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The Final Word by Chuck Swann
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The move away from fossil fuels and toward renewables--principally sun- and wind-derived power--is proceeding on baby steps at present. But the movement is destined to reach full-blown marching stride in the years to come--and is already proceeding at a faster and faster rate in some parts of the USA.

Hydroelectric power must be counted among the renewables, but the nation is moving on a policy of operating fewer dams rather than more. Hydro-derived power is not destined for growth. On the other hand, wind and solar are destined to grow into major concerns both for electric power producers and consumers. David Unger, writing in Midwest Energy News, notes that energy companies added 24 gigawatts of capacity--roughly the equivalent of a dozen new Hoover Dams--to the power grid last year. According to a report from the US Energy Information Administration, 63% of the new capacity was based on renewable technologies. The year 2016 was the third consecutive year that wind, solar and other renewables made up more than half of all new generating capacity in the US power system.

MEN quotes George Gross, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: "The utility business is going to be leaning more and more on renewables. It's going to be the dominant source of new capacity. Nobody in their sane mind...is going to invest in coal."

In the field of renewables, western US states are dominant in hydroelectric and solar power, while the Midwest leads the nation in wind power production.

For all the growth projections and headlines, however, renewables at this point are playing a relatively small role on the energy stage. Wind and solar combined are thought to have generated just 6.0% of all power generated in 2016. But renewables have no way to go except upward--and they will.

Witness a report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Wisconsin's largest solar project, comprising hundreds of thousands of solar panels..." is proposed by the state's Point Beach nuclear plant in Two Rivers. The solar farm would be built adjacent to the nuclear plant and would start up in 2021. It would be the same size as what is presently the largest solar generation plant in the Midwest, which recently opened just north of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. It operates with 440,000 solar panels.

As the MJS observes, "Many in the industry are waiting with bated breath to see how the Trump administration reshapes policies and regulations that largely benefitted renewables throughout the Obama years." Stay tuned!

Chuck Swann is Senior Editor of Paperitalo Publications.


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