Clean Energy Rides Bucking Economy To Growth

Reflecting on clean-energy performance in 2011, research firm Clean Edge released a report of the good, the bad and the not-too-ugly. Despite a turbulent economic year for most industries, combined revenue for the global solar, wind and biofuel industries rose 30 percent from $188 billion in 2010 to $246 billion in 2011. Benefitting from falling prices of technology, solar seems to be leading the pack, while biofuels had a tough showing largely due to the rising cost of  commodities.

Acknowledging the negative buzz around Solyndra’s bankruptcy, Clean Edge’s report paints an otherwise positive picture for solar. According to the report, the global market for solar photovoltaics grew by 29 percent up to $91.6 billion. But with prices of technology drastically lower than the previous year that $91 billion stretched quite a bit farther, putting the number of installations over 2010 up by nearly 70 percent. With continued progress, Clean Edge estimates that the cost of installing solar PV systems could fall from $3.47 per watt down to $1.28 in the next 10 years.

Solar Panels

image via Shutterstock

Wind power also had respectable growth, up 18 percent from 2010. China led the way there, responsible for more than 40 percent of all new installations.

While the ethanol and biodiesel market increased substantially, the picture on the cost side was the opposite of wind and solar. The rise to a record $83 billion in global production was largely due to the rising prices of feedstock commodities used to manufacture the biodiesel.

In its report, Clean Edge cites other notable clean energy trends from 2011, including the military’s leadership in clean-energy development, Japan’s effort to replace nuclear with renewable, energy efficient commercial building retrofits, waste-to-resource investments, and promising new energy storage solutions for the grid.

These trends and ideas combined with the rise of venture capital investments into clean tech suggest a relatively optimistic direction for 2012.

Angeli Duffin is a Midwest transplant currently living in San Francisco, CA. Kicking off her career doing product design and development with Fair Trade artisans around the world, she then moved on to the editorial side, writing for eBay’s Green Team blog and working as a marketing consultant for social and environmentally minded companies

1 Comment

  • Reply April 25, 2012

    Andrew West

    The Solar Charade will be over soon.  Good.

    If the data is correct, the US government (taxpayers) have invested more than $150 billion in the last few years on wind and solar schemes. This may have leveraged about $500 billion in total investment. It’s fair to ask what we have to show for it?Nothing.Numerous studies have confirmed the fact that we haven’t reduced CO2 at all. After subsidies run out, as your analysis shows, there will be no additional deployment.Why are we pretending that wind and solar make sense? This false hope prevents us from seeking a real solution.To further prove this reality, Washington and Oregon are gearing up to export massive amounts of coal to China, where it will be used to generate electricity and to make wind turbines and solar panels… then ship them back to us. Can’t you see the lunacy?Instead of continuing to waste billions on clean-tech subsidies, how about we find a solution first? DOE does not have a Plan – nobody does. If we simply posted a $1 billion reward (yes, prize money) to find a solution, we just might find it. Dr. Chu’s repeated assertion that “there is no silver bullet” has no foundation. We should find out.Wind and solar will never be a significant part of our electricity generation mix. They are simply unreliable and expensive “supplements.”Find a solution, then spend money on deployment.My work is here: 

    China is burning coal (8% from the US) to generate electricity to make solar panels and the export 95% of them.  They are not valuable enough for them to even deploy them, but they know we’re suckers for a “good story.” Unfortunately, the story isn’t good for us or the world, it’s only good for China.  They are much smarter than we are.

    Now, China is getting out of “solar power.”  Surprise. Read about it here: 

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