March 16, 2012
2011 Sees Record Installations for Wind and Solar
by Robert Kropp
Clean Edge's 2012 trends report forecasts that the expansion of renewable technologies, which
successfully weathered the economic downturn, will continue through 2021.
Last year's tenth anniversary report on cleantech from Clean Edge
was largely a celebratory affair, noting that revenues for the three benchmark renewable
technologies of biofuels, wind power, and solar photovoltaics had far outpaced the research firm's
initial estimates from a decade earlier.
In Clean Energy Trends 2012,
Clean Edge notes, "The year 2011, however, will not likely be remembered for this robust growth and
global activity, but for the now-infamous Solyndra bankruptcy." The thin film solar company's
failure after receiving a $535 million Department of Energy (DOE) loan resulted in the portrayal by
House Republicans of the loan guarantee as evidence of the Obama administration's "war on
carbon-based energy" and exaggerated claims of new green jobs.
However, Clean Edge points
out in its new report, "These criticisms… miss several key points." Fossil fuel industries continue
to receive subsidies from the governments that far exceed those of renewable technologies, and
nuclear power continues to require more loan guarantees than renewables. In fact, Clean Edge
reports, two new nuclear power plants in Georgia recently received $8.3 billion in loan guarantees
from the US government, 15 times that received by Solyndra and accounting for "nearly a quarter of
all recent DOE loan guarantees."
However, "Clean tech isn't withering on the vine as some
would proclaim, but instead is continuing its rapid expansion," Clean Edge states. "The industry as
a whole has continued to expand throughout the economic downturn of recent years." The report
projects that the three benchmark technologies, which grew from $188.1 billion in 2010 to $246.1
billion in 2011, will reach $385.8 billion by 2021.
Total market revenues for solar
photovoltaics (PV) increased to $91.6 billion in 2011, despite a decline of more than 40% in module
prices since 2010. Solar installations increased by more than 69%, from 15.6 gigawatts (GW) in 2010
to more than 26 GW worldwide. And according to a report released in late January by the
US Energy Information Agency (EIA), shipments of PV modules in 2010 more than doubled, to more than
2.6 peak GW, despite a sluggish economy.
A report issued last week by the
Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) corroborates Clean Edge's findings. SEIA reports that
the US solar energy industry installed 1,855 megawatts (MW) of PV capacity in 2011, more than
doubling that of 2010. According to the trade association, cumulative solar capacity in the US is
enough to power four million homes.
New installation capital costs for wind power
increased to $71.5 billion in 2011, and Clean Edge forecasts that the market for wind power will
continue to expand, to $116.3 billion by 2021. A total of 41.6 GW of wind power came online in
2011, more than 40% of which occurred in China, which led in new wind installations for the fourth
According to the American Wind Energy
Association (AWEA), more than 8,300 MW of wind energy installations are currently under
While the market for biofuels increased to $83 billion in 2011, and is
expected to grow to $139 billion by 2021, most of least year's increase was "due to an increase in
ethanol and biodiesel prices," Clean Edge found. Overall, "global biofuels sales remained
relatively flat, expanding from 27.2 billion gallons to 27.9 billion gallons of ethanol and
biodiesel production worldwide."
The latest statistics on EIA's website cover renewable
energy usage in 2009, when 10% of electricity production came from renewables, as did eight percent
The American Solar Energy Society
(ASES) has forecast that the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries could account
for 37 million jobs, or 17% of total employment, in the US by 2030. According to the ASES forecast,
there could be 1.3 million jobs in renewables by 2030, a 1,300% increase over 2007.
2007, ASES found, the sectors "generated more than 9 million jobs, more than $1 trillion in
revenue, and nearly $160 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues."
also produces three stock indexes that benchmark the clean-tech sector, and in 2011 all three—the
NASDAQ Clean Edge Green Energy
(CELS) index, which tracks US-listed clean-energy companies; the NASDAQ OMX Clean Edge Global Wind Energy Index (QWND),
which tracks global wind power companies; and the NASDAQ OMX Clean Edge Smart Grid Infrastructure Index
(QGRD), which tracks smart grid and grid infrastructure companies—were down significantly
against a relatively flat S&P 500, "with retail investors perhaps questioning the relative lack of
public market exit opportunities and an economic environment with severe government budget
shortfalls," Clean Edge observed.
On the other hand, US-based venture capital investments
in cleantech increased by 30% in 2011, to $6.6 billion, representing nearly one-quarter of all VC
activity in the US last year.
"Venture capital is a risky, high-reward business critical
to US innovation," the report states. "You can question whether government should be placing such
bets, but there’s no denying that such risk is part of the American capitalist system, and
something that’s historically been revered, not reviled, by business leaders and politicians