Affordability and Accessibility of Clean Energy

Article Written By Matt Vanderbrook, Senior Project Developer

We’ve come a long way with the usability and cost of solar and wind energy according to a recent Greentech Media article. Thanks to federal tax credits, state-level renewable energy standards, and a drop in manufacturing and install costs, the cost of a wind or solar project install has dropped. The time between initial interest and completion of project has also decreased thanks to new technology and continuous developments in the solar and wind industry. Compared to a large gas or nuclear plant construction which has to go through years of planning and regulatory approvals before even beginning constructions, wind and solar can be deployed much faster thus, yielding more homes, commercial properties, and businesses being converted to solar and wind energy in a quicker time period than that of other energy methods. Take for instance a 1+ megawatt solar plant, which would be enough power for 250 residential homes, could be built within a year.

Both New York and Vermont have instituted policies and legislation around Renewable Portfolio Standards, Net and Remote Net Metering, Standard Interconnection, and Grants and Low-interest loans for customers to support renewable technologies. While all of these policies and pieces of legislation are great for those looking to benefit from solar for their homes, businesses, or other properties, the support from New York state has led to the employment of nearly 10,000 people in the solar industry while in Vermont, that number is 1500, according to the Solar Foundation. Regardless of what happens at the federal level in the months to come, other states can’t ignore the massive economic potential that comes from supporting renewable energy. As if that wasn’t enough good news, the Department of Energy recently reported that the solar industry employs more people than the Oil and Gas industries combined.

While there are still concerns about intermittency and increased renewable operational costs, it’s impossible to ignore that renewables can provide grid stability and aids in modernizing the electric grid through the utility interconnection process. With more renewable energy coming online, utility systems will be forced to innovate to deal with an already out-dated grid, by integrating energy management (smart meters), deploying small and large-scale storage, and generating electricity closer to where it’s being used. All of this simply put, means that renewables are creating an environment in which the electricity grid will have to update quicker and be more cost effective than previously envisioned.

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