The western U.S. is a leader in renewables development, and nearly all existing clean energy technologies are well suited for deployment in the region, according to a new report from the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE). These technologies include wind, solar, hydro, biomass, geothermal, marine and a wide assortment of biofuels.
The Western Region Report, the first portion of ACORE's 6th annual Renewable Energy in the 50 States report, is a review of state energy policies and programs, investment, and market openness as they relate to the current state of renewable energy and its potential for further growth. Three additional reports will focus on the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast.
According to the Western Region Report, the West benefits from some of the best solar resources in the country, responsible for roughly 65% of the nation's solar photovoltaic capacity and 86% of the nation's solar thermal electric capacity. The region is alsoÂ responsible for about 63% of the nation's installed hydropower capacity, and that hydropower accounts for about 25% of the region's electricity generation. The report adds that the country's utility-scale geothermal power projects are found exclusively in this region. Finally, wind power projects have been built in every western state. In fact, the report says California and Oregon rank in the top five states for wind power capacity.
A recent report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory says wind and solar power electricity generation in the western U.S. could become cost-competitive without federal subsidies by 2025. A study by the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, finds utility-scale solar could meet about a third of the electricity requirements of the western region of North America by 2050.
‘There is no shortage of power demand in the thirteen Western states. Their populations are growing, and with that growth comes increased need for power,’ explains Lesley Hunter, ACORE's research and program manager and lead author of the report. ‘Renewable energy deployment is growing to meet this demand, and the West produced approximately 31 percent of its total energy generation from renewable energy sources. That is compared to 12 percent nationally in 2012.
‘There can be no doubt that state renewable portfolio standards have been a real driver in this growth,’ Hunter continues. ‘Nine of the states profiled have binding mandates for renewable energy production, many with minimums for certain distributed generation technologies and/or solar energy. Protecting and expanding these standards is imperative.’
Michael Brower, ACORE's interim president and CEO, says the West serves as a model for other regions.
‘For well over a decade, the individual states – in conjunction with the federal government – have been leading the way in all renewable energy innovation, exploration, investment, and increasing equal market access. In no part of the U.S. is this truer than in the West,’ he says. ‘With strong renewable portfolio standards, the political will to protect and/or expand them, and the nearly half of 2012's new build asset finance for renewable energy, the West is far and away in the national renewable energy vanguard. America needs all the states in our three other regions to quickly follow their lead.’