The Obama stimulus plan signed right here in Colorado in early 2009 now has two years under its belt. Whether you think it cost too much, agree or disagree with its intent, one thing is clear according to a new report. The Recovery Act is poised to achieve the goal of doubling clean energy capacity over the next two years.
By David A. Hill
That’s the conclusion of a new study that examined the impacts of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and which is still impacting clean energy construction and research.
Market research publisher SBI Energy produced the study entitled “The ARRA Report Card: Two Years Later”, which essentially provides a time capsule analysis of the impact of the ARRA on energy.
According to the report, ARRA investments are funding research projects to develop next generation renewable energy technologies, such as solar thin films and new wind turbine designs that will create a cost competitive alternative to electricity currently generated from coal or natural gas power plants while simultaneously creating long-term economic market growth.
Some highlights in the report include:
- Aided by ARRA investments, The Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) reports that domestic manufacturing capacity for solar photovoltaic (PV) modules is forecasted to grow from less than 1 gigawatt per year in 2008 to nearly 4 gigawatts per year in 2012.
- U.S. wind power capacity grew 40 percent in 2009 over the prior year, despite weak economic and investment conditions. In July 2010, the CEA reported that ARRA was responsible for
approximately 6 gigawatts of wind capacity installation that might
not otherwise have occurred in 2009.
- U.S. manufacturing capacity for components such as gearboxes, generators, and large casted steel parts, has lagged behind actual demand. The 48C Manufacturing Tax Credit program awarded $346 million in tax credits to 52 wind manufacturing projects to facilitate additional U.S. manufacturing capacity to ensure the U.S. is able to supply a growing domestic market through domestic production.
The Transportation Sector received the greatest stimulus boost in terms of sheer dollar allotment with more than $22 billion to promote the development, production, and purchase of energy efficient transportation solutions and technologies. ARRA funding of mass transit will be essential to reversing the years of infrastructure deterioration, the declining service reliability for transit riders, the increasing maintenance costs for transit operators, and the worrisome limitations on the ability to expand system capacity at a time of high demand.
Meanwhile, ARRA investment in advanced vehicles and fuels has the potential to someday deliver affordable electric cars that can drive 300 miles on a single charge, powered by $10 of clean electricity instead of $50 of oil—a scenario that could emancipate the country from its reliance on imported oil.
The Power Sector received the second highest allotment of ARRA funding with almost $21 billion, lead by investments in the smart grid that approached $11 billion. Smart grid investment, can be regarded as the biggest stimulus winner in terms of latent impact because the favorable implementation of various other ARRA energy initiatives—increasing renewable electricity generation and enabling electric vehicles while simultaneously ensuring reliability of electric service—hinges on successful grid modernization.