Alternative power survives oil-price drop

As the column below notes, Americans’ enthusiasm for fuel-efficient automobiles is fickle. It rises with gasoline prices, and drops dramatically when the price at the pump plummets.

Our eagerness for alternate forms of energy hasn’t been quite so changeable. While interest in things like individual solar systems has waxed and waned with energy costs, some organizations are continuing to make big investments in alternative power.

Wind farms are sprouting up in many places across the West and Midwest, fueled in part by mandates like that in Colorado which require utilities to derive a portion of their electricity from non-traditional sources in coming years.

Xcel Energy, which is the major user of wind-generated electricity in Colorado, is also buying power from the largest solar-power installation in the country, the 82-acre SunEdison plant near Alamosa.

But that plant will be eclipsed in size next year, when a new solar installation takes shape in Nevada.

In southwestern Utah, a geothermal plant went online this month, just six months after the energy source was discovered. It could eventually produce enough power for 200,000 homes.

Locally, meanwhile, plans are reportedly progressing for a biofuels plant in the Grand Valley, and other projects are said to be in the works to boost alternative sources of energy.

No one should take all this news as reason to believe the era of dependence on fossil fuels is nearly over, especially when it comes to generating electricity.

According to the Colorado Energy Forum, 4,900 megawatts of new electricity will be needed to meet this state’s needs by 2025. That’s four times the amount of electricity generated at the large Craig Station power plant.

While conservation and alternative fuels can meet some of that need, old energy standbys such as coal, natural gas and even nuclear power will be required to meet this state’s electricity needs.

Even so, it’s good to see private investment — often encouraged by government incentives — is continuing in these alternative energy sources. It’s only a matter of time until global demand drives energy prices up once again. When that happens, this nation will be much better situated if it is moving forward with alternative-energy development, not sitting with a bunch of mothballed projects.


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