Renewables Becoming an Energy Market Presence

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff August 22, 2006

Invested capital in equipment related to just four renewable energy technologies–biofuels, wind power, solar photovoltaics and fuel cells/distributed hydrogen–is anticipated to grow 400% in the next 10 years, according to a recent report. And with R&D venture capital and incentive programs rising and product prices falling, the technologies are beginning to make financial sense for individual small businesses and homeowners.

The market for installed equipment related to the four targeted technologies will grow to $167 billion by 2015, up from $40 billion in 2005, according to projections developed by Clean Edge, an Oakland, Calif.-based renewable energy market research firm. One key reason for the increased market presence is the growing involvement of multinational corporations, such as Archer Daniels Midland, BP and GE, the report says.

Solar photovoltaics continue to attract investors’ attention, despite installation prices that, without outside incentives, remain higher than most other generating options. Three of the five biggest initial public offerings (IPOs) in 2005 involved photovoltaics-related companies, according to recent Business Week figures. And new, smaller wind turbines are driving optimism for wind power’s growth as well. A new residential wind generator introduced in June by Flagstaff, Ariz.-based Southwest Windpower is priced between $8,000 and $10,000, including installation, and is designed to work in residential, grid-connected applications. The company now produces 2,000 generators a month, up 70% from a year ago.

A patchwork of renewable energy credit programs, which vary from state to state, can make equipment installation even more attractive. Plan designs vary, but the most common approach, according to a July 6 Business Week article on the topic, is to provide credits to small-scale renewable energy producers, which the producers can then sell to utilities. Purchasing the credits is one way utilities can meet state and federal quotas for deriving energy from renewable resources.

Details on individual state programs can be found online at the database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy .