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A recently built wind farm in West Virginia churns out power on a windy day. The U.S. took the lead in 2008 for highest wind production of any country, and is closing on the lead for solar.  (Source: Baltimore Sun)

The gains in wind and solar raise the need for efficient storage technologies as they are variable power sources. More efficient production and installation techniques must be developed, and much more research must be done to make the technologies cost competitive with fossil fuel and nuclear power, as well.  (Source: Inhabitat)
"The answer my friends, is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind..."

In 2007, Germany was the leader of the world for total wind production.  However, in 2008, the U.S. was perched in the top spot thanks to strong growth.  The data also indicated that sometime this year, the U.S. will seize the lead in installed solar power.  The newly released figures represent the U.S.'s growing thirst for alternative power.

The U.S. increased its wind capacity by 50 percent last year to a total of 25 GW, enough to power nearly 5 million homes.  Germany took a close second with 24 GW of installed wind, while Spain took the third spot.  China took fourth place, but posted even larger growth than the U.S., more than doubling its capacity for the fourth year running.  If China continues this pace of growth, it will soon overtake the U.S. in capacity.

Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Brussels-based Global Wind Energy Council, who released the figures, cheered the findings.  He states, "Governments must send a strong and unequivocal signal that the age of fossil fuels is over."

Globally wind power grew by 29 percent, to reach 121 GW total capacity.  As one of the most affordable sources of alternative energy -- being only slightly more expensive than coal and nuclear -- wind accounted for 42 percent of the new energy installations in the U.S.  Mr. Sawyer says this figure emphasizes wind power's competitive nature.

Currently, the wind power industry is slumping due to falling oil prices and a weakened economy.  The industry does have some protection thanks to subsidies and energy taxes, such as the guaranteed price premium in Germany and Spain.  Such initiatives have softened the blow dealt by the economy to the industry.

The new stimulus package that's being debated in the House and Senate would increase the amount of alternative energy tax breaks in the U.S. by $31B USD.  The tax breaks would help President Obama's administration achieve its target of double U.S. alternative energy production in three years.  The EU wants to increase its amount of alternative energy from 10 percent of the total energy production to 25 percent by 2020.

A separate analysis, conducted by Jefferies analyst Michael McNamara showed that the U.S., boosted by its sunnier climate, will overtake Germany this year in solar power production.  Solar power is still very costly, but increased mass production and new technologies have helped to slow drop the costs.

The continued growth of wind and solar, variable power sources, worldwide raises the necessity of efficient storage technologies.  Most storage technologies are still in their infancy, with many being prohibitively expensive.

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RE: Dubious honor
By jiminmpls on 2/5/2009 10:26:04 AM , Rating: -1
Nuclear power is too expensive to matter. Latest cost projections for new nuclear power plants in the US is 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour—triple current U.S. electricity rates! Plus, 92% of the fuel for nuclear power plants in the US is imported and fuel costs are projected to increase five-fold by 2017.

Not one nuclear power plant has ever been built on time, on budget or with less than a 50% government subsidy. More than half of the 25 new plants "under construction" were started before 1975.

Wind is the most cost-effective and most scalable form of clean energy available. That is why it gets the most private backing and is growing the fastest.

If nuclear power were the answer there would be private funding for it.

RE: Dubious honor
By mdogs444 on 2/5/2009 11:24:18 AM , Rating: 3
First off, you couldn't be more wrong on just about every single think you said.

Nuclear is the cheapest form, the plants are functional now for 50 years (versus 20yrs for windmills), take up less land, and we have enough fuel for thousands of years.

But you're honestly trying to justify your statements by citing a fringe liberal/progressive group who admits they are for socialism, universal health care, believe in global warming, and redistribution of wealth?

RE: Dubious honor
By Spuke on 2/5/2009 6:14:07 PM , Rating: 2
redistribution of wealth?
I'm going to of off on a tangent here. But how would redistribution of wealth work when none of the higher incomes would stand for it? Who the hell would work a higher paying job (with higher stress levels) just to give most of their money away to someone making less or no money? That's just crazy talk. The intent of redistribution of wealth is to have everyone on an equal playing field. But if there are no more "rich" and "well off", who's going to pay for all of the social programs (no more high tax brackets)?

Will everyone work equally hard in a system like that? Doubt it, people don't do that now. If knew I could live off of all of you guys and live well, I sure as hell would not work or I'd work very little.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

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