Wind Power Finally Getting Out From Solar’s Shadow
Solar power has been getting all of the proverbial sunlight for the last few years. Most of the focus and attention from environmentalists, regulators, and others has been on solar. There are numerous pure-play solar companies from SolarCity to First Solar. Solar is commonly used in residential applications today, and economic pundits fall all over themselves to talk about the falling cost of solar panels and the changing economics that entails. All of that attention has probably left wind power advocates feeling a little steamed.
While there are many pure-play public solar companies, there are few publicly-traded firms investing directly in wind farms or producing wind turbine equipment. Yet wind power is every bit as viable a technology as solar, and in some respects is a natural complement to solar – wind often blows hardest at night and on stormy days – exactly when solar is the least useful.
Yet for all of those advantages, wind power has simply never attracted the same fervor as solar has. That may be starting to change. While solar is very useful in some areas like California and Nevada, wind power simply makes much more sense in others. Recognition of that seems to be taking hold.
For instance, the nation’s first offshore wind farm is being developed off the shores of Rhode Island. Rhode Island is a natural place to take advantage of wind power thanks to its rugged ocean coast. The state is capitalizing on that geography with the nation’s first offshore windfarm. Once completed, the project should supply 30-megawatts to the region’s electrical grid, generating enough electricity to cover roughly 17,000 homes, including all of the tourist hub of Block Island. The project is moving ahead in competition with similar developments taking place in Massachusetts. These developments point to increasing interest in wind, even as solar continues to see support throughout the not-so-sunny northeast U.S.