the Texas story is that 17% of the state’s wind power had to be curtailed in 2009 due to lack of adequate transmission capacity.
It is clear that wind power has gone mainstream. As Cathy Zoi, assistant secretary of energy efficiency and renewable energy at the federal Department of Energy put it: “This event feels sort of like Woodstock — but for capitalists!”
While fresh polls show that 89% of the general public wants more wind power, the nation — and California — will have to tap a variety of renewables to meet our climate change carbon emission reduction goals.
Among the less known opportunities are technologies such as Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and geothermal energy.Solar Millenium AG predicts that the U.S. will supplant Spain as the world’s leading market for CSP within the next five years, with California being the nation’s most promising market. Bloomberg News also reports that major investments are flowing towards geothermal energy, whose main advantage over wind is that they can provide 24/7 power and therefore displace dirty coal on a MW per MW basis. The good news is that the federal government is investing in new storage technologies that would extend solar’s generation range to cover the full peak load period, increasing the attractiveness of this technology as a substitute for coal,
While the bright spot in California is solar photovoltics (PV), some suggest the state’s approach of only promoting distributed applications at homes and businesses or large-scale utility plants misses the boat. Germany’s approach — based on a policy called a “feed-in tariff” that allows solar generators to plug directly into the wholesale power grid — has installed more than 17 times the amount of solar PV as has California, despite the fact that California’s solar resource is 70% more efficient.
While the California Solar Initiative is a long-term program, incentives are capped at 1 MW. Under the best scenario, this program will only provide 2% of California’s total electricity demand by 2017.