As the economist and columnist Paul Krugman wrote this week, renewable energy technologies are getting better, and cheaper, at a rapid clip, and the prospect of one day powering the U.S.—or at least a sizable chunk of it—with renewable energy is coming closer to reality. The U.S. Energy Department is planning, too, to offer up to $4 billion in loans to renewable energy companies, according to Reuters. This isn’t just an ideological aim: investing in renewable technological can make economic sense, as well.
The U.S. is already headed to an increased reliance on renewable energy generation. According to a new analysis by SNL Financial, more than half of all new energy generation infrastructure planned for the next few years is renewable energy. By 2018, says SNL, a huge chunk of U.S. coal power generation capacity is going to go into retirement. Picking up the difference, they say, will be renewable plants. In particular, the near future will be dominated by new wind power plants, with wind energy expected to make up nearly a third of new planned energy generation capacity.
The second main source of new energy generation will be gas, a development being spurred by domestic shale gas extraction. But, still, says SNL, renewable energy sources, from biomass to geothermal, solar and wind will be nearly 57% of new energy capacity.
The trick with renewable energy generation is that not every tool works in every environment. The gusty plains of the midwest are great for wind, while solar does better in the deserts of the south. In this map by SNL you can see where the new energy infrastructure is expected to roll out.