The Cleantech Revolution Sweeps Through America  

Posted by Big Gav in

WorldChanging has a post on the progress of clean energy technology in the US - The Cleantech Revolution Sweeps Through America.

The wind of change is sweeping America – literally. Take Texas. Synonymous with the nation’s oil boom era, for the past century its wealth has been powered by gushing geysers and giant oil companies. But green gold is now competing with black, as Texas establishes itself as a powerhouse of wind energy.

And the Lone Star State is not alone. During 2008, the US wind industry almost doubled in size, reaching 25,369MW, and passing Germany as the world leader. Across 30 states, from heartland Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas to the crowded northeast seaboard, giant wind farms are becoming an accepted part of the landscape.

Nor does this clean energy revolution end with wind. America’s solar power sector has tripled in size since 2000. And with a dozen large concentrating solar power (CSP) plants under construction around the country, the industry aims to provide half of all new electricity generation by 2025.

Investors, meanwhile, are betting on a cleantech future. Bucking the recession, venture capital investments in cleantech soared to a record $7.6 billion in 2008, double the 2007 tally, with solar and algae-based biofuels among the big winners. “Only a few years ago, cleantech was barely a sector at all,” says Joel Makower, Editor of GreenBiz.com, in The State of Green Business 2009 report. “Now it represents 20% of the entire venture capital asset class.”

It’s not just start-ups and VCs. Some of the country’s household name corporations are also jumping on the bandwagon. General Electric is now the biggest wind turbine manufacturer in the US, and the fifth biggest worldwide. Duke Energy, a Fortune 500 coal company which has not exactly been the darling of the green movement in the past, has built nine wind farms around the country and is planning more. And the likes of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are racing to produce the first mass market electric cars [see ‘Spark plug’]. All of a sudden, corporate America seems to be surging towards a new frontier of innovation.

So just what is generating all this enthusiasm? Can it reach critical mass? And does President Obama’s outspoken advocacy of clean energy and climate action really mean America is poised to lead the world down the sunrise path?

The first question is easiest to answer. The relentless rise of concerns over energy security, peak oil and looming carbon curbs, means cleantech is both smart business and smart policy.

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