20 Jan 2011: Report

Green Energy’s Big Challenge:
The Daunting Task of Scaling Up

To shift the global economy from fossil fuels to renewable energy will require the construction of wind, solar, nuclear, and other installations on a vast scale, significantly altering the face of the planet. Can these new forms of energy approach the scale needed to meet the world’s energy demands?

by david biello

From the dust-blown steppes of Inner Mongolia to the waters off Shanghai, China installed more wind turbines in the first half of 2010 than any other country — 7,800 megawatts of potential power production, or more than the United States, the European Union, and India combined. In fact, in northeast China alone, autumn and winter winds now produce some 17 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, roughly 5.5 percent of the total power generation in the region. That’s up from 534 million kilowatt hours just five years ago.

But despite this rapid progress, wind energy still only generates a tiny fraction of China’s electricity. Indeed, even with aggressive government backing and green energy mandates, such “new energy” — including wind, solar, nuclear power plants, and biomass — accounts for less than 3 percent of China’s electricity production, compared to more than 70 percent provided by coal, which produces roughly 3 metric tons of carbon dioxide for every metric ton of the dirty, black rock burned. And as China’s economy continues to expand at a dizzying rate for the foreseeable future, wind and other renewable sources of energy will not even be able to keep pace with new demand, meaning fossil fuel burning will continue unabated.

This is hardly unique to China. In the U.S., electricity produced from the breeze has increased 13-fold in the past decade, yet still only provides 2.3 percent of the country’s electricity — compared to just under 50 percent provided by burning coal. Even Denmark, which has done more than any other country to boost wind power, struggles to integrate an intermittent generating resource into a grid whose customers expect the lights or the television to come on whenever they flick the switch.

As the world attempts to wean itself from fossil fuels — a result of the converging desires to combat climate change, improve energy security, and
‘We need to replace all of the power-producing infrastructure that we have today within 40 years,’ says one expert.
create green jobs — renewables such as the sun, wind, water, and hot rocks will play a larger role. So will energy sources, such as nuclear and natural gas, that are cleaner than the current favorites, coal and oil. The question is: Can any of these resources — or even all of them put together — begin to approach the scale needed to transform the world’s energy supply?

And even if the world’s economies can muster the resources and willpower to wean themselves off fossil fuels, how many decades will it take? And can we move fast enough to stave off the potentially calamitous effects of climate change?

“Renewables are growing at fantastic rates compared to conventional resources,” says David Rogers, general manager for climate change at the oil giant, Chevron. But “while it’s growing like gangbusters, it’s starting from such a small base that by 2030 it still takes a small part of the energy space.”

To meet a proliferating set of international goals, such as Germany’s plan to derive 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050, will require completely changing the present energy mix. Despite more than 21,000 wind turbines and 13 million square meters of solar installations, Germany still gets more than 50 percent of its electricity from burning fossil fuels, including lignite, the most polluting form of coal.

“In some real sense, we need to replace all of the power-producing infrastructure that we have today within 30 or 40 years,” says engineer Saul Griffith of California-based Other Lab, an engineering and design firm working on renewable energy projects, among other pursuits. “The options that we have that are non-carbon [dioxide] producing are nuclear power, solar power at a very large scale, wind power at a very large scale, and geothermal at a very large scale — and then perhaps biofuels or carbon sequestration on existing power plants.”

Wind farm
Wikimedia Commons
If the world makes the transition to renewable energy, wind turbines will become a common feature of many landscapes.
In fact, at the global level, in order to shift away from a world that gets 81 percent of its energy from fossil fuels and to cut emissions of carbon dioxide to just 14 gigatons per year, here is what the International Energy Agency says will have to be built every year between now and 2050: 35 coal-fired and 20 gas-fired power plants with carbon capture and storage; 30 nuclear power plants; 12,000 onshore wind turbines paired with 3,600 offshore ones; 45 geothermal power plants; 325 million square meters-worth of photovoltaics; and 55 solar-thermal power plants. That doesn’t even include the need to build electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in order to shift transportation away from burning gasoline.

In addition, if the world’s economies hope to wean themselves from fossil fuels, they will have to significantly improve energy efficiency and begin to harness power from sources such as waste heat from factories.

One thing is certain: If the global economy does succeed in making the transition to renewable energy, the face of the planet will be significantly changed, with solar energy farms and wind turbines a common feature of many landscapes and seascapes.

“If 10 percent of the U.S. electricity generated in 2009... were to be produced by large wind farms, their area would have to cover at least 22,500 square kilometers, roughly the size of New Hampshire,” writes
‘It’s not going to be easy to make an energy plan that adds up, but it is possible,’ one physicist says.
environmental scientist Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba in his book, Energy at the Crossroads. “These new energy infrastructures would have to be spread over areas ten to a thousand times larger than today’s infrastructure of fossil fuel extraction, combustion and electricity generation…. This is not an impossible feat, but one posing many regulatory, technical and logistic challenges.”

“Can we do this or not?” Chevron's Rogers asks. “Even at the best time we ever had we only did 20 to 25 nuclear power plants in a year... We need 325 million square meters [of photovoltaics] annually. We’ve done maybe 10 percent of that in our best year, which was last year.”

But there is reason for guarded optimism. Even in the throes of the Great Recession, renewables accounted for more than 50 percent of newly installed generating capacity in the U.S. and the European Union, while China added 37 gigawatts of mostly wind and hydropower in 2009, according to the United Nations Environment Program.

“It’s not going to be easy to make an energy plan that adds up; but it is possible,” says physicist David MacKay of the University of Cambridge, an expert on scaling up renewable energy. “We need to make some choices and get building.”



When it comes to such a large-scale shift in energy supplies, few places face more of a challenge than the United States. Americans burn through nearly 6.4 billion barrels of oil and 1.1 billion metric tons of coal per year on our way to getting 83 percent of our energy fix from fossil fuels. Renewable resources, such as the sun, the wind, the flow of rivers and fuels derived from crops supply just 8 percent of our energy needs. Take away ethanol and hydropower, and the sun, the wind, and geothermal power supply less than 1 percent of the U.S.’s total energy use, including gasoline consumption.

Just to supply one-quarter of its current energy mix from a resource that emits far fewer greenhouse gases — nuclear power — the U.S. would need to build 1,000 one-gigawatt nuclear reactors by 2050. Yet construction has begun on only two nuclear reactors in the U.S. since 1974. And just to power an electric car and truck fleet to replace the U.S.’s current gas and ethanol-fueled one would require 500 new nuclear power plants. There are currently 442 reactors in the entire world, of which the U.S. has 104 — the most of any nation.

U.S. attempts to wean itself from fossil fuels have never fared well, yet the Obama administration has committed internationally to an 80 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Either alternative energy supplies will need to ramp up from nearly zero to almost 100 percent in just four decades, or large-scale carbon capture and storage will be required, including pulling CO2 out of the air after it has been put there by all of our automobiles. In fact, simply removing one gigaton of carbon from the atmosphere would require 273 coal-fired power plants with complete carbon capture and storage. At present, there is one in the U.S., capturing just 1.5 percent of its emissions.

“We are talking about a transformation across the entire country,” Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) chairman Jon Wellinghoff said in an interview with Yale Environment 360. “We are talking about potentially tens of thousands of new transmission lines to ultimately move large amounts of wind, solar, and other resources to loads. We are talking about in the scale of billions of dollars of investments in smart-grid technologies, all the way from the consumer level up through to the transmission and generation level.”

Assuming the U.S. will require roughly 4 terrawatts of power by 2050 (a conservative estimate, given that we already use more than three),
To meet present global consumption would require covering 1 percent of Earth’s surface with photovoltaic devices.
replacing all that fossil fuel would require at least 4 million wind turbines — necessitating building 12, three-megawatt wind turbines every hour for the next 30 years, according to Griffiths. The numbers are similar for solar — 160 billion square meters of photovoltaic cells or concentrating mirrors. “We need to be making a square yard of solar cells or mirrors every second for the next 40 years to install that much in North America,” Griffiths calculates.

It’s not just a matter of making the necessary equipment, it’s also a question of finding the space for it. A coal-fired power plant produces 100 to 1,000 watts per square meter, depending on the type of coal it burns and how that coal is mined. A typical photovoltaic system for turning sunlight into electricity produces just 9 watts per square meter, and wind provides only 1.5 watts per square meter.

The challenge is worse for smaller countries: the United Kingdom would have to cover its entire landmass with wind turbines to provide enough electricity for the current Briton’s average consumption — roughly 200 kilowatt-hours per day, according to MacKay, the Cambridge expert.

Although daunting, the challenges of installing new energy technologies on a mass scale are by no means impossible. In the first half of the 20th century, it took the U.S. 45 years to increase its use of oil until that fossil fuel represented 20 percent of the total energy used. At the same time, the U.S. built a sprawling gasoline-fueling station infrastructure, the rudiments of a national electricity grid, thousands of miles of telephone lines, airplanes and airports, interstate natural gas pipelines, and local delivery infrastructure for home heating — and rolled out all the appliances (refrigerators, radios, televisions, etc.) of the modern age — all in the same few decades, at the same time. In other words, the U.S. seems to have “scaled up,” in the parlance of engineers, pretty rapidly in the past.

Transforming the global economy to run on renewable energy would require a similarly massive effort. For example, to provide the energy equivalent of present global consumption would require covering 1 percent of the Earth’s surface with photovoltaic devices, according to chemist Nathan Lewis of the California Institute of Technology. That’s less than the land area currently covered by cities, but a huge chunk of territory nonetheless.

“You can actually farm, you can actually graze, you can actually do things around that [wind] turbine versus if you are taking the top off a mountain
If this great energy transformation eventually comes, it will take decades to complete.
to produce some coal,” FERC’s Wellinghoff notes. “Ultimately, we are going to have to accept the fact that wind turbines and solar systems are going to take up fairly large pieces of land. But, fortunately, we have a lot of land in this country and we have the ability to have dual use of that land.”

But the U.S. also leads the major nations of the world in per capita consumption of energy. The average American used 7.2 metric tons of oil-equivalent in 2009 (a number that, to be fair, has gotten slightly better of late, down from 8.5 in 2005.) That’s double the amount used by the average citizen in Europe, and five times the global average.

To put it another way, the average American uses 250 kilowatt-hours per day for “transportation, heating, manufacturing, electricity, and so forth,” writes MacKay. “That’s equivalent to every person having 250 40-watt light bulbs switched on all the time.” Energy efficiency might bring that consumption as low as 168 kwh per day, according to MacKay. But that still means each American would require 80 square meters of photovoltaic panels, plus biofuels from energy crops on 4,000 square meters of land. In addition, the U.S would need to build one 2-megawatt wind turbine for every 300 Americans, plus one 1-gigawatt nuclear power plant for every city the size of Boston.

On the grander scale, more than half of the energy used in the U.S. — 56.3 percent — is wasted. That’s a result of the essential inefficiency of burning coal in a power plant or gasoline in an automobile engine, or even transmitting electricity over vast distances.

Industry is beginning to make use of this waste — a steel plant in Indiana employs the waste heat from a coal coking plant to generate electricity, enough to help run its steel rolling machines in another adjacent facility. And while U.S. energy use has grown over the past four decades, three-quarters of that growth has been met through gains in energy efficiency, not by burning additional fossil fuels, according to a 2008 report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The energy used to produce every dollar of U.S. gross domestic product fell from 18,000 Btus in 1970 to just 8,900 Btus in 2008.

“The energy-related challenges of the 21st century require a dramatic shift in direction — from an emphasis on energy supply to an emphasis on energy efficiency,” says Jon “Skip” Laitner, ACEEE director of economic analysis. “The greatest American success story in dealing with energy in recent decades is also the least understood and the most invisible.”

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In fact, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimate that waste heat from factories, oil refineries and other industrial facilities holds the potential for as much as 95 gigawatts (the equivalent of 95 nuclear power plants) of new electricity, which is cheaper to capture than building a new coal-fired power plant.

If this great energy transformation eventually comes, it will take decades to complete. But, as FERC’s Wellinghoff notes, “The scale is very large but, fortunately, it is something we can do incrementally and it is something that we have already started.”

If society’s efforts were turned in different directions, shifting from making fewer consumer products to making more devices to capture renewable energy, the transition might ultimately fuel itself. After all, beverage makers now produce some 300 billion aluminum cans per year, Griffiths notes, which is enough production capacity to manufacture 100 or 200 gigawatts of solar thermal annually. “So we could do 1 terrawatt of solar in 10 years if Pepsi and Coca-Cola and all the breweries became solar companies,” he says. “We have the industrial scale. We are just right now prioritizing what we want to make with it and we are making disposable aluminum cans instead of solar mirrors. That gives me reason for optimism. We can do it.”

POSTED ON 20 Jan 2011 IN Biodiversity Business & Innovation Climate Energy Forests Oceans Asia Central & South America North America 

COMMENTS


This is a great overview. Thank you. In addition to supply, there needs to be more thought about the physics of renewables. Right now, we give solar PV a hall pass as if it was the clean and green answer. I believe the denial seen on the right about climate change is matched by denial on the progressive side as to technical solutions. Solar PV is nearly the most toxic source of energy per kWh there is, save for the tar sands, including nuclear and coal. The concept of solar is certainly correct, harvesting streaming photons, but current execution involves a witches brew of toxins and GHGs. Even if that were not true, were the world to ratchet up its solar production as proposed, it would require a very significant increase of fossil fuel consumption because solar requires high inputs of intense energy for sintering, tempered glass, metals, etc. The energy return on energy invested (EROI) for solar PV, the actual net energy subtracting inputs, is between 3 to 10:1, with most silicon PV coming in at the lower end. This is abysmally low. If we became a solar world, it would mean 20% of our GDP would be spent on energy to make energy. With PV we are making low intensity energy generators out of high intensity energy sources, i.e. coal in China and Germany, and calling that renewable. It is not remotely renewable. Until there is a solar PV technology that can be made with minimal, non-toxic, abundantly available inputs and be made entirely with solar energy, incumbent solar does not move the ball down the field but diverts us from achieving the critical energy transformation this article so clearly lays out.

Posted by Paul Hawken on 20 Jan 2011


Clearly, we need to move to renewable energy as soon as possible, but we cannot continue with life as usual in terms of what we consume and how we work. Matt Bauer, President and CEO of BetterWorld telecom and a passionate advocate for green business, says in speaking of the need to change the way we do business in the US, "we have too many buildings and we move around too much." I would add that we consume far more than we need, and that 'growth' as a 'solution' to our current economic downturn needs some serious re-thinking.

I would recommend http://steadystate.org/ the website for CASSE, Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy for their thoughtful critique of the growth mentality (among economists and the rest of us). I think the picture that David Biello creates in this piece reveals the absurdity of thinking we can simply replace our existing energy system with renewables. As oil and gas people are fond of pointing out, the amount of energy in a tablespoon of petroleum is phenomenal - and very difficult to replace.

Posted by Christina Herman on 20 Jan 2011


There's lots of claims in the story which make it seem impossible to move to renewable energy sources. For example, the claim that:

"In some real sense, we need to replace all of the power-producing infrastructure that we have today within 30 or 40 years,” says engineer Saul Griffith"

This quote and others sounds like it will be impossible to build enough renewable to accomplish this. But, during the early 1970's, the US growth rate of electric generation was running at 7% a year, which works out to a doubling in production in only 10 years. And, within 40 years, a large fraction of the generating capacity presently in operation will have passed it's useful life and will need to be replaced, whether or not there is any further growth in capacity. One would conclude that there's going to be a massive building effort required, no matter what source of energy is used to meet the demand.

The article suggests that the area required for generation using PV would be very large, requiring a massive commitment of land. This might be true, but we have already made a large commitment of land which has been dedicated to buildings and roadways. Most of those buildings will need new roofs within the next 40 years. That presents an opportunity to use PV roofing instead of the conventional roofing materials, thus no new land would be required. These buildings are already tied into the grid and the grid can be used to send current from the structures to other locations where the electricity is used, such as manufacturing plants or commercial buildings.

The negativity in the numbers given gives one the impression that there's no hope for renewables. It's only in the last paragraph that the scale of US production is mentioned, the last sentence saying: "We can do it". How many people take away that hopeful message after reading all the previous negative comments?

Posted by E. Swanson on 20 Jan 2011


A good article so far as it goes, but seems to be missing in action so far as demand side goes. For example there is this: "To put it another way, the average American uses 250 kilowatt-hours per day for “transportation, heating, manufacturing, electricity, and so forth,” writes MacKay. . . . Energy efficiency might bring that consumption as low as 168 kwh per day, according to MacKay. "

California already sits at around half the USA average - it has effectively kept per capita energy use at the same level for >30 years! My reading of the evidence of that real-life example on your own shores suggests that the task is one of political will not a lack of technological or engineering capacity.

The is that much of the generating infrastructure whether fossil fuel or nuclear is approaching the end of its commercial operating life and so would need to be replaced in the coming 30-50 years anyway. The question do we simply do more of the same in the clear knowledge of the folly of doing so or do we make the switch to renewable sources.

Calfornia seems to me untramelled by the policies that has it as a wolrd leader why would we not emulate that in future. China has a different set of pressures as its population is huge and they are trying to make the transition from an early Victorian style industrial economy to a modern Western economy in a generation. They too though should be taking their reknowned long-term view and not building non-renewable power sources.

Posted by Steve Blume on 20 Jan 2011


David Biello seems more interested in creating a story line with lots of drama than in reporting the reality of the renewable energy revoulution that is well underway. For example to say "In the U.S., electricity produced from the breeze has increased 13-fold in the past decade, yet still only provides 2.3 percent of the country’s electricity" is dramatic, but nonetheless misleading. It is easy to increase 13 fold when you are beginning from almost nothing.

If renewable production continues the growth rate that produced that 13 fold increase for the next decade, and there is every indication that it will do so, then renewables will make up a very significant portion of total energy production. The analysis is also overly simplistic and perpetuates a number of myths.

For example, regarding the area required to produce a given unit of energy the statement: "A coal-fired power plant produces 100 to 1,000 watts per square meter, depending on the type of coal it burns and how that coal is mined. A typical photovoltaic system for turning sunlight into electricity produces just 9 watts per square meter, and wind provides only 1.5 watts per square meter," fails to recognize that the watts produced by a unit of area for wind, solar, and other renewables are produced by that same area every year for decades, while the watts produced by a unit of area by coal can only be produced once, in the year that they are extracted (if in fact they are even including the areas ravaged by the extraction of those resources).

In addition, I am sure the calculation does not include all the watts in forest biomass that are permanently destroyed by coal extraction methods such as mountaintop removal mining. This analysis also fails to recognize that the watts per unit area for all fossil fuel sources are dropping as the easily extacted resource is used up, whereas, the watts per unit area for renewables is declining as their efficiencies are increasing.

And, the article does not even mention new hydrokinetic renewables or the fact that we currently have the technology to cost-effectively build net enrgy producing homes and other buildings. I could go on and on like this, but my experience is that facts such as these seem to influence sceptics of renewables little. However, one final fact should be noted, and that is, regardless of whether we move to renewables to avert global climate change, or because they are simply a superior source of energy, carbon resources are going to run out.

Posted by Joe Schiller on 21 Jan 2011


I agree with you. We need to make changes on a global scale and we need to start as soon as
possible.

However I am not sure that nuclear power is safe enough for very large use. One way to
reduce energy consumption is to reduce the use of oil, increase the use of modern transit, and
hybrid cars and trucks.

I have written 3 papers about this and placed them on a website, www.transition2030.webs.com. You can find the website using Bing or Yahoo search engines.

Posted by Eric Paulsen on 21 Jan 2011


The US has no shortage of promising technology, but it places massive constraints on
Entrepreneurship in the electric power industry that are not present in places where renewables are more commonplace.

If we establish Streamlined processes for connecting to the grid and Standard terms for
long-term power sales for systems of all sizes, you will see a flourishing burst of energy entrepreneurship. These policies have already spurred massive deployment of distributed energy production for over a decade in Europe and for a year in Ontario Canada.

This policy is responsible for:

>50% of Wind Worldwide
>75% of Solar PV Worldwide
>90% of Farm Biogas Worldwide

For an overview of self-service community scale distributed energy enabled by Feed in Tariffs, see this presentation by energy commentator Paul Gipe:

http://www.wind-works.org/coopwind/Gipe%20OSEA%20CP%201
01%20November%2014%202010.pdf

Any program to ramp clean energy deployment should give attention to what's been proven to work, and that is cost-based Standard Offer Contracts for distributed energy systems.

Posted by Stanley F. on 21 Jan 2011


The scale of large alternative energy projects is unnerving folks at the grassroots in the U.S. who have launched a fierce campaign of resistance in over 30 states. Wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal and large powerline proposals have all come under attack. The push back represents one of the most influential and least talked about facets of a contemporary American environmentalism. In my home region of Michigan plans to build big new wind farms and one small biomass plant have been met with strong opposition campaigns. I've documented the trends on my ModeShift blog here: http://bit.ly/fvY9IA

Posted by Keith Schneider on 22 Jan 2011


"To shift the global economy from fossil fuels to renewable energy will require the construction of wind, solar, nuclear,"

I do not need to read a diatribe to observe bias from a writer with an agenda. In decades of grassroots discussion I have never heard atomic fission defined as renewable energy. If this re-framing isn't bad enough, the article favors a subjective opinion essentially defending climate change by fossil burning.

I will note, a social or technological change that proceeds exponentially can change the existing paradigm in one generation. Start with getting rid of hundreds of billions of dollars in perverse world fossil subsidies and the transition will accelerate. It is an idea whose time has come.

Posted by James Newberry on 23 Jan 2011


The problem with energy is not getting more renewable energy as much as it is with being
efficient with the energy we have. The end of this article touched on it but did not specifically discuss recycled energy. Recycled energy is the ability to take the waste heat that was spoken of and reusing it for a productive use. Thomas Edison did this way back in the day at his plant in New York. Tom Casten is an authority on recycled energy which includes cogeneration and trigeneration and would argue that more than 67% of our energy is wasted at steel mills and
other plants. IF we recycled energy it would help drive down the cost to make products needed for renewable energies such as wind mills and the ever expensive solar panels which have a terrible ROI.

Posted by MIke W. on 24 Jan 2011


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Here practice and theory merge under a single cover of "The Biochar Revolution" and reveals hidden secrets of science called Biochar.


Posted by new_biochar_land on 24 Jan 2011


Reading the article and the comments, I wonder how people think we are going to come up with the money to do all these wonderful things? The economy is in a virtual state of collapse - after all, schools are beginning to lose their funding! For example, to replace all the cars with electric cars is tremendously expensive. The electrical grid is highly dependent on coal and the grid itself would have to be rebuilt to handle the needed capacity. The basic approach should be to plan for a controlled economic contraction which includes the general abandonment of the suburban model as one for growth. Our basic rail network needs to be rejuvenated. Low tech solutions like subsidence gardens need to be championed.

Posted by Bill Goedecke on 24 Jan 2011


While you tout the large increase of wind turbines in China, realize that China is increasing their use of oil and coal also. The world's paradigm is growth, and 'green' energy is just a source of energy the world can use to maintain or increase its economic output. If the world becomes greener, it will only occur when fossil fuels run out or become prohibitively expensive.

Posted by John D on 24 Jan 2011


Bill Goedecke:

"The basic approach should be to plan for a controlled economic contraction which includes the general abandonment of the suburban model as one for growth. Our basic rail network needs to be rejuvenated. Low tech solutions like subsidence gardens need to be championed."

While true (IMO) these take a long time to get started (due to politics) much less to complete. But while Paul Hawken give good info on the shortcoming of PV solar, I might have to opt for it. It is expected to be more expensive over my lifetime than power from the grid, but I'm looking for a way to be independent of external energy sources, whose future costs (and vicissitudes) I can't determine.

I'd like to hear what Hawken (or others) have to say about domestic wind generation.

Posted by TRB on 25 Jan 2011


Though the forecast is very optimistic,Renewable Energy can only supplement conventional energy but not replace it.

Here are achievements of Renewables in India:

NEW & RENEWABLE ENERGY
Annual achievement 2010-11 and Cumulative achievements as on 30.06.2010
No.      Sources / Systems       Achievements during 2010-11 (upto 30.06.2010)      Cumulative
Achievements (upto 30.06.2010)
I. Power From Renewables
A. Grid-interactive renewable power

1.      Biomass Power (Agro residues)      45.50 MW       901.10 MW
2.      Wind Power       202.73 MW      12009.48 MW
3.      Small Hydro Power (up to 25 MW)       31.64 MW      2767.05 MW
4.      Cogeneration-bagasse      67.50 MW      1411.53 MW
5.      Waste to Energy      7.50 MW        72.46 MW
6.      Solar Power      2.00 MW       12.28 MW
      Total (in MW)      356.87 MW      17173.90 MW

B. Off-Grid/Distributed Renewable Power (including Captive/CHP Plants)

7      Biomass Power / Cogen.(non-bagasse)      6.00 MW      238.17 MW
8.      Biomass Gasifier      4.00 MWeq.      125.44 MWeq
9.      Waste-to- Energy       6.00 MWeq.      52.72 MWeq
10.      Solar PV Power Plants      0.0 MWp      2.92 MWp
11.      Aero-Generators/Hybrid Systems      0.0 MW      1.07 MW
      Total       16.00 MWeq      420.32 MWeq

II.      
Remote Village Electrification       208 Villages & Hamlets      6867 villages & Hamlets

III. Decentralized Energy Systems

12.      Family Type Biogas Plants      0.07 lakh      42.60 lakh
13.      SPV Home Lighting System       nos.      6,03,307 nos.
14.      Solar Lantern       nos.      7,97,344 nos.
15.      SPV Street Lighting System       nos.      1,19,634 nos.
16.      SPV Pumps       nos.      7,334 nos.
17.      Solar Water Heating - Collector Area             3.53 Mln. sq.m.

MWeq. = Megawatt equivalent; MW = Megawatt; kW = kilowatt; kWp = kilowatt peak; sq. m. = square meter


Source: MNRE)

Bright news came out of the Indian solar market yesterday as the county’s top energy officials announced that India is capable of reaching its 2015 renewable energy goal. The goal, set by India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), calls for meeting 10 percent of the nation’s energy needs with renewables.
India has a total generating capacity of over 1.5 million megawatts (MW), according to Pramod Deo, Chairman of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERD). Right now, renewable energy accounts for over ten percent of that capacity — about 17,000 MW — but only contributes four percent to the nation’s total power generation. Renewable energy supply in India could reach nearly 48,000 MW, with right around 4,000 MW coming from solar alone, according to a study done by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC).
The government is also offering a generation-based incentive in order for India’s solar market to meet a 2022 target of 20 gigawatts (GW). R. Chirstodas Gandhi, chairman and managing director of the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TNEDA), has another idea of how India can meet this goal. He says the country should look into small, individual renewable energy projects to meet energy requirements in remote locations around the country.
Whichever way India chooses to go, its decisions have proved to be paying off so far. The country is one of nine that are set to surpass 250 MW in solar photovoltaic (PV) demand in 2010.(getsolar.com)
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Posted by Dr.A.Jagadeesh on 29 Jan 2011


A paradigm shift away from a few large producers supplying all the power for the customers needs to occur. Rather, the "customers" need to participate in the generation of power in a give and take model.

If many more people can provide themselves the power they need through renewables, such as PV's or small scale wind, and draw from the grid when they need to then the issue of trying to build green power generating facilities to meet all the present demand doesn't exist. In addition, no new transmission lines from large generating facilities would need to be installed as the people helping to generate would presumably already be tied to the grid.

Posted by Sue on 31 Jan 2011


This isn't a technological problem...it is "daunting" but can be done...the main issue is economics and political will.

Sure we could direct PepsiCo and Coca-Cola to stop making delicious beverages and start making solar panel parts...but at what cost and who would buy them...not to mention that telling a private company what to produce is industrial policy and flies in the face of economics.

High energy prices will force the market to innovate and produce the kind of new-energy tech that is needed. Some incentives might help it along but the discussion needs to take into account political and economic realities, not just technological feasibility.

Posted by Jason on 14 Feb 2011


Great actical, I feel american is not doing enought in alternate energy solutions. American needs to wake up and be a leader look what Germany did, They had a mandate to lower their energy consumption on oil by 20% they hit 23 % I believe now they have billion solar power industry by accident as a side effect, and I wish the US would at least have some coherient energy policy. Some direction. Yes I drive a car but what are the options. I also plant trees every spring.Think about how many flat roofs there are in any one city. Our building along could support itself if it was just one big solar pannel. I have looked at windmills and solar energy but it is just too costly for the individual person, also for our family business. USA needs a better energy direction. Ethonal E85 is not the answer either it is depleating our rich farm soil for fuel. Not very smart, again this is not a good sound energy policy by the goverment.

Posted by Richard Wolf on 08 Mar 2011


The idea that solar or wind generation is too cost prohibitive, is misleading in my mind.
Every household connected to the grid, receives a report each month on their energy use- it's called the bill.

The beauty of solar PV energy, is one can start small and increase the size of the array as funding becomes available.

By using the electric bill for reference of kwhrs. used per month, one can determine closely how big the array will ultimately need to be to eliminate the bill. This is the time to figure out and purchase the right size inverters and charge controllers if battery backup is desired.
Yet, who says one has to energize all the loads at once. One could very easily connect the critical loads to the grid, while energizing the balance of loads to wind or solar or both in a hybrid system.

All loads taken offgrid means savings on the bill.

It also means more grid power available to others who have not installed a renewable energy system.

A family wind turbine would not be one with 100ft+ long blades like on a wind farm, but a small unit that can gradually contribute energy to the family's energy needs and simply slow down the meter, or gradually charge up storage batteries for later use in an off-grid system. The wind moves everywhere and a small unit can use these small breezes to produce power when the big machines are sitting idle.

It is in this way that the world can reduce it's reliance on fossil fuels. A group effort to install localized systems that will each contribute to a reduction in fossil fuel use worldwide.
Don't forget, many states have incentives to encourage solar installations and could cut the cost in half if one qualifies.

Posted by Randy Peck on 30 Mar 2011


Excellent post. You have dealt on the subject in depth. Renewables are the future energy option to supplement conventional energy sources like coal,petroleum and Gas.

Put the RENEWABLES to WORK: To get inexhaustible,pollution-free energy which cannot be misused.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Posted by Dr.A.Jagadeesh on 19 May 2011


You have excellent research! I agree that polluting our air is a bad thing. The people in the world attempts to have an easy and comfortable way of life, but don't see the risk.

Posted by bobin on 13 Jan 2012


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david bielloABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Biello has been covering energy and the environment for nearly a decade, the last four years as an associate editor at Scientific American. He also hosts 60-Second Earth, a Scientific American podcast covering environmental news, and is working on a documentary with Detroit Public Television on the future of electricity. In previous articles for Yale Environment 360, Biello has written about geothermal technology and solar thermal technology and has explored the progress of carbon capture and storage technology.
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