Renewable Energy Systems Are Powering America’s Brighter Future

By Ben Ahrens Published on Apr. 30, 2024

As the world grapples with the devastating effects of climate change, the need for sustainable and environmentally-friendly energy sources has never been more pressing. Renewable energy infrastructure in America has risen in recent years, with advanced manufacturing and a growing commitment to protecting the environment. In fact, solar, wind, and hydroelectric power now account for a more significant percentage of energy usage in the US than ever before.

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With governmental policies and private investments promoting the development of green energy technology, the country is set to become a leader in renewable energy production in the years to come. This positive shift toward a more sustainable future benefits the environment and provides new job opportunities and economic growth in communities across America. As the nation continues to make strides in renewable energy infrastructure, it’s important to understand the current challenges and support this transition to a cleaner, more sustainable future.

Bright idea, harsh reality: problems facing renewable energy systems in the US

Insufficient research and development into new technologies

Despite the growing demand for renewable energy sources in the US, the industry faces significant challenges. One of the most significant barriers is the need for adequate funding for the research and development of new technologies. While wind and solar power have emerged as the most promising renewable energy sources, there is a need to invest in new technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells, geothermal energy, and biomass energy.

Intermittency of renewable energy sources

The fluctuation of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power is also a significant challenge. Since these sources require specific environmental conditions to generate power, they cannot provide a constant energy supply. Storage systems like batteries and pumped hydro can help address this issue, but these solutions still need to be revised for many businesses and consumers to adopt.

Lack of federal funding

Another issue is the need for more political will to invest in renewable energy. As a result, many companies have continued to rely on fossil fuels to power their operations, contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. While some states have set ambitious targets for adopting renewable energy, the federal government has not provided sufficient incentives for businesses and consumers to switch to clean energy sources — until now.

Energizing change: government policies driving growth of renewable energy jobs

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In November 2021, the Biden–Harris Administration signed the most comprehensive federal commitment to clean energy and climate preparedness into law. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, more commonly referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, allocated more than $ 1.2 trillion in infrastructure funding nationwide, with over $200 billion directed explicitly towards investments in clean energy technology and initiatives like legacy pollution cleanup. The federal incentives included in the bill are helping states and local governments build renewable energy projects that will create thousands of jobs in construction, installation, manufacturing, and related industries.

Charting a course toward a renewable future: from coast to coast

Nationwide network of EV charging stations deems California as a key focus region

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill promises to make a positive impact on the US's energy infrastructure through $7.5 billion worth of investments into building the first-ever nationwide network of EV charging stations, aiming to increase US plug-in EV sales — a significant development as they tackle climate change by switching from fossil fuels to clean electric power sources. California is explicitly positioned to benefit significantly with an estimated injection of over half a billion dollars over five years toward expanding its own statewide EV charging network system, beginning in many of its major cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Fresno.

Promotion of wood biomass energy in Arizona

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In Arizona, one of the focuses is to promote the use of wood biomass energy and the service of wood in construction materials under the USDA Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovation Grant program that the Infrastructure Bill will be funding. Woody biomass utilization would assist in lowering greenhouse gas emissions over fossil fuels because the carbon dioxide released when the woody biomass is burned is balanced out by new, carbon-sequestering biomass growing in its place. Additionally, woody biomass generation is a renewable source of energy that can be sustainably managed with responsible harvesting techniques. These techniques include replanting the same yields as what was taken and utilizing waste products from timber harvest operations. The utilization of woody biomass will also create jobs in forestry, lumber mills, manufacturing, construction, and other related industries.

Washington DC's public transit overhaul via modern battery electric bus upgrades

As part of the bill's funding, the Federal Transit Administration, or FTA, has demonstrated its commitment to improving mobility and access for low-income, underserved communities by awarding $9.5m in funding to the DC Department of Transportation's Low and No-Emission Bus Program. This investment will allow the nation's capital district to upgrade its fleet with modern battery electric buses, helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions while providing reliable transportation options for Washingtonians throughout the District.

Advanced manufacturing furthers wind farming in Texas, Louisiana, and California

With $30m allocated toward research and development projects focusing on cost reduction for land-based and offshore wind farming, these initiatives include advanced manufacturing processes like 3D printing and enhanced composite materials for increased turbine performance efficiency. In 2021, 9% of all electrical power came from renewable wind — proving its potential as an integral part of achieving the nation's net-zero carbon emission level goal by 2050.

What is clean energy bringing to the table?

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Companies around the globe are tackling sustainability issues head-on by developing technologies to utilize second-life EV batteries. At Plug and Play, we connected with the BeePlanet Factory to help leverage these opportunities in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz’s factory in Vitoria, Spain. This project opened up new possibilities for energy storage using once-used materials no longer suitable for automotive use — allowing the preservation of resources while still investing in the future.

Mercedes-Benz achieved a remarkable feat by launching the first unit of an independent battery energy storage system in only five months. This unique charging system was enabled by installing photovoltaic panels on their Vitoria plant's roof to provide optimal grid usage and reduced investments for future projects. Additionally, they collaborate closely with leading recycling companies like POSH Robotics or Redwood Materials, constantly transforming the electric vehicle sustainability solutions field.

Our future energy grid could be more resilient with novel production forms like Quaise’s revolutionary geothermal technology. Using millimeter wave-drilling to 10–20 km depths and temperatures beyond 1000°F unlocks cost-competitive baseload sources everywhere. Additionally, advanced nuclear startups like TerraPower use highly standardized designs for potentially game-changing nuclear power capabilities that can significantly reduce carbon emissions from our grids alongside other new technologies.

Clean energy for all: a national movement

Renewable energy has been gaining momentum in the US over the past few years, and it is poised to accelerate quickly in the upcoming years. The country has seen a steady increase in electricity generated from wind, solar, and other renewable sources since 2010, contributing to an overall market share of almost 20% in 2021. This is a significant achievement, given that renewables comprised just 10% of total electricity production in 2010.

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Wind energy has become the top renewable energy source for the US, with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reporting an annual generation of 300m megawatt hours (MWh) as of 2019. Solar energy has seen the second-highest growth, just behind wind energy, rising from only 1.21bn kilowatt hours (KWh) in 2010 to 114.68bn KWh in 2021. Geothermal, biomass, and hydropower have decreased a bit over the past few years, although they still make up 2%, 6.7%, and 31.5% of electricity generated from renewable sources, respectively.

Furthermore, several states have made laws or policies driving further growth in renewable energy production through 2022 and beyond. For example, California has mandated that all its electricity be 100% carbon-free by 2045, while New York has set a 70% clean power target by 2030. Other states like Massachusetts and Washington are taking similar steps to reduce their carbon footprint with ambitious targets for future clean energy deployment.

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All these factors suggest that renewable energy in the US is prepared to accelerate at an unprecedented rate. Many states have already taken active steps to drive its production. With President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law providing more than 20,000 projects and over $200bn worth of funds towards this cause, we can be confident that renewable energy will continue to grow exponentially over the years to come.

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