Clean Energy Production Tipping Point Reached?

According to according to new report from REN21, entitled "Renewables 2010: Global Status Report," ( which was released in Paris on July 15, 2010, we on Lifeboat Earth may be reaching a positive tipping point with respect to the growth of renewable energy.

The problem, of course, is that even to limit Global Warming to just two degrees Fahrenheit, experts tell us we would have to produce 100 square meters of new solar cells and install 50 square meters solar thermal mirrors every second, and do that for the next 25 years!

But that's not all. During the same 25 years, we would also have to:

- Construct twelve new wind turbines capable of producing three megawatts of electricity every hour.

- Complete one three gigawatt nuclear plant every week.

- Bring on line three 100 megawatt steam turbines every day.

Sounds impossible, until you realize that just one of today's manufacturing corporations produces nine mobile phones every second, and another one produces a brand new car every two minutes. So while the need is staggering, so are the capabilities to meet those needs.

And now comes word from Worldwatch Institute President Christopher Flavin, who argues in the report that “Buoyed by hundreds of new government energy policies, accelerating private investment, and myriad technology advances over the past five years, renewable energy is breaking into the mainstream of energy markets.”

For example, he reports that the 1230 gigawatts of renewable power generating capacity in place as of the end of 2009 already constitutes more than 25% of the world's total generating capacity. Renewable power is not only three times more prevalent than nuclear generating capacity, it is equivalent to more than a third of the capacity of the previous mainstay fuel for electrical generation: non-renewable fossil fuels.

And it's a nice bit of icing on the cake that renewable energy industries already employ about three million people.

The most important expansion of renewable electrical generation is wind power, currently growing annually at 27%, and now producing about 160 gigawatts of power in the United States, China, Germany, Spain and India. Solar power generation is also increasing rapidly, and now accounts for about 20 gigawatts of electrical generation each year.

By some counts, the renewables sector of electrical generation is now attracting investments of more than $162 billion per year, four times the investment level in 2004, although this figure is trending down slightly in the short term as a result of the global recession.

Not surprisingly, the Chinese are among the world's leading in producing and investing in renewable energy technology, and currently generate about 40% of the world’s solar electricity.

It doesn't take a wild-eyed optimist to see these numbers as extremely encouraging, and to feel hopeful that renewable energy will continue to erode the drain on the Earth's ability to sustain life that is traditionally associated with nuclear- and fossil-fueled generation of electricity.

More later ...

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