Clean energy powers on—and is projected to escalate exponentially—in spite of a sluggish economy. According to a new report from Clean Edge Inc., revenues for the renewables industry surged 40% in 2007, with returns for solar photovoltaics, biofuels, and wind surpassing the $20 billion mark for the first time. Global revenues for solar photovoltaic products, wind power, biofuels, and fuel cells collectively shot up from $55 billion in 2006 to $77.3 billion in 2007.

Clean Edge Inc

Clean Edge Inc. projects
considerable revenue growth for renewables over the next 10 years.
Courtesy: Clean Edge Inc.

Of the four energy markets, wind power (new installation capital costs) earned the highest revenue—$ 30.1 billion, while the fuel cell and distributed hydrogen market, the lowest—but newest—of the four, saw returns of $1.5 billion. In 2007, $25.4 billion worth of biofuels were produced:13 billion gallons of ethanol and 2 billon gallons of biodiesel. Solar photovoltaics, including modules, system components, and installation, totaled $20.3 billion last year, and worldwide system installations stopped just shy of 3,000 MW.

The Clean Energy Trends 2008 report projected that growth for the four sectors will more than triple over the next decade, to $254.5 billion by 2017. Global installed solar photovoltaic capacity is expected to increase eightfold to 22,760 MW, and wind power capacity is expected to reach to 75,781 MW (Figure 3). The largest growth rate is expected in the nascent fuel cell and distributed hydrogen market, which is projected to increase tenfold to $16 billion. Comparatively, the rate of growth for solar photovoltaic, wind, and biofuels is projected to slow to 13.8% annually from the 50% average sustained over the past four years.

This year, the renewables industry will see continued growth, however, with five trends contributing to it: the growing participation of overseas companies in the U.S. wind power market, a renaissance for geothermal energy, the launch of electric vehicles by small start-up companies (as opposed to large automakers), the use of clean technologies for ocean-faring ships, and the design and construction of new sustainable cities.

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