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Wall Street Journal: Significant Renewable Generation Decades Off

EEI Daily Energy News

The Wall Street Journal looked at several alternative energy technologies and assessed each in terms of why it could take so long for them to become a significant part of the energy mix in the U.S. The results were published today. Two dozen Generation 3+ nuclear reactors are on hold until they are certified and licensed by the NRC, which may not occur until 2012. Once approved, the reactors will take at least four years to build, and that's only going to happen if developers can find financing. Despite $18.5 billion in federal loan guarantees, $8.3 billion of which were approved last week, at the current rate, by 2020 only about 10,000 MW of new nuclear generation is expected to be operational. Generation 4 nuclear reactors are not expected to make an appearance until after 2020.

Carbon capture and sequestration technology has been proven in small pilot projects, but construction of the first commercial scale demonstration project, for which American Electric Power has received $334 million in federal stimulus funds, is reportedly a few years away. AEP, wrote the Journal, expected commercial versions of the technology could be available by 2020. Any development of this technology requires a carbon price of at least $50 a ton to make it economically feasible.

Wind is the one renewable power source that could make a difference by 2020, the Journal said. DOE has devised a plan by which 20 percent of the nation's electricity needs could be met by wind by 2030, and a National Renewable Energy Laboratory report found that the Eastern U.S. could meet that target by 2024. Still, transmission lines to bring that power to market could cost as much as $93 billion, said the Journal, and a significant number of offshore wind projects, twice as expensive to build as onshore facilities, might be required to meet the 2030 goal.

Solar generation was said to be off to a slow start. Currently it has a market share of only 0.1 percent of electricity production. Installation costs are expected to remain relatively high, and transmission lines need to be built. Since most are expected to be built on public land in the Southwest, permitting is expected to be a lengthy and complicated process. The growth of the electric vehicle industry continues to be hampered by high manufacturing costs, and the infrastructure to support electric vehicles and hybrids is still in its infancy.

Wall Street Journal, Feb. 22.