I am getting tired of hearing that the U.S. needs to expand our so-called "clean coal" and nuclear power electricity generation in order to meet our baseload needs in the future. Not only does this false choice understate the potential to reduce our electricity consumption through conservation and efficiency measures, it also underestimates how much electricity we could generate through wind and solar power.
Look at what happened in the past year, even as George Bush's administration did little to promote wind and solar energy:
According to the latest "Monthly Electricity Review" issued by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (October 3, 2008), net U.S. generation of electricity from renewable energy sources surged by 32 percent in June 2008 compared to June 2007.
Renewable energy (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) totaled 41,160,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) in June 2008 up from 31,242,000 MWh in June 2007. Renewables accounted for 11.0 percent of net U.S. electricity generation in June 2008 compared to 8.6 percent in June 2007. Compared to June 2007, wind power grew by 81.6 percent in June 2008 while solar and conventional hydropower experienced increases of 42.6 percent and 34.7 percentrespectively. Geothermal energy also enjoyed a slight increase (0.8percent) while biomass (wood + waste) remained relatively unchanged.
Years ago, some people thought it was a pipe dream to ask Congress to require that 10 percent of U.S. electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2010. Yet even in the absence of a congressional mandate, we exceeded that number two years ahead of schedule.
Just think of what could be done if we had a president and Congress committed to expanding wind and solar power in this country.
To learn more about and support the growth of renewable electricity generation in Iowa, get involved in the Iowa Renewable Energy Association.
Solar thermal power
Just a few months ago, Scientific American had an energy issue, and they showed how to meet the entire U.S baseload power requirement with solar thermal plants. They only used current technology - there wasn't anything new or unproven in the design. Of course, they did cover a land area the size of Arizona, but it is mostly desert anyway.