Wind Energy

These four wind turbines stand offshore of Thornton Bank, Belgain, in the North Sea | Photo by Hans Hillewaert

If I told you the electricity running through the veins of our civilization was about to get a whole lot greener, would you believe me?

Renewable energy has, for as long as I can remember, been dismissed as an impractical alternative to fossil fuels. Our grids are not built to handle renewables, the necessary electrical storage doesn’t exist and, above all else, renewable power is just too darned expensive. These are the excuses we have heard time and time again, dampening our hopes of a clean energy future for decades now, but in the last few years alone, each of these concerns have begun to evaporate.

This first post in A\J’s new series Shades of Green will focus on the most imposing of obstacles mentioned above: cost. The Australian-based Climate Council, an independent public awareness organization dedicated to spreading the science of climate change, published a report tracking the progress of renewable energy globally between 2009 and 2015 — their findings were extraordinary.

Since 2009, a mere six years ago, the cost of solar power has plummeted a staggering 75 percent. It’s now 154 times cheaper to derive electricity from the sun than it was in 1970, a mark of progress if ever there was one. As though that weren’t enough, the cost is predicted to drop another 40 percent in the next three to four years. The costs of wind power have also enjoyed a drop of about 30 percent.

The market has responded in kind to these remarkable advances in technology. New investments in renewable energy have outpaced those made in fossil fuels every year since 2009, jumping approximately 50 percent. The majority of new power being pumped onto the grid globally is green. The countries and companies that made these investments have reaped the economic benefits, as the number of people employed in the renewable power industry has climbed from three million globally in 2009 to 7.7 million just last year — more than double.

All of these marvellous steps forward preceded the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in December, a historic summit at which billions of dollars were dedicated to the advancement of renewable energy across the globe. The trends outlined above, on their own a reassuring sign for the future, will only be hastened by our recent international commitment to combat climate change. The tools to achieve a carbon neutral world will soon, finally, be at hand.

Zack Metcalfe is a freelance environmental journalist, author, and writer of Shades of Green. He operates out of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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