Geothermal technology gains ground
The use of geothermal energy for power generation dates back to at least 1904. However, the last few years have witnessed widespread renewed interest in the technology. In 2008, the DOE revived its Geothermal Technologies Program with new funding and substantial investments in research and development. Since 2009, the industry has seen a 26% surge in domestic geothermal projects, according to the Geothermal Energy Association. New Energy Finance recently published a breakdown of the estimated costs for each geothermal developmental stage: The biggest factor in overall cost involves power plant construction, with production drilling coming in second. Although geothermal power production is capital intensive with high initial costs, it boasts fairly low operating costs, making it one of the most economical baseload power generation options available, according to the DOE.
Renewable Portfolio Standards drive development
Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs) are widely considered an essential driver for development of renewable energy technologies. However, RPSs exist only at the state level today, resulting in a confusing set of policies governing renewable technologies. Many state RPSs target small-scale or residential projects, but fail to provide adequate incentives for large-scale exploration or development. As of November 2010, 29 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico have RPS guidelines and another seven states have Renewable Portfolio Goals, according to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (www.dsireusa.org). A national RPS is under consideration in Congress.
Offshore wind development picks up pace
The U.S. leads the world in installed land-based wind energy capacity, yet has no offshore wind generating capacity to date. Since Denmark’s first offshore project in 1991, Europe has held the lead in offshore wind, having installed more than 830 turbines with grid connections to nine European countries. Most of the 2,300 MW of installed capacity is built in shallow waters less than 30 m deep. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Europe plans to add another 1,000 MW by late 2010 with an additional 50,000 MW either planned or under development for 2011 and beyond. Interest in offshore wind is now spreading to the U.S., with at least 20 projects representing more than 2,000 MW of capacity in the planning and permitting process. Most of these are in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, with other projects being considered along the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific Coast.