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Fracking and Alternative Energy

DOE Announces Record U.S. Wind Energy Production, New Study on Solar Land Requirements

In three recently issued reports, the Department of Energy made public significant new developments in U.S. renewable energy generation.

DOE’s August 6 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report notes that, in the past year, wind energy became the top source of new U.S. electricity production for the first time, accounting for 43% of new electricity generation and $25 billion in U.S. investment. More than 13 gigawatts of new wind power came on line in 2012, almost twice the wind capacity added to the U.S. grid the previous year. According to the report, nine states now count on wind power for more than 12% of their total annual electricity output. The price of wind energy continues to drop, averaging 4 cents per kilowatt hour in long-term power purchase agreements signed in 2011 and 2012.

• A second report, the 2012 Market Report on Wind Technologies in Distributed Applications, focuses on wind energy installations that supply power directly to the local grid near homes, farms, businesses, and communities. In the last two years, this market has multiplied by more than a factor of five, with most of the growth coming from utility-scale facilities. States leading the charge are California, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin.

• Industry reports on the first half of 2013 (SNL, July 23, 2013) are projecting that distributed solar also enjoyed record results, while another recently released DOE study confirms previous estimates on the amount of land needed for successful commercial-scale solar farms. The DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded that a large photovoltaic project would require 3.7 acres to produce an annual gigawatt-hour, with concentrating solar power plants slightly lower at 3.5 acres per annual GWh. Some critics have objected to solar farms because of their large land use requirements, and the new study is bound to become part of that debate.

Jane C. Luxton, Esq.

Read more at from Pepper Hamilton LLP's Sustainability, CleanTech and Climate Change Team.

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