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Editor's Letter: Facing Challenges

The renewable energy industry dodged a bullet in 2009 and 2010 when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, along with the Section 1603 Treasury Grant program, kept projects alive despite the economic recession.

Still more challenges lie ahead: the federal stimulus programs are ending and the economic recovery — along with demand growth — remains paltry at best. On Capitol Hill, talk has shifted from stimulating the economy to cutting deficits. The prospects for long-term, low-cost natural gas supplies don't help the renewable industry, either. Renewable energy should prepare for some setbacks in the coming months.

Encouraging signs still can be found. Last month, Minnesota Power said it would speed up development of a 105-MW wind product in North Dakota at the urging of its regulatory commission, which had its eye on expiring federal incentives. In California, Google and Citibank are investing millions of dollars in hundreds of megawatts of wind capacity destined for sale to Southern California Edison.

And, as our cover feature points out, activity remains promising with concentrating solar power projects.

Then there are the renewable portfolio standards in place in around two-thirds of U.S. states. These standards, perhaps more than any other single factor, are driving investment and construction. But if project economics don't pencil out — and here is where the federal incentives are critical — electric power from new renewable projects often can be uncompetitive.

In what must be a realization that time for the stimulus money is running out, the Department of Energy put on hold its loan guarantee for the 468-MW Cape Wind offshore wind project in Massachusetts to focus resources on projects more likely to be underway by September 30.

At the news, Siemens stepped in to say it was "willing and able" to provide debt and project finance for the $2.6 billion project. (Which raises the question, with Siemens stepping up was a government loan guarantee ever really necessary?) As of this writing, the outcome was undetermined.

On the plus side, the economy is growing, slowly. That's in contrast to 2009 and 2010 when the power generation sector saw decreasing demand for the first time in decades. Had Congress not funded the stimulus and other programs in 2009, the renewable energy industry may well have collapsed. That danger is much less acute today.

What's more, sea changes are underway across much of the power generation sector. Old, inefficient fossil-fueled units are being retired and replaced with natural gas generation and — on occasion — renewables.

But the likely loss of many federal incentives won't help the recovery, offer a push to green the economy or enhance the prospects for new renewable energy projects.

After this issue, I turn over the reins of editing Renewable Energy World North America magazine to my colleague Jennifer Runyon. I had the rare pleasure of being the launch editor in September 2009 and of guiding its content; it's been a treat working with so many talented and energetic contributors. I am not going far: I remain chairperson of our related renewable energy conference. I look forward to seeing all of you in Long Beach next February for that event!


Students and solar powered cars with energy storage

Rain or Shine, Students Keep Their Solar Race Cars Going with Energy Storage

Wayne Hicks, NREL Teegan and Kira Cordova love the original Star Trek TV series. That much is obvious. The eighth-grade twins from Ken Caryl Middle School in Littleton are wearing the uniform tunics from the 1960s show — Teegan's in red and ...
MIT Clean Energy Prize

MIT Clean Energy Prize Awards $400,000 to Energy Efficiency, Renewable Ventures

Eric Kirchblum, MIT Earlier this month, the MIT Clean Energy Prize (CEP) announced the winners of the 2015 competition at the Eversource MIT Clean Energy Prize Showcase & Grand Prize Awards Ceremony, where it awarded over $400,000, includi...

The Big Question: What Is the Most Frustrating Part about Working in Renewable Energy?

Renewable Energy World Editors

Every industry has its challenges and misunderstandings. Sometimes the obstacles we face in simply trying to do our jobs can be very frustrating.

ViZn Flow Batteries

ViZn Turns to Jabil to Meet Growing Demand for Flow Batteries

Andrew Burger, Correspondent Energy storage startup ViZn, developer of advanced zinc-iron flow battery technology, is scaling up the size and scope of its operations as it works to meet growing demand from a variety of customers both in the U.S. and ab...


Volume 18, Issue 3


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