During the preceding decade, adoption of renewable technologies experienced rapid growth. This advancement is in response to new technologies, available energy storage, policy changes, and greater investment in renewable sources. Renewables, solar and wind power especially, have far surpassed coal and natural gas in industry growth.
According to an article in the Washington Post, energy capacity for wind and solar has tripled in the U.S. since 2008. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that, since 2004, the net generation of coal decreased more than 392,604 thousand megawatt-hours, while the net generation for renewable sources increased 197,993 thousand megawatt-hours.
Although the EIA report shows fluctuation in net generation throughout the past several years with a notable increase in renewable sources, natural gas is still ahead of other energy sources, creating a total of 411,828 thousand megawatt-hours since 2004. This boom in energy production with natural gas is mainly a result of the growth of the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, industry within the past decade.
It is important to note renewable resources experienced this bullish growth within the past year alone. Since 2013, the net generation increased more than 30,000 thousand megawatt-hours. Natural gas only experienced a small increase in net generation from 2013 to 2014 of 2,908 thousand megawatt-hours.
This rapid net growth is a result of several factors, including the popularity of renewable sources and increased U.S. investment. The Business Council for Sustainable Energy published its third Sustainable Energy in America 2015 Factbook, reporting on facts and future outcomes for renewable and sustainable resources.
The 2015 Factbook explains the growth in wind and solar energy and cites two separate reasons for its expansion. Solar projects grew by 50 percent because of an increased interest in lowered energy retail rates. State mandates and the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) drive the boom for solar projects while wind energy increased due to the renewal of the Production Tax Credit and continued investment.
In 2014 alone, the United States invested $51.8 billion in clean energy, a number expected to increase, according to the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. In fact, consumption of renewable energy is expected to grow by at least 13 percent in 2015, placing green energy infrastructure into focus.
With further investment and continued advancement of green technology, the clean energy industry will be more accessible and affordable for American consumers. Maintaining the nation’s natural resources, while also developing innovative and cost-effective technology for energy production will help push the renewable industry into the green, and out of the red.