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Alternative energy is entering the 21st century not with a whimper, but with a great big bang. Even without an international climate agreement market forces are making themselves heard worldwide as the early rumblings of a paradigm shift is breaking through the inertia of the past.

Grist

In 2012, wind power began the fastest growing segment of new electricity generation in the U.S., providing 42 percent of new generation capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association

Wind power is becoming so cheap and so commonplace that it appears poised to help blow up the country’s nuclear power sector, according to a recent Bloomberg article:

.    $25 billion was spent on wind energy in the U.S. in 2012.

.    The $25 billion outlay increased nationwide wind generating
capacity by 13,124 megawatts – up 28 percent from 2011.

.    That spending spree was fueled in large part by a mad scramble to qualify for federal tax credits that were set to expire at the end of last year (but were ultimately renewed by Congress).

.    Wind-generated electricity met about 3.4 percent of of American demand in 2012, a figure that’s expected to reach 4.2 percent next year.

.    $120 billion spent on wind turbines since 2003 has increased wind power supplies 1,000 percent and created as much new electricity generation as could be provided by 14 new nuclear power plants.

Obviously great news, but new research is indicating that perhaps there are limitations to the capacity of wind power

Treehugger

[...]results of the new study titled, "Are global wind power resource estimates overstated?" suggest that there are other limitations to wind power production, such as the interactions between wind farms themselves.

    "People have often thought there’s no upper bound for wind power - that it’s one of the most scalable power sources." - Harvard applied physicist David Keith

Wind turbines create their own "wind shadow" of slower air behind them, due to the drag from the blades of the turbine. When placing multiple turbines in a large installation, these wind shadows are taken into account, and each turbine is spaced far enough apart to minimize the effects on other nearby turbines.

But it's not just the turbines themselves that create areas of slower wind. Once wind farms get large enough, they also act to create wind shadows of their own, affecting local and regional wind patterns.

So wind power will be an important part of the mix but it's looking increasing like the major heavy lifting of our future energy needs will be carried by the Solar Power Revolution

Think Progress/Climate.

Grid parity has been reached in India and Italy, with more countries coming in 2014.

Here in America, solar power installations boomed over the course of 2011 and 2012, even as the price of solar power systems continued to plunge. To a large extent, the American solar boom has been driven by third party leasing agreements — which are heavily involved in rooftop installation.

Meanwhile, on the international scene, the cost of manufacturing solar panels in China is expected to drop to an all-new low of 42 cents per watt in 2015, and power generated from solar is predicted to undercut that produced by both coal and most forms of natural gas within a decade.

                                     George Harrison: The Beatles:

                                               Here comes the Sun,
                                               here somes the sun
                                               and I say...
                                               it's alright

.

Originally posted to Climate Hawks on Fri Mar 15, 2013 at 09:40 AM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS.

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