The renewable energy industries of solar and wind power have been vastly increasing over the past decade. Which option is the best? That mostly depends on your geographical location. Obviously, because the wind doesn’t constantly blow everywhere you want to be in an area such as the “wind belt”. This area generally consists of the states bordering the Rocky Mountains and stretching into Iowa at its far eastern boundary. Likewise, the sun doesn’t shine much in areas like Seattle and should be focused in more sunny areas such as deserts or cities like Denver with its 300 plus days of sunshine per year.
These two renewable energy sources are making waves in the way some states get their electricity. In 2012, mostly attributed to increases in wind and solar installments, renewable energy accounted for more than 50% of new capacity added. As of 2014 in nine U.S. states 10% of their total electrical production has come from wind power. With production over 20% of the total occurring in Iowa and South Dakota. This is a staggering increasing in a short period of time considering some states doubled capacity in 2012 alone. According to Elizabeth Salerno at the American Wind Energy Association “We are generating enough clean, affordable, American wind energy to power the equivalent of almost 15 million homes, or the number in Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, and Ohio combined.” In the big picture of things wind energy only produced a measly 3.5% of the nation’s needs in 2012.
In 2013, the U.S. surpassed 10 gigawatts of installed solar panel capacity. This accounted for 0.23% of the total U.S. consumption in 2013. This small portion of the total at first glance seems almost insignificant in the big picture. However, thanks to a record year in 2013, the solar industry installed more capacity over an 18 month period than the previous 30 years combined. Solar accounted for 29% of new U.S. capacity in 2013 ranking 2nd behind only natural gas.
One innovative new company, SolarCity, has taken the solar industry by storm in recent years and challenged the traditional electric company model as we know it today. SolarCity unlike traditional solar providers installs the solar panels directly on their customer’s residence or commercial building. They handle engineering, financing, permits, installation and ongoing monitoring of their clients systems. Traditionally, electrical companies would have to utilize transmission lines to get their solar power from a plant to the consumer. SolarCity essentially leases the solar panels to the consumer and collects payments from the consumer to finance the installed systems. A huge driving force behind the success of SolarCity has been government tax incentives and low upfront costs for its clients. One potential advantage of a large network of interconnected SolarCity systems. Is that connected homes or businesses could essentially become small power plants each generating a little more than they consume...