Green energy has been around for quite some time but up until the last decade, large scale operations had largely been glossed over. With the first solar farm going live in the 1980’s, renewable energy has had some time to scale itself to need versus output. Now, as the gap between those two values becomes increasingly closer, 2014, especially the second half, looks to be an unprecedented year for renewables.
Last year, solar energy infrastructure exploded. In the span of one year solar renewables grew more than it had in the cumulative 30 years before. This is partly due to home and business owner’s ability to purchase solar energy in the same way that we have been purchasing traditional energy. Instead of the individual having to acquire the equipment and install onsite, many states that operate under deregulated energy practices have been implementing green energy choices either into their available options or creating entirely new entities that supply strictly renewable forms of power.
However, what has in part kept the proliferation of these technologies at bay is the upfront capital that is often needed to get them started in the first place. Typical wind farms can span hundreds of square miles and have several hundred turbines on site. With prices per unit reaching upwards of $2 million per, things can quickly get pricey.
To help alleviate the need for venture capitalists and other smaller investors, big name brands have steadily been ramping up their renewable energy investments. Last year, General Electric invested in six large-scale renewable energy projects (more than it ever has in previous years) including a 321 MW investment in France. This year, Google also makes its biggest investment into renewable energy with a 407 MW investment that will power their Iowa data center.
So why now? These big investments are perhaps in some measure related to the UN’s findings on our global dependence on fossil fuels and the adverse effect they are having on our environment. In their latest panel, the report outlines the roadmap that must be followed in order to avoid continued damage. By 2050, renewable energy needs to triple in production and be the frontrunner on how we receive our power.
So this takes us full circle back to the how. Financing these renewables is no easy task. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance $254 billion dollars was invested in 2013. But like the UN report stated, this has to grow even further if we wish to avoid further global warming. Ceres economic forecast for investments shows that renewable financing must double in the next six years then, double again in 2030. So how do we achieve these economic goals? Ceres also has some suggestions for that.
Their first suggestion targets pension funds and institutional investors. As it stands, renewable energy only accounts for less than one percent of the majority of these portfolios. Amping that number up to about 5% is what has been suggested.
Secondly, Ceres has called for increased inspection on companies that have been noted as emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide.
Lastly, Ceres suggests increased investment opportunities from banks via bonds. These bonds would create increased ease for both independent investors as well as large businesses and corporations.
With 2014 approaching the halfway mark, there is still a lot more time for other big name brands and companies to announce their green energy plans for future sustainability. In the meantime you can check out the rest of Ceres suggestions or read more about Google’s big investment here.
Carlee Quintas works with New Leaf Energy, a 100% Green-E certified renewable energy supplier.