POWER FOR TOMORROW
Renewable energy is making a surprisingly significant contribution to U.S. energy needs and the U.S. economy. Renewable energy sources today supply enough energy each year to run the United States for one month. That's about $18 billion worth of energy. In terms of electricity, renewable energy sources supply enough energy to power 58 million homes for a year. Renewable energy is making a bigger contribution than synfuels, clean coal, fuel cells, or even nuclear power.
Yet it is easy to overlook renewable energy's accomplishments. This is partially because it is difficult to demonstrate renewable energy's potential by pointing to a single area of the energy system as an example of what renewable energy does -- producing electricity or fueling cars or heating homes. Renewable energy can do all those things. Some of the other advantages of renewable energy are also difficult to explain in a few words: Renewable energy facilities don't require massive long-term capital commitments, they can be brought into production relatively quickly, and so on.
Today's successes in renewable energy only foreshadow its ultimate potential. For example, U.S. road surfaces alone absorb more than twice as much solar energy each year as the total U.S. energy requirement. The issue is not a shortage or limitation of these renewable energy resources, but a limitation in technology to collect and convert them into useful energy.
Solar and renewable energy technologies include a wide range of methods used to capture and transform naturally occuring wind, sunlight, geothermal heat, falling water, and organic biomass into fuels, heat, and electricity. Biomass in the form of wood and hydropower from large dams have been in use for many years and make a large contribution to the U.S. energy supply.
There are many large and small companies supplying equipment to tap these resources and many users of the …