Renewable energy has long been derided a too-expensive, too-puny pet of the liberal elite. This week several stories prove that’s just not the case.
In the last eight years, U.S. onshore wind power prices have dropped 41 percent; rooftop solar prices are down 54 percent, and utility-scale solar costs have plummeted 65 percent, according to the latest numbers from the Energy Department.
Prices are now so low that the CEO of Nordex, a German wind turbine maker, said the biggest threat to his business is no longer coal or gas, but utility-scale solar power.
The price plunge is one reason why renewables accounted for more than two thirds of the power generation installed on the U.S. grid last year, according to the Energy Department.
And the trend should keep up as research and development in the sector continues.
Solar developer SunPower is driving down costs on large-scale instillations using a novel combination of drones for mapping, robots for cleaning and a design that allows installation sites to also be used for agricultural production.
Volkswagen unveiled a prototype electric car that it states can go up to 373 miles on a single charge and is estimated to cost under $30,000. The company aims to have the car, which looks like a futuristic Golf, on the market by 2020.
And in Maine, researchers are working on floating offshore wind turbines that promise further cost reductions as the larger, more powerful blades can better harness stronger offshore breezes.
Yet utilities are still not getting the message. They continue to invest huge amounts in new natural gas infrastructure despite predictions that, if all these new pipelines and power plant are built, the country will blow past its greenhouse gas reduction targets. The real question here: is any new natural gas needed if more renewables are to be brought online? And who takes the financial hit if these natural gas plants are built and then need to be retired early?
Also not getting it: pundits who claim renewable energy is a cause of the Left. New research shows that in California Republicans are five times more likely to go solar than Democrats.
Changing preconceived notions is hard, but at some point we’re apt to get to a place where most people realize renewable energy can scale up, is cost competitive, and does have bipartisan support.