Energy / Renewable Energy

Wind and solar get cheaper and better

Windmills at sunset in the Tehachapi farm, California (Photo by Alexandre Buisse, edited, CC BY-SA 3.0)

WASHINGTON, DC — “In the cornfields of Iowa, thousands of wind turbines are spinning, supplying over 30 percent of the state’s power—the highest percentage of any US state. On especially windy days in the spring, there may be enough wind power to run the whole state.

The state’s largest utility, MidAmerican Energy—partly owned by billionaire investor Warren Buffett—aims to provide 100 per cent renewable energy. And with their plan to add another 2000 MW recently approved, they’ll be getting 85 percent of their power from renewables, mostly wind.

While that number is impressive, even more impressive is the fact that MidAmerican won’t have to raise rates to do it. Thanks to the steady decline in prices and improvement in performance, wind energy is now the cheapest source of new electricity in some parts of the US.

Solar prices, too, are falling rapidly. California is the national leader by far, in both distributed and utility-scale systems. The state is now home to 14,000 MW of solar, including over 4000 MW installed on over 400,000 rooftops. Utilities are signing contracts for solar power for as low as 3 cents per kWh.

Reports released in August by the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, as well as other industry data, are showing that wind and solar prices and performance have reached a tipping point, putting renewable energy squarely in the mainstream.”

— Ben Paulos, Heinrich Böll Foundation North America

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