When in 2005 the federal Production Tax Credits (PTC) for companies producing renewable power was renewed, it sent a message far and wide that the renewable energy industry was worth getting into, with the promise of profitability, energy efficiency, and social/environmental “good karma” all in one tidy package. The following are some of the latest ways we’ve seen this collective foray into renewable energies take shape.
The Workforce: Businesses are given tax credits for changing over their sources of electricity to certain renewable energies, steadily increasing the demand for workers in every area of the industry – from research and development to manufacturing to distribution to installation, service and support.
More and more states are taking the federal government’s lead and implementing their own public incentive programs and benefit funds to encourage greater renewable energy usage, with the same result. According to a report released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in the five years between 2001 and 2006 the voluntary demand for renewable energies increased a thousand-fold. The bottom line is as clear as sunlight – the renewable energy industry creates jobs.
The Corporations: General Electric, Whole Foods Market, Safeway, Starbucks, General Motors, Kinko’s, FedEx – these are but some of the world-leading companies that have made and continue to make an active and aggressive switch to renewable energies.
In the case of many companies, this comes in the form of purchasing renewable energy credits to supplant their local utility usage. In other cases, the forays into renewable power run deeper, producing their own biofuels, setting up their own wind farms, and investing in research and development into improved renewable energy technologies.
The Military: The Pentagon has ordered all branches of the U.S. military to curb energy use by 2% at all bases and facilities through pursuit of alternative power sources, including wind and solar energies.
The President: President Bush’s ranch, the Crawford Ranch, is equipped with all the latest and greatest in renewable energy resources and operates entirely off the grid.
The World: The Australian government has a stated objective of increasing the proportion of its total electricity production that comes from renewable energy sources by 78% by the year 2010. The United Kingdom’s goals are a bit more modest but praiseworthy nonetheless, shooting for 10% from only 3.6%, also by the year 2010.
The Future: An inventor by the name of Todd Livingstone has a patent currently pending on a technology to harness the power packed into lightning bolt, estimated at 11 gigawatts each. A Canadian engineer believes that his Atmospheric Vortex Engine is the way to tame a funnel cloud (also known as a tornado). The “Manchester Bobber” is a patented new device for harnessing the power of the up and down motion of waves.
Floating wind systems. Harnessing the power of differences in atmospheric pressure between geographically distant cities. Semi-transparent photovoltaic glass used as windows in office buildings. MIT’s self-described “Manhattan Project” for new, renewable sources of power. Installing devices in highway off-ramps that harness the power of vehicles braking. Generate biomass energy from trees downed in hurricanes.
And if we look further down the horizon, what else can we see? Maybe the next big thing will be Focus Fusion, a technology for producing new zero-emission power plants the size of gas stations. Maybe it’ll be Blackligh Power, a technology that harnesses power from particles called “hydrinos” which are even smaller than atoms of hydrogen.
Or maybe it’ll be electromagnetic energy. Whatever renewable energy trends we have in store for us next, there is one thing we can all count on: as the demand for these types of renewable power sources continues its steady rise, funding for research and development into new and better ways of harnessing renewable energy will also increase, leading to more efficient and affordable energy alternatives for us all.
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