Creating the New Energy Future: Climate Leadership Across the Country
In the ten years since An Inconvenient Truth came out, the impacts of climate change have grown increasingly severe. The amount of carbon pollution we emit globally each day is staggering. And yet, in his recent TED talk about climate change, Al Gore was overwhelmingly optimistic about our future. Why? As the pace of innovation accelerates, clean energy installations continue to soar, and the costs of wind and solar power continue to drop, renewable energy is set to leap-frog over fossil fuels. Gore believes that we not only will make the changes necessary to beat climate change – we already are making those changes.
Examples are everywhere, from Scotland, which generated enough wind power in 2015 to supply 97 percent of its households, to Costa Rica, which got 99 percent of its electricity from renewable sources last year. But there have also been many instances of climate leadership and innovation right here in the U.S.
Off the coast of Rhode Island, construction is underway on America’s first offshore wind farm, slated to begin operations by the end of this year. Though it marks an important milestone, the Block Island wind farm is only a start. If tapped to their full potential, both U.S. coastlines could generate enough offshore wind energy to power some 480 million homes. With this in mind, the federal government has started designating vast areas of coastline for future offshore wind energy development.
Solar is booming too – the U.S. solar market grew by 17 percent last year, surpassing natural gas additions for the first time.
Great news – but where to store all this new clean energy? The Crescent Dunes Solar Plant in central Nevada offers one innovative solution. Their facility, the only utility-sized project of its kind, uses molten salt to store the sun energy collected by its 10,347 mirrors. The plant can continue producing electricity long after the sun goes down.
Nevada is home to another clean-energy first – the state recently inaugurated the world’s only power plant that produces electricity using a combination of geothermal and solar energy. Marin Keller, director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, called this groundbreaking hybrid technology one of the “underpinnings of the future of clean energy.”
America has a long, proud history of innovation and solving big problems. That’s why, in our latest climate messaging research, two of the messages that resonated most strongly were “Paint the Future” and “Pride in the Next Big Thing.” Rooted in American values, these narratives invite people to envision a better, safer, healthier world, powered by locally made, cost-efficient energy from the wind and sun. The narratives describe how American innovation will make us leaders in the clean energy future, just as we led the way on space travel and the Internet.
Our research has also found “Inevitability” to be a compelling message. This transition to a clean-energy world isn’t off in the distant future – it’s happening here and now. Solutions already exist that can free us from fossil fuels, and they’re getting more affordable and accessible all the time.
As Al Gore emphasized in his TED talk, we are going to win this. “We have everything we need,” he said. “The will to act is itself a renewable resource.”
Image credit: SolarReserve