This post was originally written by Mary Anne Hitt, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Director, and posted on the Sierra Club.
On the heels of the release of carbon pollution safeguards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires future power plants to deal with their climate-disrupting carbon pollution, news is rolling in from across the U.S. about massive new clean energy projects that are meeting America’s energy demand – and giving dirty fossil fuels a run for their money in the marketplace.
This past week Xcel Energy announced it will triple the amount of solar power it offers while also adding another 450 megawatts of wind power. Here’s the best part — they’re investing in clean energy because it’s the most cost-effective option. Look at this quote from Xcel spokesperson Michelle Aguayo:
“Based on generation needs, the most reliable and most cost-effective resources happen to be solar and wind. We are not taking on solar because we have to, but because it is cost-effective and economical.”
And this quote from Xcel CEO David Eves:
“This is the first time that we’ve seen, purely on a price basis, that the solar projects made the cut – without considering carbon costs or the need to comply with a renewable energy standard – strictly on an economic basis.”
The prices of clean energy sources have plummeted in recent years compared to coal. Wind prices, for example, are down 50 percent since 2009. The cost of solar panels is down 80 percent since 2008. This has helped spur more than 50,000 megawatts of clean energy coming online since 2010 — just as roughly the same amount of coal-fired power has been retired across the country.
A recent study shows that the U.S. adds a new solar powered system every four minutes. As one example, news came out Tuesday that Detroit-area residents can install rooftop solar thanks to a solar financing deal with Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office.
On top of all that — affordable clean energy is to out-competing coal. For example, wind energy in Montana is providing power cheaper than the state’s existing coal plant, Colstrip.
Another added bonus: clean energy is a clear economic boost to customers, not just utilities. For Xcel,a study released this week showed that ”solar power systems in Colorado Xcel Energy districts provide up to $11 million in benefits for customers,” including those on the grid who haven’t yet gone solar.
Need more? Officials in Henry County, Illinois, just announced that a year with wind turbines had added more than $1 million to the county’s coffers.
Earlier this summer we celebrated Georgia Power’s announcement that the utility will add a whopping 525 megawatts of solar power to its grid, the biggest solar commitment yet in the Southeast.
This came about in part thanks to an unusual partnership between the Sierra Club and the Tea Party in Georgia, proof that the demand for clean energy crosses partisan divides and unites Americans of all stripes who want to ensure we have access to safe, affordable, clean energy.
Finally, in Massachusetts, the state’s biggest utilities just signed long-term contracts for 565 MW of wind, because it was cheaper than other sources, including coal and nuclear. This is the largest procurement of renewable energy in New England history, according to the Boston Globe. And on top of all that, this new clean energy is going to save ratepayers money, an estimated 75 cents to $1 per month.
In short, the great clean energy news just keeps coming, and we’re welcoming it with open arms. Clean energy is making an impact right now, providing power at a massive scale, boosting local economies, out-competing coal, and giving natural gas a run for its money, even with gas at record low prices. These are exciting times, and the good news is just getting started.