Even if we do manage to set up a shiny futuristic renewable smart grid made of glitter and staffed by zebra unicorns, there are still going to be times when it poops out. Maybe the wind isn’t blowing; maybe a mean old cloud got in the way. And when that happens, there aren't enough boat batteries in the world to store all the electricity we're going to need to keep everything running.
If you’ve been anywhere near a newspaper recently, you know that the Mississippi river has an unbelievable amount of kinetic energy, which lately it has mainly been using for wreckin’ stuff. It’s like an angry teenager who discovers he’s a superhero. But hydropower advocates are hoping to convince it that with great power comes great responsibility, cooking up plans to put enough small hydroelectric plants on existing dams to rival the total hydro production of the Pacific Northwest.
The U.S. power sector is biased in favor of the familiar. It's not well-suited to producing the risk-taking and innovation we need in clean electricity
Geothermal power has grown at just 3 percent annually over the last decade, but the pace is set to pick up substantially, with close to 9,000 megawatts of new capacity projected for 2015.
A column in The New York Times last Tuesday suggested that land use is the greatest environmental problem facing new renewable energy.
The challenge with putting solar on your roof is that even if it saves you money over the long run, you're essentially pre-paying your utility bill for the next ten to 20 years -- and who has that kind of scratch? That's why SolarCity exists: to pay for and install those solar panels, and then lease them to you or sell you the power they produce, for less than your current utility bill. Google just dropped $280 million on the company because they think this is such a fantastic and, in their words, "safe" investment.
Here's an old clean energy maxim: If life gives you volcanoes, make geothermal power. That's Indonesia's strategy, anyway, and it's working for them. By 2025, the country could get a third of its electricity from geothermal sources, and Al Gore has said it could be the first "geothermal superpower."
The Northwest coast right now has a problem most places in the country could only wish for: too much renewable energy. And while hippies would like us to believe that clean energy sources will work flawlessly in harmony to edge out coal and oil, this abundance is pitting wind producers and hydroelectric producers against each other. Alongside the Columbia River, in Oregon, wind power is becoming a big player, working in concert with dams on the river to produce renewable energy. But right now the Bonneville Power Authority, which controls the dams, is ordering wind farms to generate less power, saying it needs more space than usual on the grid to handle the power the dams are producing. Wind farms are, understandably, peeved.
If you're a fan of a certain dried-leaves-boiled-in-water-related political party, you might believe that renewable energy is the recipient of huge amounts of government largesse, and that the first thing we should do once we get our guy or gal into office is slash all that wasteful spending. But wait! It turns out coal gets way, way more subsidies for electricity generation.